Who’s In Charge?

“I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

-Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural Address 1861.

So, Tuesday night happened.  Donald Trump will be our nation’s 45th president.

I didn’t vote for either Trump or Clinton, but I was as shocked as anyone else. Sleep was not easy to come by Tuesday night. Part of the tension is the how President-elect stirred up both racial and ethnic resentment. Does that make me, an African American-Puerto Rican, less safe in America? Will racism or xenophobia affect me in someway?

 

While I’m concerned, I’m not freaking out.  I’m not in mourning.  I’m not breaking relationships with those that I know who voted for Trump.  I’m not freaking out because I truly believe that my ultimate allegiance is in Christ and not who lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.   I believe God is in control.

Now, I know that phrase is sending a lot of my progressive Christian friends into orbit. Their response is similar to what Progressive Christian blogger John Pavlovitz said in his most recent blog entry regarding the election:

At times like these, Christians like to smile sweetly and say, “God is in control.”
No. God is not in control.
God didn’t vote for Donald Trump, you did.
Stop passing the buck to God.
God isn’t defacing prayer rooms.
God isn’t taunting gay teenagers.
God is not bullying kids on buses.
God isn’t threatening Muslim families.
White Christians are.
You are in control of this. You have pulpits and pews and a voice and influence and social media, so get to work. 

Saying God is in control doesn’t mean everything is okay. It doesn’t mean we ignore real problems. It doesn’t mean that God is controlling our every move. But I can say God is in control because God is the person I give ultimately allegiance to. To put it in more political wording, “Jesus is Lord and Ceasar is not.”

This evening I went to see Doctor Strange.  For those who don’t know the origin story, Steven Strange was a famous and vain neurosugeon who is severely injured in a car crash.  His hands, the one that made his living possible suffer extensive nerve damage and he is no longer able to do the one thing he excelled at.  This is where Strange makes the journey from normal man to socerer supreme, but together he has to be willing to believe that there is more than what he sees.  He has to be able to see into various dimensions to go beyond what he knows to be true and what is beyond reason.

Long story short, he had to have faith.

In reading and listen to the anger and grief coming from some progressive Christians I have to wonder at times if they have lost their faith.  We scoff at the notion of God being in control and instead believe it is all on us, or at least on having the right ideology.  During this election season white evangelicals were rightly criticized for placing so much on the notion of politics to trade in the faith for a few pieces of silver that they thought Trump would give them.  But Progressive Christians are no better.  We know longer believe that God is the ultimate and so we make leftist ideology our god.  We trade in the belief that there is a God that rules all of creation and is greater than any king, prime minister or president for the world of politics.  We wrap our politicians in a religious blanket, giving their words a tinge of God even though God seems to be somewhat diminished.  After a while, we become no better than religious conservatives in trading the politics of Jesus for the politics of Washington.

 

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What Does It Mean to Be Prophetic, Part Three

JayWhiteMoralMondayNC

It was two years ago, that I wondered aloud what it meant to be prophetic.  I’ve heard that phrase a lot in many of the progressive circles I’ve been in, but I’ve always wondered if what is called prophetic is nothing more than espousing your ideology and wrapping it up in God-language.

What does it mean to be prophetic?  The reason I ask is that I think a lot of folks have an idea what it means to be prophetic that I think is a bit wrong.  I will see a pastor who will get up and talk about some of the major issues facing our world and it is billed as “prophetic.”  But more often than not, what I hear is more of a political agenda than it is calling the church to present the Kingdom of God.  Since I move around mainline/progressive Christian circles, I tend to hear what sounds like a churchified version of the Democratic party platform, but I’m pretty sure that a lot of what might pass as prophetic in evangelical circles just mirrors the GOP agenda.

So, what does it mean to be prophetic?  What does a prophetic church look like?  I have to think that it’s more than a party platform sprinkled with lots of Jesus.  I’d like to know, because what I see passing as prophetic kind of falls short.

Methodist pastor Drew McIntyre is asking the same question.  He comes up with an answer that is shocking (at least to me,) but true.  Quoting Henri Nouwen, he remarks that there is very little theological reflection in the church today:

In his wonderful little book In the Name of Jesus, Henri Nouwen names temptations common to leadership and offers particular disciplines as solutions.  He concludes this brief treatise by discussing the temptation “to be powerful.”  In different ways, both the right-wing and left-wing perversions of the prophetic are temptations to power.  Fundamentalists manipulate Scripture to show forth their own insight and giftedness, unlocking “secrets” of the end times heretofore unknown.  In so doing they often amass large followings (and bank accounts).  Progressives too quickly make use of the prophetic role to mask their own ideological agendas with a veneer of Biblical authority, and claim God’s voice for whatever the cause happens to be that week.

