Henry, thanks for your response. I agree that I think we do have something substantive to say. The question is who "we" are. The counter-cultural nature of the gospel and the world-tranforming power of the resurrection, the power of the right-side-up thinking of the sermon on the mount, the unbelievable value Jesus placed upon people and not on power, and on and on. There is something distinctive, substantive, and powerful to say. My frustration here is that as a collective, "the church" speaks in a totally different kind of way or not at all in a way that proclaims the Kingdom of God in Jesus Christ. In this way, the church has become so much a part of the contemporary culture that on a descriptive level, it has nothing counter-cultural or world-transforming to say. The church has lost her voice because she does not know her own identity. Yes, I think we can learn some things from the Catholics here. I was pleased to see some of John Paul's personal humility and love for the poor and downtrodden has rubbed off on Pope Benedict. That is good for the Catholic church. The humility and concern for the least of these is so powerful in a movement as potentially powerful as Catholicism. Here is where, particularly, some evangelicals have gotten it right, but the "public face" of so many evangelicals have gotten it wrong. Our history is littered with people who have been involved in justice, freedom, poverty, etc. However, the rise of the desire for political power - particularly wedded to the Religious Right - has, in my own estimation, drawn the evangelical soul into a dangerous place. It reminds me of the request of the mother of the sons of Zebedee in Matthew 20 - "Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom." Jesus cuts back with a question about whether they can drink from the cup that he will drink - meaning his own death. It is precisely the Kingdom that runs counter to the ways of the world that gives us our voice, and yet the world does not hear this voice of Jesus. They hear the voice of the sons of Zebedee among us.
I love what Roger Olson says in a recent book called "How to be evangelical without being conservative":
...what should evangelical Christians do to transform their culture now? First, they should be the church. Before trying to change society, evangelicals must reform themselves and their congregations and institutions away from individualism, consumerism, and therapeutic Christianity... to radical Christian communities that serve as beacons of faith, hope, and love to the dying world around them. Unfortunately, too many evangelical churches and organizations have taken on the values and behaviors of the secular world while casting aspersions on it. [p. 126, emphasis mine]
That's part of the issue, maybe the heart of it. The church has in so many ways lost its voice, its credibility, its heart, its soul because we too often speak against a world to which we ourselves have given allegiance. We are not truly vassals of another Kingdom. If we were, then our voice would be much more distinctive, much closer to the visions and words of Jesus, and much more instigative. More successful? I'm not sure. That depends. Possibly less successful. It depends on how the world responds to the true call of Jesus to live for Him, his Kingdom, and his values. But churches have to first respond to that call before calling others to respond. Then, we might hear our voice again.
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