Showing items filed under “October 2017”


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I have spoken before about my own surely imperfect efforts to figure out when to speak on matters political. Basically when something touches a theological nerve, or the more immediate life of one of our congregations, the imperative is present there. Such a case may be found when the President's former advisor Steve Bannon refers to protecting "the values of the Judeo - Christian West." This is all the more incumbent on me as a Christian leader, a social conservative in certain respects, and as an evangelical.  

So let's begin with some inconvenient truths.  First, any use of the word "Christian" as a veiled political weapon is ruled out of court immediately.  Second, we face the fact that the strongest advocates of such values are African and Asian, whose lands are today the sites of vitality in world Christianity. And while we are at it, have we noticed that the demographically most Christian parts of the West are immigrant, Latino, and African American?

The phrase conceals a grave irony, since much of Western thought in the last few generations is deeply secular, even nihilistic, in its approach. Both Ayn Rand and the radical left have this in common in their roots.

Christian values are Biblical values, and we all know the latter unsettle and disturb us. The hungry are to be fed and the stranger welcomed. We pray for welfare of Babylon. We share in the creaturely good of human solidarity. The one who would wield the Gospel as a threat surely will hear it as a divine reproach.





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“Well, that's a niche market.” I was checking into my flight in Heathrow and the young attendant asked if I was there on business. “Yes,”

“What do you do?”


 “What's that?”

 “I oversee some Christian churches,” leading to her final comment. All this in a nation with an established church! 

I have spent a fascinating and productive week at the Anglican Communion Office for the Lambeth (Conference) Design Group. The issues, theological, political, and financial, are not hard to imagine. Nor is it strange that we should serve the Communion on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the heir of Augustine, Cranmer, and Temple. The committee represents the breadth of the Communion. At the same time, we did our work with various deeper trends rumbling beneath us (like that worrisome supervolcano under Yellowstone). One thinks of shifting social trends in the West and the rise of global south churches, all against the background of the volatility of the world political scene - one thinks of the great world mission conference in Tambaram India in 1938. One such trend is the increasing secularity of the West, of which the opening comment is an example. The very way some naturally think of us, as another consumerist lifestyle option, shows the ground shifting under our feet. 

The Communion matters in our coming to terms with the issues we have before us, but it also matters for the problems only barely visible now, but of consequence for the next generation. The environment and cyber-corruption are obvious examples. But I also have in mind the way post-modern society will come to view the human, the issue of human dignity per se. Already we design our gene lines, freeze the heads of corpses for reattachment, engineer viruses, need I go on?  They say military strategists err by preparing for the last war. There may be something similar in the Church, and so for reasons we do not yet really know we let our networks of fellowship fray at our peril. (An analogy might be heedlessly picking international political fights....).