March 1, 2014

The de-evangelization of American culture

For those uninterested in religion, or uninterested in my my grappling with my religion, feel free to just ignore.  It isn't exactly new territory.

We are planning to see one of our favorite singer-songwriters (Mark Erelli) tomorrow night.  We first saw him in the waning days of 2007, when my view on the world was pretty dark.  I think Zalm suggested Erelli's music, and it did help.  Yet, here we are almost 7 years later, and I feel even darker.  Here in Oklahoma, our Governor wants to further cut income taxes while she also advocates cutting funding for Medicaid, and other social safety net features.  She has the backing of the religiously conservative community.  In Arizona, religious conservatives pushed the Orwellian "religious freedom" bill that would allow them to discriminate against gay people.  As EJ Dionne put it, it is the process of de-evangelization. People from a faith that calls them to reach out to the leper and to feed the poor, and help the marginalized--are claiming as a part of their faith--the right to deny service to gay people because they don't like them.  There is no verse to support this.  Hell, there are verses supporting slavery, but there is no verse that supports turning your back on people simply because you don't like them.  As Dionne notes, this is turning an entire generation against people of faith as they identify religion with intolerance and homophobia.

I remember the emphasis on "witness" during my church years.  It took on a rather paranoid aspect where we had to be mindful of every little slight that might "lead someone astray," even if the offense was minor or not even completely wrong.  Dancing might be ok, but it could be wrong if it caused "someone else to stumble."  We were to be the "light unto the world."

Flash forward nearly 35 years, and the same denomination openly endorses torture, and openly denigrates working poor and those needing healthcare.  They vote every year for people who are openly racist or homophobic, or who despise sexual women, and they have no problem with cuts in food stamps, or Medicaid, or for the disabled, and they openly defend the people who have everything.  De-evangelization.

Evangelical Rachel Held Evans says it very well:

And yet despite enjoying majority status, significant privilege, and unchallenged religious freedom in this country, we evangelical Christians have become known as a group of people who cry “persecution!” upon being wished “Happy Holidays" by a store clerk.  
We have become known as a group of people who sees themselves perpetually under attack, perpetually victimized, and perpetually entitled, a group who, ironically, often responds to these imagined disadvantages by advancing legislation that restricts the civil liberties of other people. 
And even better here:

The truth is, evangelical Christians have already "lost" the culture wars.And it's not because the "other side" won or because evangelicals have failed to protect our own religious liberties.  Evangelicals lost the culture wars the moment they committed to fighting them, the moment they decided to stop washing feet and start waging war.   
And I fear that we've lost not only the culture wars, but also our Christian identity, when the  "right to refuse" service has become a more sincerely-held and widely-known Christian belief than the impulse to give it.  
 She could add opposition to the poor, or attacks on women, or believing that healthcare is a privilege to that "right to refuse."

Just when I find myself completely without hope for the faith in which I was raised, I read this amazingly powerful post from Ta-Nehisi Coates about his interview with the mother of slain teenager Jordan Davis.  Davis was shot by a white male who objected to the young black man playing loud rap music in his car.  Instead of moving, or ignoring it (this was at a convenience store, btw, not outside his hotel room), Michael Dunn pulled out his gun and shot into a car full of black kids--all of whom were unarmed.  As the car retreated with the bleeding Jordan Davis inside, Dunn continued to shoot at the vehicle.  The jury convicted him of "attempted murder," but could not decide if he intended to kill Jordan.  Unbelievable.  Unfathomable.  (This racist ass is part of gun culture too, but that is not the point of this post.)

But back to this post.  Like Coates, though for far fewer personal reasons, I found the verdict outrageous, and I find Dunn's actions reprehensible.  But read the discussion with the slain boy's mother.

She said, "It baffles our mind too. Don’t think that we aren’t angry. Don’t think that I am not angry. Forgiving Michael Dunn doesn't negate what I’m feeling and my anger. And I am allowed to feel that way. But more than that I have a responsibility to God to walk the path He's laid. In spite of my anger, and my fear that we won’t get the verdict that we want, I am still called by the God I serve to walk this out."


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