Are Mainline Christians Waking Up?

Right-wing fundamentalists are threatening the
meaning and practice of Christian faith but mainline Christians are waking up to
the need to confront them, according to Paul Gason writing in the Washington
Post. Writer Colbert King says moderates and progressives should be mad enough
to fight.

Mainline Christians are waking up to the threat posed by right-wing fundamentalists, according to Paul Gaston writing in the Washington Post.

It is a
battle over
both the
meaning and
practice of
Christianity
as well as
over the
definition and
destiny of
the republic.

He frames the threat as two-fold: first, it is a threat to the meaning and practice of Christian faith and, secondly, it’s a threat to the principles of the republic. Those principles include freedom of religion and freedom to practice religion without state interference.

Gaston contends the attack on the judiciary is a smokescreen that covers the efforts of the religious right to wrest control of the faith away from those called “mainline.” This, in turn, covers an agenda to impose theocracy on the republic.

Colbert I. King writes the right wing has hijacked Christianity and it’s time for moderates to get mad and do something about it. He refers to a Bergen Record editorial (the Record is a major northern New Jersey daily printed in Hackensack), that says the religious right’s agenda is frightening. King says “baloney.” It should make moderates and progressives mad. Mad enough to fight.

To suggest
Democrats
are out
to get
people of
faith” is
despicable
demagoguery
that the
truly faithful
ought to
rise up
and reject.
–Colbert I. King

King cites how the right claimed the flag and patriotism after the Viet Nam war, an assumption that offended him when he returned to the U.S. after working overseas on security issues. Now, he says, the religious right has hijacked Christianity and it’s time for other Christians to fight back.

Increasingly people are asking for guidance from the leaders of the middle, looking for balance in a polarized public conversation in which extremists have demonstrated greater ability to frame issues and use media. The mainline voices are not experienced in these tactics and have tended to search for middle ground, favoring reason and quiet persuasion. Mainline leaders embody the pastoral more than the pyrotechnic.

But their restraint is characterized by the secular and religious extremists as lack of conviction, weakness, or worse, as relativism, secular humanism, left-wing politics or revisionist. In the understandable and commendable moderation of the mainline leadership, the extremists on the right have had the advantage. They have been able to characterize all but themselves as wrong.

Now the debate is being framed as “orthodox” Christians against “progressives,” as if there are only two sides and one is faithful to the history and traditions of the church while the other is apostate. I think we’ve seen this before and it’s far too simplistic.

Those who think this kind of purification will lead to a stronger community and a more faithful theology had best best give serious thought to history, not just the history they want to recall as the tradition of faithfulness, but the sweep of history that these purifications create. Careers destroyed, knowledge undermined, progress halted, communities ripped apart, wars ignited. Think twice. It’s not just words we’re talking here. It’s passion being stirred in unhealthy and dangerous ways. For some, these are fighting words.

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