Tag Archives: mainline Protestantism

Mainstreaming Radicalism

“Radicals are hopeless, they are all ugly, and are so ungrateful for everything given to them. — they are ultimately rooted in a sense that everything sucks”

I don’t get it. I really don’t get it.

I really just don’t understand how there’s an entire generation of Christians out there who feel like Mainline Christianity has let them down, that there’s this BIG CONSPIRACY OUT THERE: that the Bible shows us just how terrible everything is. EVERYTHING IS AWFUL! EVERYTHING IS NOT COOL WHEN YOU’RE NOT PART OF OUR TEAM!

It can be a startling revelation to learn that there are a relatively small group of people sitting on their couches, criticizing the civil religion that this great nation was founded on. Social Justice Warriors have absolutely no respect for their elders, which is completely ageist by the way!

We might still be reeling, okay, okay, just a tad bit embarassed that there are no Mainline Protestant members on the Supreme Court, and we have all of these elitist outsiders “claiming” that we live in a Post-Christian world, and that may be true. This is especially true when many Mainline Christian voices are exiting the public realm. How can there be a realm with no King? If the nation’s civil religion is removed, who will be there rule over the masses? Certainly not lazy hyper-critical Twittervists!

So who in their right minds would try to mainstream radicalism? Well, I’d like to give it a try.

If you can’t imagine anything good coming out of Mainline Christendom, this essay may not be for you.

Mainstream Churches are not about seeking other options, it is not a project for outsiders; this is for insiders.The point isn’t to challenge conservatives in power, but to emulatethem.

The temperament of radicals is defined by a nihilistic disposition. Radicals are filled with ingratitude, they are mean. Surveys have shown of the top 300 of Social Justice Warriors who use Digital media, 79% of them possess no sense of humor OR patriotism, and they certainly don’t care about being respectable! Radicals are hopeless, they are all ugly, and are so ungrateful for everything given to them. — they are ultimately rooted in a sense that everything sucks.

This isn’t a rescue project. This is not a call to turn back time to the good ole days where all of our civic leaders attended Episcopalien, Methodist and Baptist churches. If you are a radical, and you have no respect for yourself, then there’s isn’t a hedge of protection around you. The Mainline Church has always been a for-ism project; we are in favor of assimilating the world’s most hideous rejects into being civilized participants of our society. It’s not like ugliness will save the world, okay?

As my favorite director Tyler Perry once testified, the family that prays together at the dinner table, stays together. It’s only at the potluck dinners filled with casseroles and lemon meringue pies that The Church can teach others about unity and politeness. He who fills himself with two helpings of mashed potatoes learns what it is like to NOT bite at the hand who fed him. When brotherhood and niceness are scoffed at in favor of barbarism, we merely get assimilated into being worthless slackers. It might be the “radicals” in The Church who look reactionary. Sort of like Hitler.

Baptists are the Reavers: my thoughts on #protfuture

Image from fireflyfans.net

A while back, I reviewed a book on science fiction and social theory. Surprisingly, this little book had a lot to teach me about how we view eschatology. Essentially, our views of the futures are often times shaped by notions of exclusion. Which ever tribe (usually tribe, in the case of First Nations persons) we see as not being able to make it is based usually on historical circumstances, like for instance, genocide and war to continue on with my example.

Recently, I watched the conversation held at BIOLA University on The Future of Protestantism sponsored by First Things magazine. Dr. Peter Leithart, who originally wrote the provocative essay The End of Protestantism re-introduced us to his idea of Reformational Catholicism, going back to the Reformers and their Catholic view of theology, the sacraments, honoring the Church Fathers. Protestantism is a movement and a theology that doth protest too much, a project that was found to be susceptible to tribalism, nationalism and anti-intellectualism.

The responses offered by Evangelical Wesleyan theologian Fred Sanders and Reformational theologian Carl Trueman were concise and highly critical of Leithart’s project. What I found interesting is that there was this over-arching theme fretting that the culture wars, for a particular band of Christians, had been lost. I will leave you to read up and believe why that was the case, and the cultural biases behind that belief.

What I want to talk about is the BoogeyMen, who are the Reavers to this Brave New World called the Conservative Evangelical Protestantism of the Future. First Things and this conversation are running a first-class Firefly spaceship, and they are trying to avoid the cannibals we call The Baptists. The notion of a Reformational Catholicism precludes any adherence to traditional Free Church ecclessiology. Autonomous, local congregations are derided as “cults of personality.” Word-Centered worship services being replaced by the Table-Centered/Eucharist traditions. I think that in and of itself is something that cannot be called being faithful to the Reformation, or the Old and New Testaments.