For Nouwen, the solution is “theological reflection.”  He concludes,

“Few ministers and priests think theologically. most of them have been educated in a climate in which the behavioral sciences, such as psychology and sociology, so dominated the educational milieu that little true theology was being learned. Most Christian leaders today raise psychological or sociological questions even though they frame them in scriptural terms.  Real theological thinking, which is thinking with the mind of Christ, is hard to find in the practice of ministry.  Without solid theological reflection, future leaders will be little more than pseudo-psychologists, pseudo-sociologists, psuedo-social workers.” (65-66)

Theological reflection is critical because without it, we will too quickly mistake our words for God’s, and so make fools of ourselves when speaking on His behalf (as a pastor, I’ve done this more than once).  This discipline is sorely lacking in every corner of the church, Mainline or Evangelical, Catholic or Charismatic.  Such a poverty of theological insight is all the more problematic because we (all of us, including the author) are quick to forget that we are not brilliant by virtue of living in the 21st century or having masses of education.  The great missionary and ecumenist Lesslie Newbigin points out that we may come to different conclusions than Paul, but that doesn’t  make us Paul’s moral superiors; we are apt to be as blind to some things in our day as Paul may have been to certain obvious evils in his.

McIntyre briefly talks about the Moral Mondays campaign in North Carolina.  The movement happens to be led by a Disciples of Christ pastor.  Mother Jones magazine has a pretty good profile of Barber, but in reading you have to wonder: is this about following God or following a party platform (and protesting the other party)?  Would there be Moral Mondays if instead of a conservative legislature and governor passing conservative legislation, there were liberals in power. The answer of course is no and that’s the problem. If you are willing to protest Republicans who you are against and not Democrats that you agree with, then what you are doing isn’t prophetic and you need to quit fooling yourselves.

I tend to think that a true prophet is not going to be liked by either liberals or conservatives.  Another Methodist pastor, Alan Bevere had this to say in 2012 about prophets:

I have spent some time this week in the Old Testament prophetic books. I do not find it surprising that most prophets are not accepted in their own time. Their cutting words of truth at best fall on stopped ears. Then, in order to reinforce their words, they resort to symbolic acts which, if committed in the 21st century West, would be more than sufficient cause for them to be put away in special places reserved for people who walk naked in public (Isaiah) and who eat paper (Ezekiel), and walk around with an oxen yoke on their neck (Jeremiah). The people of God today have no more clue on how to recognize a prophet than the ancient folk. Every time I hear someone referred to as prophetic, it’s only because they are speaking words that the hearers who so designate them agree with. But that’s precisely the problem.

When God used Amos or Micah, it wasn’t because God wanted to raise the minimum wage or ban gay marriage.  God had a covenant with the Israelites and from time to time, God would tell the people when they were off track or when their worship wasn’t matching with their lives.  The closest parallel to this is God talking to the church today.  The prophets were speaking for God, calling the people back to righteous living.  The prophets were not setting policy.  They weren’t talking about voting rights, or same sex marriage or abortion, or the minimum wage.  It’s okay for Christians to work on these issues, but don’t use the prophetic writings for your own agenda.

This brings me back to Nouwen.  I think he’s correct that the church is sorely lacking in thinking theologically.  In a lot of cases evangelicals and progressives have basically adopted the ideologies of the main political parties and sprinkled God talk around them.  I’m starting to think that thinking theologically would mean spending time discerning issues and reflecting on what scripture and tradition have to say about an issue.  That isn’t attractive to a smashmouth church culture, but slowing down to find out how to listen to God and to each other might present a real third way to how the church responds to the outside world.

None of this means that churches should withdraw from the world.  But we need to be able to standback from an issue and see what God is saying.  Maybe in that time of listening we will learn what truly is prophetic.

* I know there have to be a few folks wondering why I didn’t take conservatives to task for doing the same thing.  I didn’t do that because that observation has been used ad nauseum for years.  We all know that the Religious Right jumped into bed with the GOP.  There’s no sense in repeating what we already know.  What a lot of people don’t know is how liberal Christians have basically done the same thing.  I condemn both, but the latter is a story that is not always told.

