The Disappearing PCUSA: 2018 Data (2)

PCUSA-Debacle-Fire

Step One of the bureaucratic gaslighting two-step: Minimize and obscure what is happening while the debacle is actively occurring.

The Bureaucratic Gaslighting Two-Step

Bureaucratic organizations intent of self-preservation often use what I’m calling the “gaslighting two-step” to hide their failures, those being:

  1. Minimize and obscure what is happening while the debacle is actively occurring;
  2. As the debacle dissipates claim that things are getting better while obfuscating the true nature of the disaster.

The goal is to so confuse the people whom the bureaucracy is supposedly serving about what has happened that they don’t believe anything like a debacle has even occurred.  And thus anyone who claims that a debacle has occurred is considered to be uninformed or overreacting.

I know this strategy has been effective because I have observed the utter bewilderment by many engaged PCUSA members when confronted by the actual membership and church loss data in context.

Step One

The reality of this debacle is that between 2011 and 2017 the PCUSA experienced a net loss of 601,000 members and 1146 churches. Thus, over this period the denomination lost a net of almost 30% of its membership and almost 12% of its churches.  But while this was occurring the PCUSA leadership was peddling happy talk and cherry-picked good news.

For example, in 2014 the Reverend Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly made these comments about the massive loss of members and churches.

Yes, the numbers reflect a decrease in active members in the denomination, but the numbers also illustrate fewer losses than the previous year. The membership declined by 89,296 in 2013, compared to 102,791 in 2012. We are meeting the challenges that we have had and it’s showing, and, our decline in total congregations is holding fairly steady.

As we will see, 2012 was by far the worst year for net membership loss in the denomination’s history.  Therefore, the fact that 2013 was a bit better isn’t credibly encouraging. 

His comment on church loss is downright deceptive.  In 2012 the PCUSA dismissed (i.e., allowed to exit) 110 churches and in 2013 dismissed 148.  In 2013 there was a reduction in dissolved churches that partially counteracted the increase in dismissed churches.  Thus it is technically true that “our decline in total congregations is holding fairly steady” (i.e., -183 churches in 2012 versus -198 in 2013).  However, characterizing a substantial increase in dismissed churches as “holding fairly steady” on church loss (with 2013 being the worst year ever for the denomination) simply fails the red-face test.  Finally, “holding steady” at the worst levels of church loss in PCUSA history isn’t a positive development.

In 2017, after six straight years of devastating loss, the Reverend J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly said the following about the 2016 data.

Membership loss, which was experienced since the 1970s, is slowing down.

In 2015 net membership loss was approximately 95,000 and in 2016 was 90,000.  However, 2016 was still the fourth worst year for membership loss in the denomination’s history.  Thus, while it is technically true that in 2016 membership loss “slowed down,” it is also a highly misleading formulation.  Thus, even as late as 2017 our denominational leadership continued to have faith in their ability to obfuscate devastating loss by deceptive happy talk.

Step Two

Finally, in 2018, the denomination admitted that “a five-year period of unprecedented losses” had occurred between 2012 and 2016.

At the same time, a five-year period of unprecedented losses neared an end as net membership losses returned to previous levels over the last 50-plus years. The larger losses between 2012 and 2016 were brought on by the dismissal of about 100 churches (and their members) each year to splinter denominations after the 2010 General Assembly voted to allow the ordination of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people as church officers and the 2014 Assembly voted to allow same-gender marriage.

Even while admitting that something bad had occurred, they continued to practice deception about the severity.  For, as the data will unambiguously show, it is nothing short of dishonest to claim that in 2017 “membership losses returned to previous levels over the last 50-plus years.”

Now, in 2019, the national leadership proclaims that things are getting better.  There’s no interest, they hope, to understand the full extent of the debacle, to examine their claims or to seek accountability.  Let’s all us nice people just ignore what’s happened and pretend with them that we’re moving into a bright future.

