Clearing the air in the intra-Evangelical culture war

The larger culture too often mistakes evangelical Christians for an unfractured conservative bloc. Many would be surprised to know about the culture wars that rage between liberal and conservative evangelical Christians. For instance, the advocacy of left-leaning evangelical groups is often reported as “a shift in evangelical culture” when in reality the same people have been saying the same things for a long time.

One would think that arguments between Christians about hot social topics would be more gracious and constructive than the venomous contest between the religious right and the secularist Left.

But is it? Evangelicalism’s internal culture war, between bloggers and authors like Rachel Held Evans and pastors like the recently ousted Mark Driscoll is lamentably hobbled by sloppy logic, red herrings, and an even firmer commitment to never having anything but an exchange of insults. The fond idea that the culture wars would not be so nasty if folks just got to know each other does not hold up in the case of the evangelical community, where the venom is even more poisonous for its thin coating of sentimentality. In fact, the culture wars rage within the evangelical world with a special viciousness, and this is probably to be expected. As anyone with siblings will attest, intimates tend to fight more often and with deeper malice. Continue reading Clearing the air in the intra-Evangelical culture war

Hipster liturgists: or, Why I am an Episcopalian

There is a phenomenon which you have probably heard about if you are an evangelical Christian, which is that Young People These Days Are Really Into Liturgy.

Found on Steve Woodworth's page (click for link)
The Liturgical Hipster (found at Steve Woodworth’s blog)

Christianity Today may be responsible for this perception, since there has been a trend among its younger writers to promote liturgical forms of worship.  Now, the backlash has begun. In an online Christianity Today piece which basic anti-liturgical protestants are no doubt posting all over Facebook, writer Kirsten Guidero paints a picture of a liturgical service full of people who take Holy Communion and then hours later are back on the streets murdering people:

The service was undeniably beautiful. Dedicated pastors and volunteers had planned it for weeks. There were banners, incense, and altar decorations. The sanctuary was packed: more than 1,000 folks overflowed the seats, latecomers standing along the sides and back. The congregation participated with gusto. But after receiving Communion, they marched out of the sanctuary. By the closing hymn, only a few folks dotted the pews that just five minutes before had been filled to bursting.

Some left to cram in work, but many in this particular group were on their way to that night’s parties. In another five hours, many would be passed out on the couches of friends or strangers, a few would be rushed by ambulance for alcohol poisoning treatment, and, most horrific, some would be sexually assaulting their peers or suffering such violence. It was the weekend, and the community in question was a Christian university.

Now if any fool had actually been going around claiming that “liturgy” was going to replace discipleship, I can see why we would be having this conversation. Except precisely nobody is that stupid. Continue reading Hipster liturgists: or, Why I am an Episcopalian

God’s Favorite Footballer

The greatest single argument for atheism in the modern age is the Tim Tebow Fan.

I have never enjoyed watching football. Yet I am not here to offer justification for my distaste for professional sports, but rather for one particular professional athlete’s supporter: namely, the dreaded creature known as the Tim Tebow Fan.

The question on everyone’s minds is, naturally: Why do hipstercons emit such disdain for the glorified miracle worker, Tebow, and his devoted fans? To wit: it is the thought that yesterday, while many humans were starved, butchered, crushed, oppressed–and none of them were my personal enemies, dammit!–God took time out of his busy schedule to help the Broncos win victory through the arm of his anointed servant, Tim Tebow.

Surely the works of the LORD are wondrous and mighty; by his servant Tebow he hath wrought victory for the Broncos in overtime.

For the LORD hath raised Tebow up, and proclaimed him chosen among all football players.

Tebow fans merit such condemnation because they neglect to consider the problem of evil. Evil exists, and it often prospers. Good exists, and is often crushed. Pointing to the good Christian’s success as an example of God’s favor (thus demonstrating God’s existence, etc.) is sure to backfire: indeed, self-identified Christians who revel in Tebow’s success should probably refer back to the Gospels that they and their favorite athlete profess to believe in. When asked about the victims of a collapsing tower, and if those crushed under the weight of circumstance were being punished by God, Christ did not only dispel this notion, he told his followers that if they did not repent, they too would surely perish. Cease looking for God’s favor in mere chance; instead, tend to your own souls.

The failure of Tebow fans to recognize the problem of evil and chance is doubly annoying because the stakes are so very low: a mere football game, an entertainment, is enough to divine the favor of the gods, it seems. Divination hasn’t gone anywhere; we still cast lots to find the gods’ favor. Only now, we use a football.

And he rose from his knee in the endzone, and lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a Super Bowl trophy, and lighting upon him:

And lo, a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Tebow, in whom I am well pleased.

Then was he led up to the ESPN studio, to be interviewed of sports journalists.

Tebow 3:16-4:1

In short, why is it wrong to be a Tebow fan? Because, when your theology cannot stand up to the nuanced distinction of a Saturday Night Live skit, you have forfeited your right to ask that question.

Book Review: Alisa Harris, Raised Right

Image of "Raised Right" by Alisa HarrisRaised Right: How I Untangled My Faith from Politics

by Alisa Harris
WaterBrook Press, 2011
240 pages, softcover, $14.99

Over the past decade, the American church has witnessed the rise of the “post-evangelicals.” These Christians, generally disaffected twenty-somethings who partner with the emergent church movement, were raised to be the echelon of the Religious Right. At college, however, they turn their back on their political upbringing by rejecting capitalism, support for the current wars, and other staples of contemporary conservatism. At the same time, they do not turn to Canterbury or cross the Tiber (another common trend among young Christians). Instead, they read Shane Claiborne and Sojourners magazine. Concerned parents who remembered the glory days of the Reagan Revolution wonder how their children abandoned the Republican Party. They could find insight in Alisa Harris’s Raised Right: How I Untangled My Faith from Politics, a politico-spiritual memoir of a burnt-out culture warrior. Continue reading Book Review: Alisa Harris, Raised Right