On the Babylonian Captivity of the Mainline Protestant Church

“Be in the world, but not of the world.”

partisanshipThat was a phrase I heard a lot when I was growing up.  In my evangelical upbringing, there was a stress about living where we are, but not follow the ways of the world.  According to the phrase, we are to follow Jesus and not gods of this world.

Around the time of seminary in the late 1990s, I started hearing talk about”empire.”  The empire was something that challenged the authority of God.  In mainline/progressive churches, talking about empire was their version “not of this world.”  The thinking is based on the depiction of the Roman Empire during Jesus’ time.  It was an all encompassing entity that demanded loyalty and worship.  The empire tends to be used also to describe a modern Rome; namely the United States. In this view, Christians are to resist the power of empire which are rather great.

There is a lot of talk about how we should not fall for the lies of the world/empire and follow Jesus.  But most our talk is just that, talk.  While we denounce the world/empire, we have basically got in bed with the Ceasars of this world.  It’s been well recorded about how evangelicals had a Vegas-style wedding with the GOP.  What is less well-known- especially to those on the inside is how progressive Christians have swallowed whole left-wing politics.  It’s dressed up in churchy language of course, but it’s still a melding of Ceasar and the church.  Many progressive Christians are engaged in politics that is basically left-liberal politics and what I think is very disturbing is that they seem to be unaware that they are just as captive as their conservative sisters and brothers.

None of this is to say that conservatives are any better- they aren’t.  But progressives are not innocent.  Both sides have bought into the conservative/liberal mentality that has become a hallmark of our polarized American society.  Methodist pastor Allan Bevere shares how the church has become captive to the political system:

I immediately think of the (United Methodist) General Board of Church and Society that belongs to the first group, while United Methodist Action (affiliated with the Institute on Religion and Democracy) is an expression of the second group. The former group sounds less Christian and more like the Democratic Party, while the latter group sounds less Christian and more like the Republican Party. Indeed, when I read the anything from either group, I often struggle to see the decisively Christian theological presence in their arguments.

The problem is that both groups that Bishop Carter identifies suffer from their own version of civil religion. James Hunter defines civil religion as “a diffuse amalgamation of religious values that is synthesized with the civic creeds of the nation; in which the life and mission of the church is conflated with the life and mission of the country. American values are, in substance, biblical prophetic values; American identity is, thus, vaguely Christian identity” (Hunter, To Change the World, p. 145). As Hunter rightly notes, the religious right wants to keep America Christian (as they understand it) and the religious left wants to make America Christian (as they understand it). And since both sides are more decisively Democratic or Republican than decisively Christian, the former is unable to apply their concerns for life and hospitality to the unborn, while the latter cannot apply them to immigrants and gays and lesbians. But a consistent ethic of life and hospitality “represents a continuum from conception to death, from the individual to the creation, from interventions in and support of the lives of unborn children and their pregnant mothers, trafficked and enslaved young people, endangered coal miners, incarcerated young men on death row, tortured prisoners of war, the dignity of the aged, and the fragile ecosystems upon which we all depend” (Carter).

As long our UM boards and agencies and organizations (official and otherwise) and we individual United Methodists are nothing more than extensions of the Democratic and Republican Parties, we will not only continue to be selective as to who receives the hospitality of Christ through us, we will also fail to be the alternative to the world that the church is designed to be. One can’t be an alternative when one simply parrots the prevailing political polarities. Until we embrace a consistent ethic of life, our ethic of hospitality will be inconsistent. We will continue to be inconsistent as long as we sound more like the politicians in Washington D.C. than the carpenter from Nazareth.

 

The problem in mainline/progressive circles is that we can’t really tell the difference between liberal politics and prophetic witness. We tend to think that if someone speaks out against a conservative policy, they are somehow in the same league of Old Testament prophets like Amos. Frankly, if we are nodding in agreement with what the “prophet” says all the time, that person is probably not a prophet.

But as I said before, this captivity is very subtle. I don’t think people are deliberately trying to neutralize the church, but that is what is happening here. We might tell ourselves that the work for a higher minimum wage is part of God’s plans of salvation, but is out work for God or the Democratic party?