That may serve the interests of the denominational leadership, but it certainly does not the membership who have been deceived by this dishonest bureaucratic “gaslighting two-step.”

PCUSA-Debacle-Ashes

Step Two of the bureaucratic gaslighting two-step: As the debacle dissipates claim that things are getting better while obfuscating the true nature of the disaster.

Advertisements

The Disappearing PCUSA: 2018 Data (1)

leavingfeb052016

By Tom Olago, February 15, 2016.

Things Are Getting Better Edition

The PCUSA released the 2018 data on denominational status in April.  The first three paragraphs stressed an improving situation.

After years of seeing hundreds of churches leave the denomination, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is starting to see the number of departing churches decrease. The Office of the General Assembly has wrapped up its latest review of membership statistics which indicates the decline in membership may be slowing down.

In 2015, the total number of PC(USA) members was listed at more than 1.5 million. Within a year, membership declined by nearly 90,000. Last year, the decline was just over 62,000. The number of churches leaving the denomination between 2015 and 2016 totaled 203. In 2018, it was 34.

Screen Shot 2019-05-20 at 2.44.02 PM

“While the difference is not great, we are encouraged by the slowing trend downward,” said the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the PC(USA). “The church of the 21st century is changing and we still believe God is preparing us for great things in the future.”

The article included the above table that shows total number of churches and members for 2015 through 2018.  While the Active Membership data is clear, the Total Churches data is not.

The PCUSA generally reports church data in four categories.  On the gain side they can be organized (new church) or received (joins from the outside).  On the loss side they can be dissolved (church closes) or dismissed (exits the denomination).  Thus the Total Churches number includes these four gain and loss categories.

The article’s discussion of “churches leaving” only includes the dismissed component of church loss.  In fact, the number of  churches being dissolved is increasing.  It’s also confusing that the authors compare the sum of two years of dismissed churches (2015 and 2016) to the single year of 2018.  If this detail isn’t noticed then it appears that the number of dismissed churches has improved much more than it actually has.  A valid comparison would have been to compare two year values in each case (e.g., 2015 and 2016 compared to 2017 and 2018).

While the article does admit that something unfortunate has occurred, the primary focus is on how things are now getting better.  However, the true situation is obfuscated by:

  • Including only the most recent years in which there was apparent improvement because the denomination was exiting the worst of the losses;
  • Showing only total numbers without context or details that illuminate what has actually happened.

We are missing the big picture if we limit our focus to the single year of 2018.  We are now in a new phase of the campaign to obfuscate, deny and diminish the truth about our denomination’s debacle that has been in progress from 2006 to the present.

The following posts will shine much needed light on this situation.

Title-Image

The PCUSA in 2005.  It is the denomination’s Progressive leadership that holds the needle (to be explained in the fifth post of this series).

Memorial Day 2019

USS_Bunker_Hill_hit_by_two_Kamikazes

USS Bunker Hill was hit by kamikazes on 11 May 1945. Three hundred eighty-nine personnel were killed or missing and 264 wounded from a crew of 2,600.

Eternal Father, Strong to Save

To all those throughout our nation’s history who sacrificed their lives that we may live in freedom, peace and security.

1 Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm does bind the restless wave,
Who bids the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
O hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea.

2 O Savior, whose almighty word
The winds and waves submissive heard,
Who walked upon the foaming deep,
And calm amid the rage did sleep;
O hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea.

3 O Holy Spirit, who did brood
Upon the waters dark and rude,
And bid their angry tumult cease,
And give for wild confusion peace;
O hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea.

4 O Trinity of love and pow’r,
Your children shield in danger’s hour;
From rock and tempest, fire, and foe,
Protect them where-so-e’er they go;
Thus, evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from air and land and sea.

arlingtonnationalcemetery_feature

Arlington National Cemetery

Looking Back over 500 Posts

500posts

Data and Discussion

The Top 20 Posts (Plus 1)

I have occasionally published this information for a given year.  In this case the results are for all 4.5 years of this blog’s existence.

