On Christians and elitism: maybe we are all guilty

Former Christianity Today (CT) executive editor, Mark Galli, recently wrote a pretty honest piece here about the ways in which the culture of CT promoted a kind of elitism that cozied up to American culture to appear respectable. The implications being unlike those other Christians who rail against the world. The response was interesting to see, especially with chants of “I told you so,” indicating that of course that is what CT does.

Daniel Darling chimed in with some insightful commentary about elitism itself in this piece here. I think it deserves some attention because it transcends the specific charge that Galli is getting at;

In other words, elitism is more of a posture than a position. This tendency shows up in a variety of ways and tempts people across the political spectrum. It can be folks who like to broadcast on Twitter or in op-eds or bestselling books about how terrible evangelicals are. It can be furrowed-browed fans of certain Bible teachers who think nobody ever preaches a Bible passage correctly (except for them, of course). It can be “above-it-all” types who rightly eschew left and right extremes but are insufferable in communicating both their own heroism in this and their discovery, after 2,000 years of church history, the perfect model of cultural engagement.

Right. Elitism is a posture of superiority that proclaims the upper moral position while throwing disdain on that group or those Christians that just aren’t measuring up (like me and my tribe!). So elitism also shows up with our posturing over how well we are able to comprehend what is right and take others to task for not really getting it, for the sake of the kingdom. To be honest, I’ve seen quite a bit of this in the social justice wars. Pro-social justice, CRT friendly advocates denigrating those who have challenged the anti-racism and CRT paradigm as compatible with a Christian worldview as not really being concerned about justice (like them!). On the flip side, I’ve seen posturing in opposition that loves to point out the errors of the social justice warriors and their lack of commitment to scriptural fidelity, how those Christians are destroying the church (not like us!). That’s not to say there aren’t legitimate critiques to be had. There certainly are! The issue is more about the posturing that sticks its nose up on those unfortunate rubes that just aren’t getting it. And you can be sure this applies as much to those chanting “I told you so” as the charges Galli brings up with CT. As Darling writes; Continue reading

Beware of the boldness idol

Let me say right out the gate that this post is not a slam on boldness. I think in our present cultural moment there is a need to be bold and stand on Christian truth. There are cultural pressures at work that seek to undermine the fabric of Christianity and an increased hostility towards an historical witness of the Christian faith.

In recent years, I’ve observed how positions on issues are more determined by what is felt, particularly with a group identity at stake, than what actually is, especially when you have Christian doctrine and ethical applications at stake. People, even Christians, are being swayed by the mood of arguments, over objective reality. It can be hard to speak into this paradigm but necessary nonetheless.

Scripture calls us to speak truth in love. That means we should be willing to say what needs to be said in the face of opposition particularly when we believe an erosion of Christian orthodoxy and orthopraxy is at stake. We should be willing to defend the faith against people and ideas that oppose it. Continue reading

On pointing fingers while clinging to Bibles

I want to briefly sketch out a few thoughts I had as I observe the tensions related to the schisms in the church today over addressing issues of race and justice. This actually started off as a Facebook post but as I kept typing, I thought it would be better served as a blog post. It’s not meant to be exhaustive and know that what I’m about to write can be expanded on. But I just wanted to address this common charge that I see quite often in the woke/anti-woke wars (for lack of a better term). And its this: those Christians aren’t upholding Scripture and undermining its authority. Honestly, I see it on both sides.

Well it is true that some can be ignoring Scripture and disregarding its authority, I’m referring to the vast number of Christians in relatively orthodox spaces that preach the gospel, uphold scriptural authority, and believe the church is Jesus’ bride to accomplish his purposes. Based on some extended observation, I don’t think the problem is so much that people aren’t relying on Scripture or upholding its authority. Rather, it’s how the framework of Scripture is being interpreted and applied to present day circumstances with varying understandings of sola scriptura. Everyone who professes Christ and scriptural authority are coming to vastly different conclusions. Why is that?

