Here is an interesting article that takes a deeper look at why the German Protestants supported Hitler. It certainly has implications for our day. It also might puncture a few easy simplifications we sometimes make.
This is out on the Internet, so you may have seen it already, but if not, here is a link to the text of the sermon United Methodist pastor Adam Hamilton preached at the National Cathedral on Tuesday.
I have on my office door a sign from the Mennonite Central Committee that shows two anguished people embracing one another. Below the picture is a slogan that says, “A modest proposal for peace: let the Christians of the world resolve not to kill one another.” I have people knock on my door all the time and say, “That makes me so mad.” I say, “Really? Why?” They say, “Well, Christians shouldn’t kill anyone.” And I say, “They call it a modest proposal. You’ve got to begin somewhere.”
– Stanley Hauerwas, Living Gently in a Violent World
He recently linked to a post I wrote a while back about progressive Christianity. I thought his post on the topic put to words what I have heard from many people who like much about progressive Christianity but find its political commitments trumping or excluding its theological commitments:
Which is why I think Progressive Christianity can be at times the worst of both worlds for mainline denominations. It drives away those who might want a deeper spiritual life as well as those who have differing opinions on politics, and it tells those outside the church that it really doesn’t matter if you are Christian as long as you vote for the Democrats.
I’m not advocating that churches become conservative or that only good Republicans can be Christians. I am saying that Progressive Christianity really wants to be taken seriously, it will have to be more self-aware of how faith and politics can mix in not so good ways and it will have to offer a more robust faith and theological view than what it does now.
Just yesterday, my wife and I had a conversation that wound up the same place as Sanders’ post. My wife is a proud “Jesus is a liberal” Christian. But she too often finds herself having to defend having a robust Christianity in her church or having Christ at the center of her social justice passions. She laments the fact that having “too much Jesus” at church is a complaint that gets made by people.
I suspect advocates of progressive Christianity would point to the writings and talks by the luminaries of the movement that are robust in their Christology and orthodox in their theology. But Sanders’ observations ring true to the way on-the-ground and in-the-pew progressive Christianity often looks in many mainline churches.
My experience of blogging is that large numbers of politically liberal Christians on the Internet are refugees from aggressive forms of fundamentalism or conservative evangelical Christianity. In at least some wings of the mainline, however, the issues raised by Dennis Sanders are much more pressing and much more troubling to people who want to proclaim the name of Jesus as Lord and Savior and also vote for Barack Obama.
John Wesley wrote in his journal Oct. 6, 1774:
I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them, 1. To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy: 2. To speak no evil of the person they voted against: And, 3. To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.
Let those with ears, hear!
Liberal British news site The Guardian asks whether the United States is a Christian nation:
Is America still a Christian country? It’s obviously full of people who call themselves Christians; and certainly full of religious believers in a way difficult for many Europeans to understand or to accept. But is what modern Americans believe actually Christianity at all? When the mainstream churches went into an apparently irreversible decline towards the end of the 20th century, this was interpreted as a decline of liberal Christianity, and its replacement by fundamentalism. But is the church of Rick Warren anything more than vaguely therapeutic moralistic deism?
The question is hardly a new one. It was raised as least as long ago as the late 19th century by Henry Adams, who wondered whether the American faith in progress and in self-improvement was really the same thing as traditional Christianity. But it’s still an interesting one. Has the evangelical movement turned itself into an entirely new religion, unrecognisable to “orthodox” European Christianity: a reinterpretation of the Christian myths almost as strange as Mormonism? Consider the YouTube video of a Nascar chaplain praying for all the sponsors of the event, from Toyota to Sunoco, and then thanking God for his “hot wife” before finishing with the doxology “Boogity boogity boogity. Amen”. Is this really anything that traditional theologians could recognise as Christian? Or is it just a wrapper round some mixture of superstition and advertising?
The early American Methodists had a big problem when the Revolutionary War broke out. His name was John Wesley. A passionate Tory, Wesley wrote more than once against the American independence efforts. This made it tough on Methodists who were viewed with suspicion by the American patriots.
Here is one brief quote by Wesley from a tract called “Observations on Liberty.”
Accordingly, there is most liberty of all, civil and religious, under a limited monarchy; there is usually less under an aristocracy, and least of all under a democracy. What sentences then are these: “To be guided by one’s own will, is freedom; to be guided by the will of another is slavery?” This is the very quintessence of republicanism; but it is a little too barefaced; for, if it is true, how free are all the devils in hell, seeing they are all guided by their own will! And what slaves are all the angels in heaven, since they are guided by the will of another!
For the Fourth of July weekend, a little patriotic God-talk from Founding Father, deist, and well-known skirt-chaser, Benjamin Franklin:
I’ve lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing Proofs I see of this Truth — That God governs in the Affairs of Men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his Notice, is it probable that an Empire can rise without his Aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings, that except the Lord build the House they labor in vain who build it. I firmly believe this, — and I also believe that without his concurring Aid, we shall succeed in this political Building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our Projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a Reproach and Bye word down to future Ages.