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'So What?' The Nightmare Christians Don't Need to Have

'So What?' The Nightmare Christians Don't Need to Have

News Analysis

By David W. Virtue
January 28, 2013

Sometimes the rubbish talked about by liberals concerning religion specifically Christianity cries out for a response, indeed repudiation.

Thus, a story by someone called Derek Penwell in the Huffington Post cannot go unanswered because it is tripe heaped upon tripe.

His article is titled: 'So What?' The Nightmare Christians Should Be Having, subtitled "Show the difference believing makes."

In his slam, Penwell observed that the fastest growing religious designation in America over the past five years, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, is "None." While atheism and agnosticism have risen slightly over that time, the biggest increase is among those who, when asked about institutional religion, respond, "Meh."

"It strikes me that much of what drives this unenthusiastic response to religion, at least in the case of Christianity, centers on the apparent (at least to observers) unwillingness of Christians to live like Jesus. The 'Nones' have heard endlessly about Christianity and how everybody would be better off if the world would just believe the stuff Christians believe:

"They've gotten the message, for instance, that being Christian means you believe being gay is a sin -- and not just any sin, but sin in a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad way. The express-lane-to-Hell kind of sin. Then they read the Gospels about a Jesus who reserves his most stinging indictments not for the folks everybody else has already given up on, but for the stalwarts at the top of the religious and political food chain, the ones who join Rotary, drive Buicks and wear sensible shoes."

VOL: NO. The "Nones" have never really heard the gospel because they have been steadily brainwashed since the 1950s with the liberal social gospel of one Walter Rauschenbusch, a theologian and Baptist pastor who was a key figure in the Social Gospel movement which flourished in the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is his "gospel" which has been floating from pulpits for decades that has left the "nones" spiritually dryer than an Arabian desert.

That "gospel" from those pulpits (especially the one President Obama listened to for years in Chicago), effectively denuded the supernaturalism of Jesus' message, reducing it to a mere "here and now" salvation that is now openly endorsed by Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori - a woman who is rapidly sinking The Episcopal Church faster than a gay bar trying to open in Salt Lake City.

It is this slippery slope away from the gospel that has led several generations to slowly leave the church, as they were hearing nothing substantially different from what they read in newspapers and later saw on TV.

The gay issue came along much later. It has been pushed and fostered by a handful of shrill and strident homosexualists and foisted on the American public through a well-funded PR campaign for homosexual acceptance. It was never the primary reason why the "nones" have walked away from Christ or the Church, they just never heard about Christ.

No Christian minister who has even vaguely read Scripture ever said, "being gay" is a sin, what they have said is that homosexual behavior is a sin. Christian ministers were for decades hot on the trail of the heterosexual sins of fornication and adultery in sermons long before homosexuality ever became an issue. Most "nones" have never heard a sermon by a preacher blasting homosexuality. In 25 years of being in a conservative Episcopal church, I never once heard any of the half dozen rectors and dozens more preachers that visited our parish ever preach that homosexuality was wrong or even touched on homosexuality as an issue. Issues like this were always cast broadly in terms of sin but homosexuality was never specifically named. Since the rise of the homosexual lobby, most conservatives and all liberals have been cowed into silence by the gay lobby. They quietly say nothing unless it is in private. They focus on mission, God's gospel of salvation, discipleship; homosexuality is never raised. Mr. Penwell is writing fiction. I have NEVER heard a preacher talk about reparative therapy, even though tens of thousands of gay men and women have successfully sought this out.

PENWELL: They hear the smugness of Christian reproaches against a society that would presume to remove God from public schools (because, you know, God is used to getting kicked around by effete liberals). But we shouldn't be surprised how the "Nones" fail to square the fairly straightforwardly pacifist Jesus of the Gospels with the Libertarian Jesus of some Christians, a Jesus who apparently doesn't have a problem with the idea that school safety can be secured with "God and a loaded gun."

