Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Liberal Christian Hierarchies

It's fairly commonly known that the seminaries and headquarters of American denominations are staffed with folks who are significantly more politically liberal than the rank-and-file. Part of this is distancing themselves from the Religious Right, because their dominant peer group is academics, liberal professionals, and the staff of nonprofits, not the members of their denominations. I doubt very much that this is calculated - it's instinctive. They identify with the former, and see themselves as somewhat in charge of the latter. They consider it their bounden duty to expose their generally nice but uninformed co-religionists of the other ways of looking at the gospel. As they are quite certain in their gut - justified by a great deal of post-hoc reasoning - that Christianity should overlap with political liberalism a lot more, these "other ways" invariably involve some evangelism for their politics.

The official attitude of the denominational hierarchies toward Israel is going to be interesting to observe. No, actually it isn't, I take that back. It is utterly predictable how this will play out. They will gradually betray Israel, though with a great show of the wringing of hands. They will of course continue to acknowledge Israel's right to exist, and deplore the evils of her enemies - for about five minutes. The rest of the time will be spent agonizing over any of Israel's military actions, always finding that she should have done something else. A great deal of stress will be laid on the bad public relations and the eroding of support in the "international community" that results from everything they do.

Let me translate this bad PR and international community stuff for you. They mean their friends, and the cultural groups their friends identify with. They don't mean Polish plumbers or Indian businessmen. They mean academic, issue activist, and journo figures in North America and Western Europe, plus a smaller percentage of similar elites (they believe) in the remaining countries.

It is intolerable to liberal Christians that someone else get the inside track on righteousness, getting to look down on them for not being on the real moral cutting edge. The denominational hierarchies will continue to advocate for (mostly) good works in Africa, South Asia, and South America. But their discussion energy, their conferences, their official statements, their invited speakers, their special programs, with increasingly focus on Israel, and increasingly find her actions more worthy of discussion than those of Pakistan, or Venezuela, or North Korea.

We already know the rhetoric. We will be cautioned not to automatically defend all of Israel's actions (Yeah, nice false choice there.) We will be encouraged to consider the plight of Palestinians - because of Israel - with the actions of other nations in the region, historical and current, strangely unmentioned. Because we are supposed to be churchy and Biblical, there will be frequent returns to selected OT and NT passages - and we know which they will select and which they will definitely not. It will all trend increasingly to "Yes, but..."

No matter what the other ME nations do. Their provocations will be increasingly seen as understandable - we must strive to understand them - and spun in the most innocent light.

No comments: