Current debates inside fundamentalist religious churches point to a drastic change that could lead to reformed churches with a drastically different political agenda. Laurie Goodstein from the New York times, reports one of such debates at Woodland Hills Church, located at a suburban of St. Paul, Minnesota, under the title, ¤Disowning Conservative Politics Is Costly for Pastor.Ë
The Rev Gregory A. Boyd, pastor of a 5, 000 member mega-church congregation he founded with 40 members 12 years ago, recently shocked his congregation. As a result, 1000 members left the Church. Yet new members are joining with a different understanding of the gospels and a different demography. White middle class members are being substituted by Afro-Americans, Hispanics, and Asians.
The Pastor had a long history of denying conservative requests from church members and visitors: ¤Would he please announce a rally against gay marriage during services? Would he introduce a politician from the pulpit? Could members set up a table in the lobby promoting their anti-abortion work? Would the church distribute ¤voters╠ guidesË that all but endorsed Republican candidates? And with the country at war, please couldn╠t the church hang an American flag in the sanctuary?Ë
The Pastor decided to take a stand. The author of the article quotes him:
<BR>¤When the church wins the culture wars, it inevitably loses,Ë Mr. Boyd preached. ¤When it conquers the world, it becomes the world. When you put your trust in the sword, you lose the cross.Ë Before the last Presidential election he preached six sermons entitled ¤The Cross and the SwordË in which he said the church should steer clear of politics, give up moralizing on sexual issues, stop claiming the United States as a ¤Christian nationË and stop glorifying American military campaigns.<BR>
Is Mr. Boyd now wearing the liberal hat? Not exactly. Politics and religion are correlated. Mr. Boyd views are liberal, but expressed from a religious perspective. He denies being a liberal. What does he preach? Read his new book out, ¤The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power Is Destroying the Church.Ë The book is based on six sermons. Mr. Boyd argues ¤that the role of Christians was not to seek ╬power over╠ others—by controlling governments, passing legislation or fighting wars.Ë
Mr. Boyd is not an isolated case. We should expect fundamentalist Churches transforming themselves from within. The neoconservative extremism is creating an opposite reaction. A different interpretation of the Gospel switches the focus of attention from sex and a nationalistic ¤my country right or wrongË attitude to one that looks at social justice and international solidarity. The New Testament does have different messages. While Paul accepts slavery and women╠s discrimination, the Jesus of The Sermon of the Mount, glorifies the poor and meek, not the rich and powerful. Jesus washed his apostles╠ feet, and reminded them to seek the last place, not the place of honor. Inconsistencies between the neoconservative interpretation of the Gospel and the forgotten social messages of its leader, sooner or later, will split the Evangelical Churches.
Does a Reformation mean a new leftist theology? Not exactly. In Mr. Boy╠s words: ¤I don╠t think there╠s a particular angle we have on society that others lack. All good, decent people want good and order and justice. Just don╠t slap the label ╬Christian╠ on it.Ë