The Sojourners email magazine drew my attention to an article that appeared in the New Republic, entitled "Taking Back the Faith". The writer tries to find the equivalent in the modern Christian environment of William Sloan Coffin, Jr., a voice for socially aware, or "liberal" "mainstream" faith. He then talks to many of the people that were suggested to him. He ends his article by pointing out that liberals often make people embarrassed about their Christianity and that this will hurt the Democratic party until it takes this into account. Here is the link to this article: http://www.thenation.com/doc/20060424/wakefield .
A different question, however, is presenting itself to me. It seems that there is a strand in our culture which is allowed to dismiss religion as superstitious, irrelevant, corrupt, hypocritical, you add the adjective. This seems to be a problem that affects both the liberal and the conservative Christian. The reason the Fundamentalist get more press is because they offer more fodder for this stereotype to the media, and because many among them have managed to take a more media-centered approach they are more visible to the media, while the more mainstream or liberal Christians still remain largely invisible, centered in the parish and the denominational structures, .
An example of what prompts me to wonder is this: I saw the movie V is for Vendetta. In the movie fundamentalist religion had entered partnership with totalitarian politics and a Church of England Bishop was portrayed as one of the ring-leaders of the totalitarian political party. He also endulged in his sexual fantasy with young girls whom he hired. Religion was presented as monolithic and evil. Meanwhile the "savior" of the film took it upon himself to murder violently his opponents and to orchestrate the destruction of what he saw as symbols of oppression. Truly many of the people he kills are guilty of horendous crimes, and the authority which should be promoting justice were irredeemably corrupt; nonetheless, there is one scene where he kills about a dozen soldiers when the only one he seeks to kill, with perhaps some reason, he saves until the end. Perhaps the intent is to raise the very question, how evil does one become in order to confront evil. That question, for anyone religious, is as old as the hills. But the question it raised for me was, how has it happened that the organization which attempts to teach loving neighbor as self, and attempts to promote the pursuit of wisdom can be portrayed as monolithically patetic if not evil, and a character who commits needless acts of gorey bloody violence can be portrayed as the hero, and this does not outrage people?
I am beginning to think the churches needs to wake up: there is more at play than the divisions within the church on theology here. I suspect it is the hierarchs of Consumerism realizing the threat Christianity and religion in general has on their devotees. If you cannot serve God and Mammon, and I for one do not think you can, then God is the enemy of Consumerism, and there will be resistence to the message of Religion from those who stand to lose money. If this is true then it has consequences on what we preach and teach. What do you think?
Friday, April 21, 2006
Morris Berman has written a book making the case that America is very likely entering a dark age. He compares our culture to Rome and draws similarities between the fall of that empire and the fall of America. I am finding the reading very interesting as he provides the fruit of much research and study to support a thesis I have felt in my gut. I want to read his entire book before making extensive comment, but I find it very interesting, and oddly, encouraging. Are we as Christians called out to build communities to ride out the "fall" much as Benedict did for Europe in an earlier time?