Corrupt Christianity?

I saw the headline and had to click on the article:

Repent and Believe in the Gospel! Over 300 Christian Theologians Challenge the Corruption of U.S. Christianity.

American Christianity is corrupt? We’ve abandoned the gospel? This is alarming! I read further…

The Boston Declaration, condemning the abuse of the Christian faith by many conservatives today, was just written, signed and released by over 300 hundred Christian theologians attending the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature, an annual meeting of nearly 10,000 professionals in religion. … [T]he presenters were clear that white American Evangelicalism is in a crisis, a crisis of its own making. It has abandoned the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The article continued:

Rev. Dr. Pamela Lightsey, Associate Dean at Boston University School of Theology, contrasted the Gospel teachings with what is being peddled as Christianity today in some conservative circles, both religious and political. She said:

“We are here because Jesus taught us to ‘love our neighbor as ourselves.’ We are here because we take the parable of the Good Samaritan to heart. We are here because we refuse to allow Christianity to be co-opted by the likes of people who support abuse of women, the closing of our nation to the immigrant in need and the normalizing of lie after lie after lie.”

Wow. I haven’t heard anything about vast numbers of Christians who support abuse, turn away immigrants in need, or believe in lying. Which churches is she referring to?

The article’s author, Susan Thistlethwaite, Professor of Theology and President Emerita of Chicago Theological Seminary, went on to make various claims of how the Evangelical church has been taken over by white males who exclude women and those of other ethnic background:

The Christianity we denounce today… is a Christianity that literally enables hate, hate for people of color, for immigrants, for those of other religions, for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender human beings, for women and girls, for the poor and the most vulnerable among us.

And,

When we have torch carrying right-wing radicals marching around in Charlottesville, Virginia yelling “blood and soil!” and “Jews will not replace us!” …

Surely she doesn’t consider white supremists typical of conservative Christians! They may call themselves Christians, but their hateful fruit denies their claim. Yet the author goes on to argue against today’s neo-Nazis as if they were widespread and mainstream, acting as if this is normal “white” evangelical Christianity. In fact, all of the issues the declaration contends with could be considered similarly—attitudes held by an insignificant minority of church-goers. (A certain infamous “Baptist” church comes to mind.) Can anyone say “straw man”?

Honestly, I don’t recognize this kind of “Christianity.” The churches and individuals I know don’t hate anyone, and I think we’re pretty typical of American believers. The Christianity she describes is certainly not typical of mainstream Evangelicalism, although much of the media would like you to believe otherwise. Her words make me wonder if Thistlethwaite has ever visited an evangelical church.

Professor Thistlethwaite concludes:

The most important thing we can do as Christian theologians is announce the good news of the Gospel. The good news is the radical inclusivity of God, for God so loved the world. Not just some in the world who are white, or rich, or male or heterosexual. God loved the whole world of animals and plants and the entire ecosystem that is a victim of this same rapaciousness and nearly mindless drive for political domination. … The good news, and it is very good news, is an invitation to turn away from greed and turn toward love of neighbor.

Yes, God loves everyone, but not everyone is currently included in His kingdom. We’re not excluded because of our economic status, sexual orientation, or skin color, but because we’ve rejected Jesus. The church should—and does—announce His love, but we can’t stop there. We need to preach the entire Gospel, including the awkward truth that salvation and fellowship with God is only available to those who repent and accept His authority over our lives. I like this definition by Marion Medina, Dustin Mahoney & Kerilee Van Schooten:

The Gospel is the Good News that under God’s good and sovereign rule, the world and people are as God intended them to be. But people tried to rule themselves and because of their rebellion, they experience sin and death in their lives and in the world. God came into the world in the person of Jesus, lived among us, died on our behalf and rose again, breaking the power of sin. Through repentance and faith and by the power of the Holy Spirit, people are restored to God, enter the community of Christ followers, and become partners with God on his mission of restoration. Ultimately, Christ will come back and restore all things to the good and sovereign rule of God.

The Boston Declaration seems to be more an attack on political and religious conservatives than on bad theology. To make the authors happy, we would all need to repent and become liberals. Compassion and acceptance aren’t the sole property of one political camp. Perhaps in their radical inclusivity, these theologians need to include Christians from both sides of the aisle.

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