I don’t think the answer here is for Christians to withdraw from politics. We have to be able to engage the world around us. But the answer that has elluded me all these years is how can church leaders raise Christians who understand the political landscape and seek to help Christians make choices based on their faith. It’s too easy for churches to just capitualte to the wider culture. What I think is needed is some room for the pastor to help people discern what it means to believe and act in this culture. It’s going to mean thinking long and hard about issues seeking a way that will help the least of these. It might also mean having to deal with someone that has a different ideology. It means working together to work for healing and wholeness with someone you might not agree with. It would mean really asking God to lead us instead of using God a political cheerleader.

I don’t have all the answers, let alone the vision of this change in the church’s public witness.

Theocrats to the Right of Me, Theocrats to the Left of Me

Southern Baptist blogger Jonathan Merritt has a pretty good article about his denomination as it deals with a decline that is not unfamiliar to mainline Protestants.  He offers a few ideas on how to stem the decline and the one that gets the most attention is where the he faults the SBC for mixing religion and politics or more specifically, conservative politics:

Tony Campolo once said that mixing the church with government is “like mixing ice cream with horse manure: You will not ruin the horse manure, but it will ruin the ice cream.” I’ll let you determine which one is the ice cream in his analogy.

During the last 25 years, the Southern Baptist Convention has rushed headlong into conservative politics, often parroting Republican talking points and baptizing the GOP’s agenda. Just last year, Richard Land, former head of the SBC’s political arm, broke tradition and publicly endorsed Mitt Romney for President.

Of the 117 resolutions passed by the denomination at their annual meeting since 2000, a breathtaking 70 of them have been political. This includes a 2003 resolution endorsing President Bush’s war in Iraq, a 2008 resolution taking a position in the so-called “War on Christmas,” and a 2009 resolution titled “On President Barack Hussein Obama.” I keep waiting for a resolution naming Sean Hannity as an honorary fourth member of the Trinity.

American evangelicalism is becoming more politically diverse and nuanced than it once was, particularly among young people. If the denomination continues to operate like a Republican lapdog, it can expect to be seen as a polarizing political institution. If they can learn to speak truth to power on both sides of the aisle, the SBC stands a chance of restoring its image. Americans want a Church that is prophetic, not partisan.

Having been raised in an evangelical background, I can agree with Merritt that there conservative Christianity has basically gotten in bed with conservative politics.  That was part of the reason that I left the evangelicalism of my youth and joined mainline Protestantism.  I was leaving the partisan in favor of a church that wasn’t in the thrall of the Republicans.

And the mainline church isn’t carrying the water for the Republicans, no sir.

They are carrying water for the Democrats.

Merritt is probably right that the SBC’s willingness to align itself with the GOP has turned off potential members.  They seem to waste a lot of time passing resolutions on whatever conservative cause du jour.  But having been a part of mainline/progressive Christianity for two decades, I would posit that the left-wing agenda of mainline churches has also turned off potential members.  I’ve heard enough “sermons” from pastors that are basically Democratic speeches with “God” tossed in a few times to know that the mainline is playing the same game conservatives churches are doing.

Back in 2010, Walter Russell Mead, who is Episcopalian, wrote a modern-day jeremiad against the mainline churches for their willingness to basically be petty prophets for what he calls the “Blue social model,” the operating model of governing starting at the middle of the 20th century.  He accuses mainline churches of confusing the Kingdom of God with the Blue Social Model:

The problem is that the contemporary mainline churches have confused the Blue social model with the Kingdom of God.  I’ve written about this model before — what the Blue model is and why it is breaking down, why the breakdown has impaled contemporary liberal politics on the horns of an impossible dilemma, and how the Blue Beast is sucking the life out of the mainline churches today. Historically this is not surprising; the blue social model was in large part formed by thinkers from the mainline churches in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  Somehow the mainline churches came through the violence and the upheavals of the twentieth century with their faith in liberal progress largely intact.  Neither Stalin nor Hitler nor Reinhold Niebuhr could convince us of the power of original sin; neither Hiroshima nor the Holocaust shook our faith in the ability of good government programs to remake mankind.

To mistake an ideology or a social model for the transcendent and always surprising (and irritating!) Kingdom of God is, technically speaking, the sin of idolatry.  It is to worship the work of our own hands.  What makes it worse is that to some degree in the mainline churches we have replaced faith in the scripturally based and historically rooted doctrines and values of the Christian heritage with faith in progressive social thought.

Instead of proclaiming a gospel of salvation that still brings lost sinners streaming through the doors (ask the Pentecostals and evangelicals who have continued to grow even as we shrink) we issue statements urging the federal government to fulfill its contributions to the Millennium Development Goals and to raise the minimum wage.  They preach and plant churches; we have professional development workshops for diocesan employees.

