The marketing mantra of liberal Christianity is “change or die.” Here’s the pitch: society has evolved since the 1960s, shedding its old prejudices and misunderstandings and replacing them with a new consensus based on reason and tolerance. Unless the mainstream churches embrace women priests, socialism and gay marriage, they will lose relevance and die out…Intellectual momentum, liberals insist, is with love and diversity.
Today a brief and simple refutation of the argument that the Church must be “relevant” and “tolerant.”
The idea of remaining “relevant” is to adapt both theology and ecclesiastical procedures to match current cultural trends, because, it is supposed, truth lies in the vote of the masses and they should be given what they want. That’s all the refutation that is needed, because this premise is false. Truth is only sometimes found in what people believe, or even more rarely in what they desire.
The premises fails again if we replace “the masses” with “the intelligentsia,” a group of folk desperately in love with itself and its ideas. And love is frequently blind.
To say that “tolerance” is a goal is to say that the intolerable should be tolerated, an automatic refutation. (The “intolerable” could be those who are against tolerance.)
Another way of putting the modernization argument is to say that if a sufficient minority (it doesn’t take a majority, nor anything near it), embrace (say) homosexual sex in all its variants1, then the Church should, too. It is not yet to the point where to seem truly accepting the clergy and parishioners must openly participate in these acts, just that they support them vocally. Remaining silent is taken to imply animosity. And animosity is not tolerance.
As Stanley suggested, the current trend among the intelligentsia is to claim that there are no differences between males and females. Canada is said to mulling a bill which would ban these words. Sexual “orientation” and not biology defines a person. Very well, the Church must not only require female priests, bishops, popes and the like, but they must build tolerant gender-neutral toilets. I was joking about Canada (for now).
Socialism, it goes almost without saying, is a must. Socialism is defined as “government by those who ardently desire socialism.” Pope Francis warned that the Church will soon be nothing but another NGO—one which wastes too much on trappings, at that. Do you have any idea how much a box of candles costs? The trend is to say that what matters is material and not spiritual wealth. As long as the “poor” have HD TVs, a car, cell phones, the internet, and free housing (with grass)—just as they do in New York City; it’s the middle class who cannot afford cars and apartments with outdoor space—, and the rich don’t have more than their “fair share”, then the relevant, tolerant Church will have done its duty. The people should have earthly toys, not heavenly joys.
The last major trend is towards atheism, agnosticism, and vague spirituality (see, inter alia those who carry rolled up yoga mats through the streets), all of which deny the divinity of Christ. And thus disavow the reason for Christianity. If Christ was just a really smart, large-hearted guy who wanted to take from the rich and give to the poor, while taking a substantial cut of the proceeds for himself so that he could administer the program and pay for the weapons to guard against revolts, then his theories take no special place among the many others from our great thinkers.
Why should Christianity-as-NGO focus on Christ and discriminate against other thinkers, particularly women thinkers? Relevance says it should not. Should we not welcome all experiments in living, no matter how repulsive? Tolerance says we should.
The Church, if it exists at all after fully adopting relevance and tolerance, will be yet another disappearing branch of Unitarian Universalists.
1For a detailed list of these go to San Francisco’s Castro District and pick up one of the free magazines or newspapers from any street-corner box. I opened one (randomly) to a page which listed the jolly club “Something Buddies,” where the “Something” was something alliterative with the second word. No fee for membership.