A reader has two options for accessing this blog.  They can go to my “Home Page” and take in whatever happens to be there or they can specify a post (by using a link from some source such as a Google search, email, etc.).  The former access means occurs approximately 40% of the time, so the latter is 60%.  Thus the majority of blog site accesses are targeted on a single post.  The following list shows the top 20 (plus one) of these targeted posts in order of more to less occurrences.

  1. A Brief Excursion into PCUSA Heresy
  2. The PCUSA’s Continuous Decline
  3. HONORING CHRIST IN OUR RELATIONSHIPS
  4. Jesus Christ Avatar
  5. Can Christians Support a War Against Islamic Terrorism?
  6. The Language of Suffering (LoS): Introduction
  7. What does the Bible Teach on Immigration and Refugee Policy? (3)
  8. LoS: Exposition – Genesis 1:1, 27-31
  9. The PCUSA and Israel (Part 4)
  10. The Strange Persistence of Guilt
  11. Postmodern Christianity: A Primer
  12. The PCUSA and Israel (Part 2)
  13. God’s Acts of Providence (9)
  14. Environmentalism Becomes a Death Cult (4)
  15. Gnosticism Reimagined? (Part 6b)
  16. Confession of Belhar Questions Already Answered! (Part 1)
  17. Progressive Christianity’s Strange Bonhoeffer Compulsion (1)
  18. God’s Acts of Providence (56)
  19. Taking Stock at the 100th Post
  20. LoS: SUFFERING IN GOD’S WORD
  21. Stinging Satire from the Babylon Bee (3)

Note that the “Top 4” posts all directly address or are derived from meditations on the PCUSA.  I thus conclude that a high proportion of my readership has a specific interest in this denomination.  Eight (numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 9, 12, 15 and 16) posts in the “Top 20” are related to the PCUSA.

The top non-PCUSA, but Christian-focused  post comes in at #5 (Can Christians Support a War Against Islamic Terrorism?).  This post along with numbers 7, 11, 15 and 17 fill out this category.

A significant number of posts contain Biblical exposition.  The most popular of these comes in at #6 (The Language of Suffering (LoS): Introduction).  Other popular Bible exposition posts are numbers 8, 13, 18 and 20.

The top general political post is at #10 (The Strange Persistence of Guilt). The only other general political post is at #14.

Filling out the Top 20, my meditation at the 100th post (#19) covers multiple topics,

I have included a #21 because it is the first satire/humor focused post on the list.  Note that this post focuses on the PCUSA.  Clearly I’m no comedy powerhouse!

The Top 20 Countries

This blog is overwhelmingly dominated by visitors from the United States.  However, it also attracts readers from throughout the world.  The following is a list of visit numbers ordered from more to less.  I find it intriguing that the second highest number of visitors come from Hong Kong,  The population of this city is small compared to many of the other countries with fewer visits.  I don’t know if there are just a few very heavy readers or many light readers.  In any case I hope that they and all the other international visitors find interesting and useful information.

  1. United States
  2. Hong Kong SAR China
  3. United Kingdom
  4. Canada
  5. India
  6. Philippines
  7. Puerto Rico
  8. Australia
  9. Romania
  10. South Africa
  11. Russia
  12. Ireland
  13. European Union
  14. United Arab Emirates
  15. Italy
  16. France
  17. Malaysia
  18. South Korea
  19. Mexico
  20. Panama

Now, back to blogging!

Taking Stock at the 500th Post

500posts

General Comments

So here I am writing the 500th post on this blog!  The first post is dated November 25, 2014 and titled “Opening Thoughts.”  My first paragraph is:

This blog will focus on my sense of sojourning through a foreign land as an orthodox, Reformed Christian.  This sense has been a longstanding one with regard to the popular culture here in the United States. I am by no means isolated from this country’s entertainment, political and business cultures.  In fact, I am an active participant in them all.  Though many aspects of these cultures are troubling, I am accustomed to dealing with the challenges and benefits that they provide.

Looking back 499 posts later I’m reasonably comfortable with my adherence to this framework.  That being the responses of an orthodox Reformed Christian to a wide variety of issues within the United States.

I am shocked by the speed that this “foreign land” has expanded over these mere four and a half years.  At the start my sense of alienation was clear but not central. Now I find myself fundamentally alienated from my Christian denomination, the culture and the political environment.  Therefore this blog has transformed from one  centered on exploration to one focused on identifying and exposing the myriad of insane ideas that are driving our civilization towards destruction.

Thus what began as an exploration focused on the PCUSA has expanded into areas such as environmentalism, philosophy, economic systems, politics, heresy, literature, abortion and anti-Semitism, among many others.  I have published three eBooks, all focused on topical issues addressed through Biblical exposition and meditation.  Most recently I have added satire as a means of communicating my concerns.

I have identified the prime driver of civilizational destruction to be Progressive ideology as practiced by both secular and religious institutions.  Therefore I have focused strongly on a critique of this ideology’s foundations, strategies and results.  Some of the major themes of this critique are:

I’ve also attempted to understand and then explain the philosophical underpinnings of the Progressive project (e.g., postmodernism, nihilism, Marxism, multiculturalism, intersectionality, pacifism, Gnosticism, identity, etc.).  My goal is to enhance our ability to counter their positions and to unmask the shocking evil that hides beneath that wafer-thin veneer of moral and intellectual posturing (many people who parrot the Progressive ideology have no idea what they are actually supporting).

Although I have expanded my scope far beyond the PCUSA, I still maintain a regular focus on this my denomination. The only way that I can maintain my Christian conscience is by a posture of opposition and rejection.  Yes, there remain many faithful pastors, elders, deacons and members in the denomination.  However, the theology and behavior of the dominant Progressive leadership has been so outrageously apostate and dishonorable that to remain silent is tantamount to support.  My voice is small, yet I will not choose silence.  So, as long as I’m in this denomination I will speak out as necessary.

I’m currently working on a new eBook provisionally titled A Denomination’s Debacle.  The book pulls together much of the PCUSA information and associated commentary from this blog with the addition of new material to fill-out the story.  It’s currently over 300 pages long, which is almost twice the length of my previous longest eBook.  It troubles me that through exclusive use of publicly available information such a substantial case for the PCUSA elite’s apostasy and corruption can be made.

the-truth-about-truth-a-nietzsche-feature-darwin-festival-version-3-638The “God is Dead” Christian Elite

Throughout this blog’s existence I have occasionally paused to discuss why our elite Christian leadership believes and behaves as it does.  Along these lines I have explored postmodern Christianity, the Social Gospel, Gnosticism and raw power politics, among others.  However, identification of a single unifying principle for this phenomena has to this point eluded me.

Perhaps the foundational principle is that these “Christian” elites agree with Nietzsche that belief in “God” as a reality upon which Western Civilization can base its religious/moral world view, “is dead.”  Let’s think through the consequences of this hypothesis.

Let’s say that you are a pastor or elder who has personally lost faith in the Christian God (or any god for that matter). And, you find that there are many others in the church who hold similar views.  So, you all find yourselves in an organization (i.e., the church) whose fundamental reason for existing has, in your opinion, vanished.  Yet the church has many remaining members and wields moral power in the civilization.  What then to do?

Well, you could work to dissolve the church by openly arguing that it has become obsolete and useless.  However, given that tens of millions still (foolishly in your opinion) believe in God’s existence you would likely fail and be expelled.  Therefore you would have to create a new organization to advance your philosophy.  That’s a very heavy lift with a small likelihood of success.  Far better to remain in the church but work for its transformation into an institution that does “social good.”