It’s hard for me to not to look at Merritt’s suggestion with a bit of suspicion.  It’s not that he’s wrong; I think he’s spot on.  What makes me skeptical is that I fear he is asking people to give up one idol and fall for another one.

I wasn’t expecting him to also call out the mainline church.  But I do wish that those who look at the sin of conservatives in walking too close to the ways of the world, are willing to look at their own heart and actions .

I end this with a quote from Methodist blogger Alan Bevere:

I must confess as a mainline Protestant who has come out of evangelicalism, I find it almost tragically humorous when the religious left accuses the religious right of wanting to institute a theocracy in America when they have their own theocratic vision they are working to bring to fruition. It reveals the truth of the statement that when you point your finger at someone there are three pointing back at you. The way around the errors of both, of course, is for the church to recover its primary work of embodying the gospel in its corporate life and bearing witness to the ways of God in the world. That is the central way the church is to be political in the world. As I continue to say, the church is where the politics of the kingdom resides and comes to fruition, not in the halls of nation state power.

Are Republicans Real Christians?

I saw this article on Facebook.  The long and the short of it is that the author believes Republicans aren’t Christians:

I always encourage people to stop saying Republicans represent Christianity, and call them out on what they really worship.

I call it “Republicanity” and I consider it a cult.  It’s a perversion of Christianity mixed with a political set of gop elephantman-made beliefs.  These people view their devotion to the GOP on the same level they do their belief in God.  To them, the Republican Party is the party of “real Christians.”  They don’t need facts or reality to support their political beliefs, they have “faith.”

Except, your political beliefs are supposed to be based on facts — not faith.

I’m a Christian, and these people damn sure don’t represent my faith.  What they follow is some mix of Ayn Rand economic ideologies and a couple of select passages from the Bible.

Which I always find hilarious considering Ayn Rand thought religious people were stupid and insane.  So people like Paul Ryan, who built his economic ideology on her teachings while claiming to be a devout “Christian,” just show their ignorance by claiming to believe in both.  How exactly can someone build an economic platform based on a woman who completely contradicted Christianity, while claiming to be a follower of Christianity?

It makes absolutely no damn sense.

You have to read the whole thing.  It’s basically a “strawman” opinion piece- the kind that draws an opponent in the worst possible light in order to trash them and make you look good.  Granted there are issues with the mixing of politics and conservative politics over the years, but does this author really believe that Republicans are all fake Christians?

In a 2012 post I wrote about a post written by fellow Disciple Christian Piatt that basically did the same thing:

As a Republican who is gay and is also African American, I can say that while there are problems that need to be addressed, I’ve met Republicans who are gay, women, black, female and Latino.  They aren’t all “bubbas” who drive around with Confederate Flags bumper stickers.  (and even the “bubbas” aren’t such a stereotype.)

But this kind of trash talk is troublesome not simply because it disses Republicans.  I have a bigger problem in that Piatt’s post is a sign something that is happening more and more in society: Christians engaging in the same kind of smashmouth politics so popular in the wider culture. Christians on the left and the right mimic what is going on in the society; the only difference is that we flavor our ideological snarkiness with God-talk.

It’s not a shock that as American society sorts itself out ideologically, that the church would also take part in this sorting.  But while it’s not shocking, it is sad.  The church should be one place where partisan politics isn’t allowed.

Silence of the Drones

Michael Kruse has a good post that deals with my long quest to find out what is truly prophetic and what is just a poser.  Here’s a taste:

The Christian Left (or progressives) hold themselves up as the antidote to this unholy alliance between the church and state. They are prophetic. Unlike conservatives who were in the tank for Bush and the Republican Party, they stand unflinchingly for justice. Addressing the issue of torture is a good example.

The Bush administration used “enhanced interrogation techniques” like waterboarding. This was torture and torture is never justified, we were told. No amount of oversight, no amount of justification can EVER justify torture. Not only is torture not Christian but it violates commonly agreed upon ethics in the community of nations. There are no exceptions. Add to this Guantanamo Bay and holding prisoners without due process. Bush is not a Christian because no Christian would engage in torture. Bush and his administration are war criminals. Bush should have been impeached but even today he should be brought up on charges of war crimes. The church must take a prophetic stand against injustice. Five and six years ago I can remember a relentless stream of social media posts and conversations by my progressive sisters and brothers in the faith along these lines.

