Liberal Christians who speak in tonguesThe editorial last week in our SNP (neighborhood) papers by Lyndsey Teter was titled "Can Columbus churches unite to end poverty?" made me think of Paul's first letter to the church in Corinth (ca. 53 A.D.). Corinth was a wealthy city with a global commerce and a flourishing art center. I don't think the tiny Christian church necessarily participated in or built that wealth, but the Christians were exposed to it and suffered under its pagan influence, much like Christians today suffer and scatter under the influences of our hyper-sexualized, hyper-materialistic culture. It's hard to always know what local problems he was addressing since we don't have their letter to him, but we know this--pride in certain types of gifts and behavior when they gathered for worship was one of them, and Paul addresses this in Chapter 14.
Ms. Teeter first tells us that Columbus churches of various traditions will join for a revival on April 16 and set their faces to fight poverty in a "justice revival." It is being led by Jim Wallis of Sojourners, who "has come to represent the Christian left, a counter to right-wing pastors such as Rod Parsley of World Harvest Church. . ." [if there is a pastor representing liberal churches who are silent on the Gospel, she doesn't provide a name]. After 3 days of praise and worship, the Christians will fan out to do service projects. So far, I'm underwhelmed because every Christian I know, liberal and conservative, mentors, or visits the sick and elderly, or works with Habitat, or Big Brothers, or Kairos Prison Ministry, etc.
Then she continues: ". . .getting left-leaning and right-leaning Christians united under one banner may be its larger accomplishment. . . half in the pews believe fearlessly protecting the unborn and the sanctity of marriage are tops on the agenda, while the tree-hugging hippy Christians like myself think leaders have alienated potential church-goers by pushing those two issues to the surface. Improving the social conditions of people in this world ought to be far more important, we say."
This is a well-meaning liberal Christian "speaking in tongues," code for all the social justice language and meaningless programming we've come to expect from guilt ridden Christians who struggle with having more when some have less. Read her words carefully (and she's far more accurate than most journalists). Her error is this: Conservative churches are the ones growing; studies show conservative Christians are the ones that give sacrificially. Not only do they give to their own churches to support staff and programs, but they also are more motivated to give to non-religious, helping organizations like United Way and Red Cross. As individuals, they have left the seeker status and have moved on to response mode.
What I remember most from my years in the liberal church is that everyone was always looking for the TRUTH and never hearing it from the pulpit or in Sunday School or small social groups. So they would join Vaud-Villities or run for breast cancer or jingle a pail for Charity Newsies and hope that counted for something. They were like starving little chicks, peeping and pecking away at the rocks of government programs, pebbles of good works and gravel of mystical seances, while the beckoning plump mother hen with the Gospel clucked and called from nearby.
What makes her think that Christians of all stripes are not speaking to each other unless an outsider from DC brings us together? I regularly meet with other Christians who are pro-choice and believe in evolution. Their beliefs do not represent mine, nor mine theirs. I get e-mails about end-times and the rapture, and special healing and herbal recipes, also from well-meaning Christians.
Yet Lyndsey Teter says potential church-goers are being pushed away by stances [of conservatives] on gay marriage, abortion and euthanasia. Where? Membership and growth figures prove her wrong. Why not point out the potential church-goers who are put off by what they hear and find in liberal churches? It's terribly hard for a church to grow if it has no message except commissioning a task force to end hunger or hymns to a clean environment and a Mother-Father primal parent [God]. Potential members can join a non-profit or NGO and keep Sunday open for leisure and sports if that's the extent of the message.
In their zeal to "get along" or "make a difference," conservative churches often wander away from their core truth, the message of God's redemption plan for mankind, believing and preaching it as a good starting point instead of the whole point. I hope this event is not a sign that this is happening in Columbus to some of our larger, more dynamic evangelical churches.
- Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. . . Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church."