The more conservative/fundamentalists tends to draw harder lines between the historical context of the Bible and present day issues. They are more likely to separate its application from academic disciplines related to life. On the extreme end, the fundamentalist sees no room for any thought outside of Scripture to have relevance to the Christian faith. When led by a resistance to worldliness for the sake of Christian faithfulness, they may be prone to divorcing faith and works as James commends in his epistle.

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When ideas have feet, we can see how CRT moves

I’ll be honest right from the start, I’m growing weary of hearing about Critical Race Theory and the debates swirling around it. I think far too much time is spent on either debunking or supporting it. In my honest opinion, it is jeopardizing our focus on Christ and kingdom matters in the manner prescribed in Scripture. From what I’ve observed, the arguments are rife with lazy and uncharitable assessments that have pit members of the family of God against each other. This also has made it harder for pastors who are striving to be faithful and navigate through issues of race and justice from a biblical perspective. I’d really not even write about it any further especially since so much ink is being spilled already.

However, there is one argument that keeps emerging that I feel compelled to address because I think it is a generalized and unfair allegation that misses the mark on why many Christians are opposing CRT. It’s simply this: those who claim that CRT has some compatibility with Christianity or at least can be used as a tool to diagnose the problem of racial stratification, tend to repudiate any claims of opposition as an endorsement of white supremacy. Why? Because the idea of CRT is to address white supremacy that has had its tentacles wrapped in the warp and woof of American society (I’ll expound on this in a minute). So it was no surprise to me when six SBC seminaries released as statement clarifying their position against CRT, that it was immediately met with charges of perpetuating white supremacy with pastors actually leaving the SBC over it.

Now in fairness, I do think that some of the opposition against CRT is based on strained and superficial arguments from those who see addressing any issues of race and justice as a deviation from the gospel. For this group, the SBC statement only adds further fuel to this opposition. I do think it makes it easier to dismiss raising any concerns related to race and justice. And we should be honest that a sub-group actually do want to maintain some sense of racial superiority and use opposition to CRT as a mask to cover it up.

But that is not the entirety of opposition. From my own perspective based on some extensive observation and interactions, I believe the lion’s share of criticism comes from Christians who strive to be faithful to Scripture and believe that addressing issues of race and justice should be sifted through its lens. These are ones who would not be quick to sweep racism under the rug and are honest about the travesty of our historical record. But they also see the how the framework of CRT produces fruit that is at odds with Christian practice according to Scripture, and in some cases can be a deviation from the gospel. God has provided the means by which we can analyze and address the underlying sins of race and injustice and CRT is seen as incompatible. I am one of those people.

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Christianity and the Patriotic Gospel

The other day, I came across this question on Twitter, “What’s worse, the prosperity gospel or the patriotic gospel?” My first reaction was it was a bit of a toss up. But the more I thought about it and observed the discussion on my Facebook page, I do think the patriotic gospel needs to be spelled out a bit. I don’t know the author of the tweet so I have no idea what he meant by it but I thought I would write out a few thoughts about what I believe it is. I suspect that some will disagree but these are my convictions.

I personally don’t think there is anything wrong with patriotism, as long as it is kept in perspective. I see no prohibition in Scripture where one cannot love their country and want what is best for it. Though America has not always lived up to her ideals, we can celebrate her victories.

However, the patriotic gospel is more than just a love for country. I actually do believe it is a form of the prosperity gospel so let me lay that out. A common misconception about the prosperity gospel is that it is about money or getting rich. Actually, wealth is just an outcome of its foundation. At the heart of the prosperity gospel lies the notion that material gain symbolizes favor with God. Material gain can be wealth but also comes in different forms, such as employment success, social standing, houses, cars, and other earthly treasures. While proponents of the prosperity gospel will say they are placing their faith in Jesus, in reality, hope is placed in obtaining material gain since that represents right standing with God. It’s why you see so much emphasis on the material in prosperity teaching. Sadly, I think softer forms of prosperity teaching run rampant in mainstream American evangelism.

Now, let’s make that application to the patriotic gospel. I think the most obvious form is believing that the United States has a special status with God and therefore, supporting her prosperity means continued favor. It’s treating the US as if God has made a covenant with her. This line of thinking sees no problem with inserting patriotic symbolism into Christian expression such as Bible verses and church services. Continue reading