Now fast forward a few years and see where we are now. President Obama’s team has not been using “enhanced interrogation techniques” (as far as we know). They simply send in drones to, not torture, but kill anyone they suspect might be a threat, apparently while occasionally killing innocent bystanders. We are learning now that apparently these clandestine acts could be targeting Americans abroad who are suspected of terrorist activity. And, oh yes, last I checked, we are now in Obama’s second administration and Guantanamo Bay is still open with no foreseeable end. Where are the prophetic voices today? Cue the soundtrack with crickets chirping.

Read the whole thing. It’s a good take on what is prophetic and what is social hostility wrapped in prophetic clothes.

The Civic Church

What is the role of the church in a society?

That’s the question that I’ve been trying to answer for a few years.  I think blogger Michael Kruse came up with the best answer.  Before I get to Michael’s quote, let’s look at opinion piece by David Brooks that Kruse comments on.  Brooks offer his own critique of President Obama’s second inaugural address. Here’s the crucial points:

I am not a liberal like Obama, so I was struck by what he left out in his tour through American history. I, too, would celebrate Seneca Falls, Selma and Stonewall, but I’d also mention Wall Street, State Street, Menlo Park and Silicon Valley. I’d emphasize that America has prospered because we have a decentralizing genius.

When Europeans nationalized their religions, we decentralized and produced a great flowering of entrepreneurial denominations. When Europe organized state universities, our diverse communities organized private universities. When Europeans invested in national welfare states, American localities invested in human capital.

America’s greatest innovations and commercial blessings were unforeseen by those at the national headquarters. They emerged, bottom up, from tinkerers and business outsiders who could never have attracted the attention of a president or some public-private investment commission…

I also think Obama misunderstands this moment. The Progressive Era, New Deal and Great Society laws were enacted when America was still a young and growing nation…We are no longer that nation…

Obama made his case beautifully. He came across as a prudent, nonpopulist progressive. But I’m not sure he rescrambled the debate. We still have one party that talks the language of government and one that talks the language of the market. We have no party that is comfortable with civil society, no party that understands the ways government and the market can both crush and nurture community, no party with new ideas about how these things might blend together. But at least the debate is started. Maybe that new wind will come.

Kruse then goes on to explain his own view of American society in response to a comment on the post:

Brooks is writing an op ed, not a thesis, so of course he can’t build a detailed case for his characterization of Obama. He made reference to Obama’s case for collective action. I suspect his take, like mine, is from an accretion of observation not a definitive statement.

Politics is how we govern those aspects of our lives that are truly the domain of government. Therein is the rub. Which things are in that domain? Progressives tend to see government as the hub of a wheel with other institutions of society radiating out from the center. Virtually all aspects of life are extensions of government’s agenda.

I subscribe to something akin to subsidiarity. At the center of concentric circles are the individual and the family. That circle is surrounded by extended family, neighbors, and friends. The next circle includes voluntary organizations like church, neighborhood associations, business, local schools, and such. Beyond that are city and regional government, as well as other intermediate-sized institutions. Eventually we reach the outer rim with federal government (some might include international organizations beyond that.) Each ring will have roles which only institutions in those rings can play but they exist in a subsidiary … i.e., supportive … role to the rings closer to the center.

No, Obama is not a totalitarian. Neither are most progressives. Presently, too much of conservatism is an effort to create a market society, not just a market economy. My perception is that, conversely, progressives want to subsume all institutions of society into political society, not just a political government. (Emphasis mine)

In America today, the Church is seen either in service to politics or to the market.  Conservative Christians tend to see the church as part of a market society, while progressives see the church as part of the political society.  The church is either in service to a sort of consumerism or it’s in service to the centralizing power of the welfare state.

Of course, I don’t subscribe to either view of the church in society.  But these are the two main “parties” that Christians have to choose from.

But maybe there is a third way.  What if there is a civic church?  Not a market church or political church, but a church engaged in society as Brooks and Kruse describe: one that can discern how the market and government can both inspire and oppress people.  One that sees the church as a part of the society along with clubs and businesses.  In fact, they will acknowledge that these other groups intersect with the church and not simply keep them outside of the church’s front doors.

The sad thing is that there really isn’t anyone calling for a more civic church.  We need to find ways that the church can participate, not in service to the government or the market, but for the whole of society, influencing all the different spheres in a society.