Of course, if “God is dead” and the Bible is thus null and void, how to find the social good to pursue?  The answer was found in the most aggressive, organized and presumptive human ideology supposedly pursuing the “social good,” that being what we now call Progressivism (which has its roots in Marxism, as contemporary Progressives are finally admitting).  Thus the elite Christian leadership of Mainline Denominations turned their churches from the Gospel of Jesus Christ to “the gospel of social change and justice” as defined by the secular Progressive political project.

chasmFor decades this stealth-coup was hidden behind multiple complex theological smoke screens that orthodox Christians had great difficulty penetrating.  However, with the advent of gay ordination and marriage the chasm between orthodoxy and heterodoxy became so vast that no amount of smoke could obscure it.  Thus we have seen the parting of ways where so many orthodox members and churches have exited.

Yet some orthodox members and churches have so far decided to remain.  If they do so with the clear understanding that they are missionaries to a now pagan, post-Christian denomination then perhaps they can successfully maintain their orthodox Christian identity.

However, if they pretend that they remain part of a “Christian” denomination then they will almost certainly be eventually converted and then absorbed.  This will occur because they grant legitimacy to the denomination’s dominant post-Christian ideology and thus will increasingly fall prey to its influence.  If that be their end then they have no excuse, for they have been warned and their consciences will testify against them at the time of accounting.

The Problem of Righteousness (8)

Eph+2+8-9The Reformed Christian Solution

This blog series has attempted to explore the proper place of righteousness in our Christian lives and the secular culture.  Central to this discussion is how our motives impact the outward manifestation of righteousness. Is our intent to place ourselves above someone else? Or, do we seek to advance healing and wholeness in this fallen world? Do we usurp God’s role as the only true judge, or, do we testify to His redeeming love through the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

We touched on other important issues including the purpose and use of Biblical standards of righteousness, calibration of our responses to the people and situations that call for judgement and the unavoidable conflicts that will occur as we live out our faith.

Not surprisingly my mind turns to the central theological doctrine of justification through faith alone as the lens through which to understand Christian righteousness. I’ve become convinced that this doctrine’s diminution is central to much that vexes the modern church. This is particularly relevant to the misunderstanding of righteousness that can lead to a judgmental Christianity. Following are some brief thoughts as to why.

To begin, just what is this doctrine? Though there are many statements from which to choose, I’ll go with John Calvin’s (emphasis added).

Scripture, when it treats of justification by faith, leads us in a very different direction. Turning away our view from our own works, it bids us look only to the mercy of God and the perfection of Christ. … when, by the intercession of Christ, he [the fallen human] obtains the pardon of his sins, and is justified; and, though renewed by the Spirit of God, considers that, instead of leaning on his own works, he must look solely to the righteousness which is treasured up for him in Christ.
John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (3.11.16)

The most powerful contemporary doctrine of justification in the modern Western church is often called “Semi-Pelagianism” (another related term is “Arminianism”). R.C. Sproul explains this doctrine as follows in “The Pelagian Captivity of the Church” (yes, this is a repeat, but it’s essential to this discussion, emphasis added).

sproul

R. C. Sproul

Semi-Pelagianism said this: … While we are so fallen that we can’t be saved without grace, we are not so fallen that we don’t have the ability to accept or reject the grace when it’s offered to us. … There remains in the core of our being an island of righteousness that remains untouched by the fall. It’s out of that little island of righteousness, that little parcel of goodness that is still intact in the soul or in the will that is the determinative difference between heaven and hell. It’s that little island that must be exercised when God does his thousand steps of reaching out to us, but in the final analysis it’s that one step that we take that determines whether we go to heaven or hell — whether we exercise that little righteousness that is in the core of our being or whether we don’t.

You won’t be surprised to hear that I joyfully accept justification by faith alone and reject Semi-Pelagianism / Arminianism. There’s so much that could be said, but I’ll focus on some implications for self-righteous Christianity.

