Do you ever stop and think, “You know, if only modern Christianity was a little more vocal in the public square, a little more judgmental in general, and a little more obsessed with abortion and gay sex, then maybe I could buy into it… but they’re just too soft and fluffy nowadays for me”?
Me neither. But Christian writer and activist Chelsen Vicari, writing for Charisma, sees this as a significant problem leading to declining church membership.
The church, she believes, has gone soft and abandoned the hard truths in favor of acceptance. Simply put, “the Christian Left is twisting the Gospel.”
There are other explanations for the recent downswing in religiosity, of course, including the easy access to information that might lead to questioning one’s faith, the overzealous and judgmental attitudes of leading religious figures and prominent Christian movements, and the fact that science answers many of the questions for which humanity previously turned to religion. But Vicari believes that “traditional churches” have no share in any of this.
Somehow the blame for this chasm is being heaped on traditional churches. They are accused of having too many rules as well as being homophobic and bigoted. Yes, we’ve heard those false claims from popular culture in its desperate attempt to keep Christianity imprisoned within the sanctuary walls. But now popular culture is being aided by Christ-professing bedfellows whose message to “coexist,” “tolerate” and “keep out of it” is more marketable to the rising generation of evangelicals.
In Vicari’s view, the problem actually lies with Christians who respect the separation of church and state and view religion as a personal rather than public matter.
Desperate for acceptance in a fallen world, many young evangelicals (and some older ones) choose not to take Christ out of the chapel, and so they are unwittingly killing the church’s public witness. In this uphill cultural battle, mired by scare tactics and fear, three types of evangelical Christians are emerging.
These are Christians she identifies as “couch-potato”, “cafeteria-style” and “convictional” Christians. The True Christians, of course, are the convictional Christians; the other two groups consist of believers who remain “silent on the tough culture-and-faith discussions” and “focus solely on the ‘nice’ parts of the gospel while simultaneously and intentionally minimizing sin, hell, repentance and transformation.” Unlike those wannabes, convictional believers are courageous champions of truth:
In the face of the culture’s harsh admonitions, these evangelicals refuse to be silent. Mimicking Jesus, they compassionately talk about love and grace while also sharing with their neighbors the need to recognize and turn from sin.
So, the preachy — but compassionate! — Christian is the truest kind. And it is precisely this kind of Christian churches need more of: the brave soul who has no problem telling his neighbor why he deserves to burn for all of eternity, and the courageous Christian warrior who wants to legislate her religious beliefs.
But why has the church been headed in the wrong direction lately? Well, as it happens, those damned kids and their tolerance are to blame. Liberals, too.
The millennial generation’s susceptibility to “feel-good” doctrine is playing a big part in America’s moral decline. Millennials’ religious practices depend largely on how the actions make us and others feel, whether the activities are biblical or not. For example, we only attend churches that leave us feeling good about our lifestyle choices, even if those choices conflict with God’s clear commandments. We dismiss old hymns that focus on God’s transforming salvation, love and mercy and opt for “Jesus is your boyfriend” songs. Or we contribute to nonprofits that exploit and misuse terms such as justice, oppressed and inequality because tweaking the language makes us feel more neutral, less confrontational.
Popular liberal evangelical writers and preachers tell young evangelicals that if they accept abortion and same-sex marriage, then the media, academia and Hollywood will finally accept Christians. Out of fear of being falsely dubbed “intolerant” or “uncompassionate,” many young Christians are buying into theological falsehoods. Instead of standing up as a voice for the innocent unborn or marriage as God intended, millennials are forgoing the authority of Scripture and embracing a couch potato, cafeteria-style Christianity all in the name of tolerance.
Now, Vicari may truly believe that the Christianity to which she adheres is the true kind and the only one that really respects the authority of the Bible. But chances are pretty good that Vicari cherry-picks as much as the most liberal reader.
Unless, of course, she believes that marriage is acceptable as an alternative to fornication, but celibate service to God is the purest and best path; you know, like 1 Corinthians 7 says.
Or she throws gossip, boasting, and greed in the same category of sins as homosexuality — a consequence of unbelief — like the Bible does.
But since she is not writing about penalizing or limiting the rights of people who fail to live up to Biblical standards on any of those issues, it seems she has picked doctrine to focus on and doctrine to ignore.
Vicari chooses to focus on a God obsessed with abortion (which, for what it is worth, isn’t even mentioned in the Bible) and homosexuality. Other Christians focus on a God who wants to feed the poor and render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s. Both groups are choosing to ignore some parts of the Bible (and, in Vicari’s case, add a little as well).
I suspect this is at least in part “the divine mirror” effect at play — the human desire to find a reflection of (and validation for) our beliefs and values in the supernatural. But regardless of the cause, Vicari is no less guilty of cherry-picking than the liberal followers of Christ she thinks are ruining Christianity.
Still, she believes Christians — true, convictional Christians — must beware the influence of those who will corrupt their children. You know, “public school teachers, TV celebrities and rock stars.” And, in turn, church leaders must make extra sure that they introduce children to the issues that she thinks are important, in order to
… start preparing these kids to deal with the very real hostility that faces young evangelicals.
If we never talk about abortion in church, how can we expect the rising evangelical girl to calmly explain the option of adoption to her frightened best friend who just admitted she is pregnant?
What will surprise you is how much young evangelicals actually crave honest discussions about abortion, sexuality, sexual exploitation, feminism and radical Islam…
And will indoctrinating kids to fear gay people, Muslims, feminism, and reproductive choice save the church? Absolutely. And not just the church, Vicari argues, but freedom itself.
If America’s evangelicals disengage from the public square and fail to engage the rising generation of Christian leaders, then we risk losing our public voice, then our religious liberty, then liberty altogether.
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: forcing your religious beliefs on other people isn’t liberty, religious or otherwise. Like all rights, yours stop where someone else’s start. That includes your right to practice your religion freely. Religious freedom assures you the liberty to hate abortion, never marry someone of the same gender, and pray to the god(s) of your choice; it’s not the liberty to stop someone else from getting an abortion, marrying someone of the same gender, or praying to a god other than yours.
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