I also found it odd that both parties were willing to give our Catholic sisters and brothers grace, but aren’t willing to extend it to mainline Protestantism. This I find absolutely hypocritical. Forget about the leadership and direction of mainline Protestant denominations; there are many persons with conservative, evangelical beliefs in these churches. The Unity that #ProtFuture is in search for is a political hegemony, one where Conservativism is the same as preaching the Gospel. I’ll reserve my comments concerning the cultural hegemony of where the conversation went, and where it usually goes, but suffice to say that it takes a similar approach to “Third-World Pentecostalism” as “progressive” emergent church leaders.  Maybe rather than asking how can we teach the new Christian majority, Charismatics from Global South to accept how we see things, how about asking, “what can these Christians teach us about the faith?”

I like that this discussion started an important conversation.  It’s a conversation that Dietrich Bonhoeffer commented on, that American Protestantism is a Protestantism without reformation.  This is primarily due to the particular cultural milieu the U.S. finds itself in, the national culture wars among other things. I guess what I envision as a possible future of Protestant Christianity is a commitment to  A) the Theology of the Cross that Martin Luther first built the movement on with the 95 theses,  B) The Three Baptisms of the Radical Reformation– Immersed in Water, Immersed by the Holy Spirit, Immersed in Bodily Existence within the World (baptism of blood), and lastly  C) Word-Centered woship services where the Word is preached through sermons and prayers by the priesthood of all believers, women and men alike; where the Bible is the norming norm where we affirm and interpret the creeds and historic Christian writings and statements in light of the testimony of the Holy Scriptures, and where the story of God and humanity is seen as begotten by YHWH at the Exodus in the election of Israel, and begins anew with its inclusion of the Gentiles, and rightfully towards its TELOS in the Death and Resurrection of Christ Jesus.   

The Future of Protestantism conversation has helped me gain a little clarity in what I see as my hopes for the future of Christianity.  I am known to joke on occasion that here in Texas, everyone is a Baptist.  We wear our faith on our sleeve, we go to retail centers bragging about our congregations, and we’re just deeply stubborn to protest anything.  From the fifth grade students in a classroom, to your grocery shopper contending for what he believes is the right price of an item, we are all Baptists, even the Catholics.  I kinda think that’s what the future of Christianity could look like.  Not as a religion that hijacks notions of marginality and de-historicizes the real experience of exiles and refuges, but as a pure and undefiled religion that reveals the Holiness of God in the creative dis-location of our very bodies to be present-with the least of these, the Reavers of the world, a Church free to serve God and set the prisoners free.

The Church Of Ramona Flowers: White Hipsterism, Evangelicalism, and the Millenials Conversation


Image from CatBirdSeat.org

Perhaps one of the best unspoken commentaries on hipster culture comes from one of my favorite movies, Scott Pilgrim Versus The World. Based on the Scott Pilgrim comis by Bryan Lee O’Malley,at first, it starts out as a typical movie about the Manic Pixie Dream Girl for the depressed and lonely white male protagonist, the conclusion ends in a-typical fashion, with the not so MPDG, Ramona Flowers getting an actual character arc of her own.  Two scenes stand out to me in regards to hipsterism: first, in Scott Pilgrim’s confrontation with Matthew Patel, part of the Bollywood scene involves Patel being surrounded by an army of “demon hipster chicks” which (SPOILER ALERT) is supposed to be Patel’s criticism of his ex-girlfriend, Ramona.

The other scene that comes to mind is Scott Pilgrim’s final battle with Ramona’s last Evil Ex, Gideon, who shouts, “I’m what’s in. I’m hot. I’m in right now.”  Gideon it turns out is a reflection of both members of the audience (as hipsters in our own right) as well as Ramona.  As Ramona faces the truth (Gideon and his extreme attachment to trends and “what’s in”), she joins Scott and Knives Chau in the last battle (an oversimplification, I know, but I didn’t want to give away any spoilers).  Perhaps this isn’t a new phenomena, maybe in every generation there are always going to be those persons who have chosen themselves or are chosen by “the people” to be the voice of “our” generation.  As much as I hate to criticize someone (Gideon) named after my favorite character in the Bible, today’s “GIDEON’s/G-Men” who have to claim “they are what’s in right now” at the expense of what, whoever is cold, old, elderly?

