I am now partially convinced that Andrew Snelling has long abandoned the young-Earth worldview, but continues to write for them because it is his favorite job. After presenting pages of evidence in favor of conventional radiometric dates, he inserts a de facto pronouncement to the contrary, as though he’s tempting his colleagues to catch on. For the record, I claim no authority as a judge of Snelling’s sincerity, but personally I find it difficult to explain his writings otherwise.
Does the Coconino have frosted grains? Check. Cross-bed structures? You bet. Fossilized trackways? Yep. Everything seems to fit with the standard eolian interpretation. And here is the crux of the problem for creationists: this evidence means the Coconino formed on dry land in the middle of what should have been the year of the Flood.
And there is another American profession that has a significantly more alarming problem with domestic abuse. I’d urge everyone who believes in zero tolerance for NFL employees caught beating their wives or girlfriends to direct as much attention—or ideally, even more attention—at police officers who assault their partners. Several studies have found that the romantic partners of police officers suffer domestic abuse at rates significantly higher than the general population. And while all partner abuse is unacceptable, it is especially problematic when domestic abusers are literally the people that battered and abused women are supposed to call for help.
If there’s any job that domestic abuse should disqualify a person from holding, isn’t it the one job that gives you a lethal weapon, trains you to stalk people without their noticing, and relies on your judgment and discretion to protect the abused against domestic abusers?
There were of course theological issues that arise out of this. How are we to understand Adam? Is there a historical Adam? Was Adam the first man, the first human with a God consciousness, the one designated to be the start of God’s working with Israel, or a literary device in a creation story? What about the fall and Paul’s comments in Romans 5 that through Adam sin and death entered the world? While I have not firmly landed on a position on much of this discussion, Peter Enns book, “The Evolution of Adam“, has convinced me that I do have theological wiggle room to be faithful to scripture where ever I might end up on the topic. Despite the topic, this is not a book about evolution, but rather a discussion about “what the bible does and doesn’t say about human origins.”
One of the reasons was the idea of starlight. If a star is one million light years away, then it takes one million years for the light to reach our eyes. If we see a stellar event, and if the universe is only 6000 years old, we are seeing an event that didn’t actually happen. Again it makes God out to be a deceiver.
The Creation Museum is not a museum so much as it is a 3-D hellfire sermon with a food court.
And so when people ask me what the “next big thing” in the church will be, I tell them this: discipleship.
There are a lot of reasons why the church doesn’t wield the influence we once had in the public sphere, but I think the main one is this: we have forgotten our foundation. We have forgotten what it means to be disciples. And people can see through us.
Few people are interested in joining just another public advocacy group. And those who are can find far more effective ones. The progressive church is not the Democratic Party at Prayer, to borrow a phrase. And if we continue to lose our theological literacy, and our ability to talk about our faith, that’s all we will end up being. Without a bedrock of belief, the whole enterprise of church-based social justice will crumble.
But that doesn’t have to happen.
It’s time for progressive Christians to claim discipleship. It’s time to get radical, not about our politics or our policies, but about our faith. It’s time to stop throwing the baby Jesus out with the bath water, and start putting the horse before the cart. It’s time to remember what, and who, we worship. It’s time to develop the language of faith. And it’s time to see our social justice work as a natural product of our discipleship, not something that competes with it for the church’s time.
And only then, when we have gone back to the source and found what ultimately binds us together with God and with one another, can we go out and find the next, next big thing. And whenever that happens, we will be better for it. And we just may find that when it comes to changing the world for the better, the Gospel of Why We Are Different Than Other Christians can’t hold a candle to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I am glad that churches stand up against anti-gay measures. I wish more would. But I want us to talk about why our Christian convictions are compelling us to do so.
I give thanks for every church member that stands and protests against the death penalty, but I want us to be able to talk about what the crucified Christ taught us about the value of human life.
I respect every minister who holds a placard in front of the White House and speaks about climate change, but I wish I heard more about how God created the world and called it good, and why that’s why we can’t be silent.
When I walk into a voting booth, I take my faith with me. When I cast my votes, I do so in accordance with what the Gospel has taught me. I cannot separate the two. And I give thanks for that.
But before I got to this place, I first had to become a disciple. I had to read the Gospel for myself. I had to want to follow the Christ they talked about. And only then could I go about the work of living my faith in the public arena, both in the larger church and in the world.
I was thinking about that last week. I was sitting in a discussion talking about my views on why it’s important for progressive ministers to be able to talk about our faith, and about what Christ means to us. I was talking about discipleship, and why it matters for our often progressive church. And I was talking about how we’ve lost so much of our theological heritage, and language of faith. And then the question came, part-curious, part-suspect:
“But what about social justice? Does that not matter to you?”
Like I said, the person who asked didn’t know me. They didn’t know that for the past twenty years I have been openly gay. They didn’t know about the times anonymous anti-gay hate letters showed up in my church’s mailbox during my last call, or about how I’d grown up in a place where being gay could literally get you blown up, or about how Heidi and I had needed to file separate federal tax returns even after we got married.
And they didn’t know about the times my faith had compelled me to take action. They didn’t know about how we had stood in the New York State Capitol for the better part of a week as right-wing Christians protesting against equal marriage had yelled at us that we were going to hell. I’ve gone a few rounds in the social justice arena.
But the person who questioned that? They aren’t alone. So many times when I talk about why the church needs to reclaim discipleship, starting with asking ourselves “who do I believe that Jesus is to me” even my progressive Christian friends look at me sideways. Those of us who see ourselves as progressive evangelicals often find ourselves being told that we are too dogmatic, too conservative, or too focused on what doesn’t matter.
Except, I think it does matter. I think it matters more than we know.
I often worry that the progressive church has begun to define itself not by our affirmations, but by our repudiations. When compared with our more conservative brothers and sisters we are so quick to say “we aren’t like that”. We proclaim “not all Christians believe that way” with ease. But when it comes to talking about what we DO believe, we often find we lack the words.
I am sometimes worried that we in the progressive church put the cart before the horse when it comes to social justice. It’s not that I believe we are advocating for the wrong things; it’s that I believe we sometimes advocate for the wrong reasons, acting first and then wedging theological meaning in later.