The Debate that is splitting Evangelicals
Posted: 31 July 2006 02:56 AM   [ Ignore ]
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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

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Posted: 31 July 2006 02:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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The Debate that is splitting Evangelicals

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.”
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’ guides” that all but endorsed Republican candidates? And with the country at war, please couldn’t the church hang an American flag in the sanctuary?”

The Pastor decided to take a stand.  The author of the article quotes him:


“When the church wins the culture wars, it inevitably loses,” Mr. Boyd preached. “When it conquers the world, it becomes the world. When you put your trust in the sword, you lose the cross.”  Before the last Presidential election he preached six sermons entitled “The Cross and the Sword” 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 nation” and stop glorifying American military campaigns.


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.”  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.”

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 wrong” 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.”

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Posted: 31 July 2006 05:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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splitting evangelicals

Issues like stem-cells and the advances in science to discredit creationism are more likely to be a splitting factor within Evangelical groups than voting for “demon-crats”.

Creationism is something they all desperately want to be true—to give them a rational basis for their faith, but alas, I desperately want there to be a giant diamond in my backyard…

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Luciferi primo cum sidere frigida rura carpamus, dum mane novum, dum gramina canent Virgil, Georgics III, 324-5
Tantum religio potuit suadere malorum Lucretius

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Posted: 31 July 2006 08:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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It Is An Important Event

The book and public exposure of this ministry is an important event, and it is not isolated.  The case of Gregory Boyds is not one of voting democrats versus voting republicans.  Skiddum, read the whole article if my synthesis was not sufficient.  And Doug, I totally disagree with you.  Frustrations from more liberal religious are happening on a small scale everyday.  The problem is that dissidents are not organized but isolated inside their churches.  They tend to abandoned their churches and become humanists, skeptics, or disinterested in religion.  In this situation they do not rock the boat.  On the contrary, without these liberals, the original group becomes more fundamentalists and more conservative. 

The case of Gregory Boyd is different because of four elements.  (1) Boyd was not afraid to face his own congregation and to loose 1/5 of his members, something unheard of;  (2) he is getting national attention in the media, thus becoming a model that will encourage many to speak up, not only evangelicals, but from other Christian denominations as well (did you see on TV today a group of Catholic women declaring themselves priests and facing excommunication from the Vatican?; (3) Boyd has documented his rationale behind his stands, not only for his congregation, but for the general public to read. His sermons will become national best sellers, I predict and hope.  Conclusion:  the story does not end here.  A number of 4,000 may be small out of a million.  So was the case of one African American unwilling to give up her seat for a white male.

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Posted: 31 July 2006 08:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Hi Argie,

When I said I didn’t think this deserved front-page NYT treatment, I didn’t mean to suggest I thought it was a bad thing! Modulo the fact that I am no sort of Christian, this seems to me a great development, and of course kudos to Boyd for standing up and saying something.

I also want to thank you for posting it. It certainly deserves mention.

That said, it is one thing to have Boyd say these good things to 4,000 people and another thing entirely to have Pat Robertson say the opposite to 4,000,000.

A good friend of mine’s father was a liberal Baptist minister in the south who eventually parted ways with the Southern Baptists over similar sorts of issues, probably 20-25 years ago. Things have only gotten worse in the interim.

IF Boyd’s sermons become bestsellers, as you suggest they might, THEN it would be encouraging news. Until then it is more a small point of light in a background of darkness.

... stop me if I’m being too pessimistic.

:?

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Posted: 31 July 2006 10:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Sooner or later the USA will follow the norm

You are Doug.  Among non-Muslim nations, the fundamentalism of Christians in the USA is an outlier.  The norm for educated people is to be less and less fanatic and religious.  I see this phenomenon in the European countries and in Latin America when comparing between the middle class and the popular classes. 

I think that being an atheist in the USA is such a minor event because of the long period of the cold war.  Being communist was associated with being atheist.  The USA has been by far the most anticommunist country in the world.  It is a democracy, but people fear the word and its association to a lack of religiosity.  People fear persecution in this country because of their beliefs.  Being religious is safer.    :cry:

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