All of this millenial talk, and really the Generation X talk from years ago sound pretty ageist, exclusive regarding age at the expense of ignoring the experience of the elderly.  It essentializes senior citizens, for example, as if all of the old people are holding us back. “Our” experiences,” our” tastes, “our” sexual mores, “our” consumer interests becomes more important (self-important) than the common good or the Good News itself.  Furthermore, the idea that ONE person can BOTH claim to speak from personal experience AND for the rest of his/her generation is just impossible.  It’s only from a position of privilege, one that assumes the person’s ability to embody universality without any regard for personal context, to make sweeping statements and judgment.  IOW, the generations conversations, have always been, and meant, to be predominantly white conversations about the turns and forms of the white (national) culture wars.  This is the same sentiment, as I have mentioned in the past, as Drew Hart’s thoughts on the Evangelical Split

I also argued that this is just history trying to repeat itself, more like interested, more invested parties making a play at the history’s circularity. Another post that resonated with me is Alastair Roberts’ Talking About My Generation: Millenials And The Church, and especially his thoughts about the calls to end the [white] culture wars:

“One of the striking things to observe in conversations about the ‘culture wars’ is the way that evangelicals are typically presented as aggressors, even though they can hardly be accused of starting most of the wars in the first place. Rather, the very act of resisting the advance of things such as abortion, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, divorce, and the like in society is framed as a belligerent move on the part of evangelical Christians. Those strongly pushing for same-sex marriage, for instance, are not subject to the same judgment, which is very telling. It suggests to me that those who call for an end to the culture wars either lack the nerve for such resistance, for the unpopularity and bad press that it produces, preferring to adopt a (futile) policy of appeasement to unreasonable parties, or that they are actually on the side of the opponents of the historic Christian social and cultural values being defended.”

Couldn’t say this better myself, but last night on Tumblr I commented because we need to point out the cultural particularity of the [white] culture wars:

“What would it mean for there to be an end to the culture wars? A better question altogether is whose culture are we referring to? On one hand we have popular culture, filtered through popular media such as television, newspapers? the internet, and radio?, and also extended through fandom in social media. But pop culture, the culture of the “folk” (which folk? Whose folk?) is one of the many playgrounds of something larger, national culture. National culture shows up in our day to day realities, our work places, our places of worship, and yes even where we shop for our groceries! The fight to win the culture wars is a struggle to control public opinion, and therefore set political agendas. In such a war such as the white culture wars, white supremacy remains unnamed. Think about responses to questions about, for example, POC superheroes in live action settings. They cant reach “the general public.” No what you mean is you yourself refer to white people as the default mode of humanity. Replace the topic, for instance, all the talk of generational differences and Christianity. It’s so ridiculous, and the future of Xtianity is always gonna look more diverse just as long as ignore racial exclusion in the present. Oh hey do homeless persons have time to abstractly dream about the future of religious institutions? Is that what truly matters? I have to stay vigilant in the culture wars, sorrynotsorry becuz white supremacy does not rest. Corporate driven capitalism does not take a break in its war versus the poor. Sexism doesnt take a back seat to the lives (men’s and women’s) its ruined. National culture is what sustains the nation-state. National-culture and its narrowminded hegemony must be replaced with multi-culture, persons living openly, freely in integrity to the cultures of their choosing.”

Culture. Wars. via Blerd Theologian tumblr

Talks of generational tastes and fads are problematic, primarily for North American Christianity because the trend against inter-generational interaction in churches become even much more accentuated. A constructive solution is probably what many Christian educators talk about, inter-generational Christian education rather than Sunday Schools and classes arranged by age. Perhaps one of the mos beneficial friendships I have personally learned and grown from is befriending an elderly woman, who is not only the mother of a few seminarians, but who also has theological education herself. While no one else in the congregation seemed even slightly interested in my Masters’ thesis or my interest in theology (no, not even the, SPOILER ALERT, the millenials), she has, and we talk from time to time. When there was an opportunity to pave her driveway, without any experience, I was one of the first people to sign up. It’s this friendship, the smallest space that I was given, that allowed me to be who I was (as a more intellectually-minded, critical Christian) that made me feel comfortable in church. My hope for the white emergent church is that they could perhaps take a cue from Ramona Flowers, and become more committed to people (in this case, the people of God) than “what’s in right now.”


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