I didn’t see this coming. I sensed something on the horizon but not exactly like this.
A couple weeks ago I was treading in the recent footsteps of Albert Mohler. Literally. There had been a scandal in a church where I know the pastor, and it rose to the level of deserving the attention of THE boss. Obviously it is a Baptist church. I cannot really say more.
I was made privy to the message Mohler left with the elders and deacons of the church when he visited. He cited his book “Culture Shift” as he explained to them his view of the present circumstances of the church in today’s world. In it he lays out how we Christians are arguing from the standpoint that we are the norm and we want society to return to the norm, all the while we are no longer the norm. The norm has changed and we are not it. We are truly outsiders. By the numbers and the trends we are and stand to stay in the minority. This, therefore, must impact our views and attitudes towards ourselves and those outside the church. This was, at the time, an encouragingly realistic stand to take.
But where would it take the church exactly?
We have only to look at the reaction to the DOMA decision and all the requisite teeth gnashing it generated to find just how far they will go to avoid the red pill truths that would be at once destructive and revolutionary in the church.
Mohler’s colleague Russell Moore has written a description of what is congealing as the churches path to denial:
That means that we must repent of our pathetic marriage cultures within the church. For too long, we’ve refused to discipline a divorce culture that has ravaged our churches. For too long, we’ve quieted our voices on the biblical witness of the distinctive missions of fathers and mothers in favor of generic messages on “parenting.”
For too long, we’ve acted as though the officers of Christ’s church were Justices of the Peace, marrying people who have no accountability to the church, and in many cases were forbidden by Scripture to marry. Just because we don’t have two brides or two grooms in front of us, that doesn’t mean we’ve been holding to biblical marriage.
I could read that, print it, and run through the halls screaming FINALLY THEY ARE STARTING TO GET IT! How exciting to see the church leadership seeing that our treatment of Christian marriage, OUR treatment, has been complicit with the forces that would see marriage between a woman and a bridge as normative. But we know better. We know this signals the redoubling of the same worn themes of marriage improvement that define Christian marriage ministry. And the ignoring of the actual forces behind the demise of marriage as a foundational institution in the church.
That is all well traveled ground. My new found concern comes from reading the language around how the leadership recommends handling gay marriage and homosexuality in general. Read carefully these comments lifted from later in his piece:
- The increased attention to the question of marriage also gives us the opportunity to love our gay and lesbian neighbors as Jesus does.
- As we stand with conviction, we don’t look at our gay and lesbian neighbors as our enemies. They are not.
- They are, like all of us, seeking a way that seems right to them
- Same-sex marriage is headed for your community. This is no time for fear or outrage or politicizing. It’s a time for forgiven sinners, like us, to do what the people of Christ have always done.
Have we heard or read similar comments before? Are these not the same rationalizations that accompany lectures about how we need to treat those who have divorced, or who are on the precipice? There is nothing wrong with any of these statements prima facie. It is the context and the predictable pattern that are problematic. How long will it be before preaching about homosexuality is relegated to the same nebulous nothing that teaching Jesus’ words on divorce has been? How long before the pat response is “yes homosexuality is sin, but nothing is unforgivable”…JUST. LIKE. DIVORCE.
Pressures of the same nature as those to which pastors have capitulated on divorce are bound to define the churches position on gay marriage a couple of decades hence, if not sooner, affording themselves the ability to both support and come against yet another crumbling pillar of the family. Red Pill truths, if loosed in the church, would magnify the rotting corpse of the family that the leaders dragged out of the freezer where its decay was at least held at bay, and laid in the sun and humidity where decomposition was accelerated. Can’t have that.
We will wonder, one day, what the HELL happened when there is no discernible distinction between the Southern Baptist church on that day and the Universalist church of today. And the answer will be the same as it always has been. The quest for relevance, the big tent urge, and cultural accommodation. Mohler is right. We are on the outside. But if Moore’s words, and those of other prominent leaders like this, and this are any indication, our effort will not be to stay there and bring as many individuals truly to our side as possible, it will be to just keep scooting over in the pews to make room for the outside culture to come into our spaces so we feel like we are making a difference.