VOL: Not every Christian has equated "God, guns and gays" in the same breath; that too is a fiction. There are millions of Christians in America who eschew gun ownership, who believe owning a gun serves no real purpose unless you plan to kill yourself or a member of your family and owning one means that you are 43 times more likely to kill someone in your own family than an intruder and that assault weapons are not being used to kill animals but one's fellow human.

PENWELL: Christians claim to believe in a Jesus, who spent a great deal of time reaching out to, speaking out for, advocating on behalf of "the least of these"; but then some segments of Christianity align themselves with a brand of politics that seems interested in advancing only the interests of the wealthiest among us -- at the expense of the poor, the hungry, the naked, and the outcast -- which is to say, at the expense of the least of these. What are outsiders to think?

VOL: That is a sweeping generalization. If one looks at the contemporary history of Christian involvement in social change, organizations like World Vision, the Salvation Army, Food for the Hungry, Food for the Poor, Bread for the World, COMPASSION, Prison Fellowship Ministries, (the biggest in America started by the late Chuck Colson) to name but a few are in the vanguard of serving the "least of these" and evangelicals have given billions of dollars to serve "the poor, the hungry, the naked and the outcast." I spent several years working with an organization known as American Leprosy Missions so I know whereof I speak. I also did a stint with World Vision International. Conservative Christians remain among the most generous of Americans; one need only look at their tax returns.

PENWELL: So, here's the thing: Christians can't just believe stuff. People want an answer to the question: "So what?" They want to know what turns on these much-discussed beliefs, what difference these beliefs make in our lives. Do they help us care for the poor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked or welcome the outcast? Or do these beliefs merely represent a golden barrier that offers protection against blame?

VOL: Christians just don't believe "stuff". Just think about what Pastor Rick Warren who heads the largest church in America does. He has sent missions and millions of dollars to Rwanda to fight AIDS. He sent thousands of his people to Louisiana and Mississippi following Katrina. Most churches in America are involved locally with all kinds of ministries including feeding the poor, clothing the naked, educating the poor in bad neighborhoods and working with Habitat for Humanity or knock off type organizations. Show me a humanist organization that has done one tenth of what Christians have done in the US in the last 50 years!

PENWELL: In short, people who've lost interest in Christianity might just like to see Christians for whom believing "this stuff" is merely the first step to actually living it out.

VOL: Well, Mr. Penwell, we ALL live it out imperfectly. No one has the corner on perfection. But show me an alternative organization in America that has done as much as the Christian Church has done in all its manifestations to help and aid the poor.

PENWELL: And just so we're clear: The call not just to believe in Jesus, but to live like Jesus can't be merely another ploy to attract converts, to roust the "Nones" and get them to think Christianity is "neat"; it has to be a call to do the right thing. People who follow Jesus care for the poor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked and welcome the outcast, because that's what Jesus said to do, and they don't know any other way to be. So, if doing the right thing is only an ecclesiastical marketing strategy, people will be justified in continuing to ask, "So what?"

VOL: Jesus calls us to be his DISCIPLES not just His converts. Disciples are not made overnight. It took His disciples at least three years to get the hang of it. Again I repeat what I wrote earlier, Christians have been in the vanguard of caring for the poor as no other organization in America except for the government.

PENWELL: Think about this for a minute, though: What if part of the reason the "Nones" are so underwhelmed by organized religion isn't because they don't find Jesus interesting, but because it appears to them that Christians don't find him sufficiently interesting enough to take seriously?

VOL: "Organized religion" has never saved a single soul. Yes, most [liberal] preachers are not only boring; they haven't got a message worth listening too. The Church is not the Kiwanis club at prayer, it is not a social service agency; it is the proclaimer of God's amazing, saving word and work to all mankind, and if it is failing to do that God will judge it just as surely as He judged Sodom and Gomorrah. Have no doubts about that, Mr. Penwell.

PENWELL: That's what ought to give Christians nightmares.

VOL: And it should give you nightmares, Mr. Penwell, if you continue in unbelief. God will judge His church in due course, just as He will judge the good and the bad, the believer and the unbeliever. Christians don't have a corner on nightmares.


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