If we believe that our salvation depends on having, or not, that sufficient “island of righteousness” on which all depends, then it becomes a matter of the utmost importance to find it within ourselves. The tragic truth is that we most often seek to prove its existence by comparison with others. This makes sense, since the island’s presence should manifest itself in our visible actions, and, the larger is this island the more likely that it can be found to be sufficient for our salvation. So, off we go, quietly or openly comparing ourselves to others. If we can find someone “worse” than ourselves then we feel a bit more confident. However, if we find someone else “better” we begin to wonder if our island is indeed sufficient. We also often begin to examine this “better” person with great interest, looking for faults and failings that might “bring them down a notch.”

This dynamic leads to destructive competition between Christians, a sense of superiority over non-Christians and a narcissistic focus on ourselves. It also leads to habitual acts of petty, self-serving judgement, as we seek prove righteousness in ourselves and its lack in others.

However, justification by grace alone frees us from all this. Our focus shifts from morbid scrutiny of ourselves and others to the wondrous love of God. By trusting fully in God’s grace, we find in ourselves the desire to obey and serve Him. We also can live in confidence that God’s sovereign grace to us cannot be thwarted or removed.

luther-grace-alone

Martin Luther

It’s a terrible blow to our pride to confess that no “island of righteousness” exists in ourself. However, in my experience, justification by faith alone is both joyful and freeing. I am no longer bound to others through competition, but rather can hope for God’s grace to all. When I fail and falter, I need not fear for my eternal fate, but can trust that God will complete His good work in me.

Finally, I’m well aware that the above comments may cause discomfort to my brothers and sisters in Christ who hold Semi-Pelagian / Arminian views. My expectation is not that you must agree with my point of view. Rather, I simply ask that you read, consider, pray and contemplate. You must judge for yourself if this is an accurate statement of Scripture’s teaching. If you disagree, then let’s continue the discussion in good will and trust.

For, I stand squarely with Charles Spurgeon:

I believe there are multitudes of men who cannot see these truths, or, at least, cannot see them in the way in which we put them, who nevertheless have received Christ as their Saviour, and are as dear to the heart of the God of grace as the soundest Calvinist in or out of Heaven.

This is the understanding of righteousness that, if reclaimed by the Church and compellingly communicated to our society, can free us from self-righteousness that is driving our nation towards dissolution.

Amen.

The Problem of Righteousness (7)

sjw-mob

The perfect-righteous link arms in a perfect-mob to wreak vengeance on this evil nation that dared to reject their perfection!

A Nation Gone Mad with Righteousness

Close your eyes and imagine a nation in which huge segments of the media, political, educational and religious (among others) establishment decided that they must be more righteousness than the common folk.  Over time this goal becomes a compulsion to be the most righteous.  Finally, they embrace what can only be called a new cult that demands perfect righteousness as defined by an ever changing standard.  Hard to imagine?  Not really.  Simply open your eyes and look around at the chaos and wreckage at work in our contemporary society.

What we are witnessing is a collective nervous breakdown by a group that viewed themselves as the perfect-righteous; confronting the cataclysmic reality that over sixty-million citizens disagreed enough to elect their polar opposite to the Presidency.  In fact, enough citizens in states that had for decades voted reliably for the “righteous” politicians turned traitor to righteousness and voted for an “unrighteous bigot.”  This outcome has launched the elite perfect-righteous into a state of mind-shattering cognitive dissonance from which escape will be at the very least painful and difficult.

disintegrating-woman

The disintegration of the perfect-righteous elite individual personality.

What has emerged is a group of people who occupy powerful positions in our nation whose personalities have disintegrated and been reconstituted as seemingly undifferentiated components of a massive social justice mob.  They will believe anything, say anything and do anything, in collectivist unison, to destroy the source of this atrocity committed against their sense of perfect-righteousness.

The alternative is too horrible to contemplate, that being they are not perfectly, most or even more righteous than their fellow countrymen.  The thought of descending from their perches of perfect righteousness to join the rest of us is anathema.

After all, didn’t everyone they know (or at least who count) agree that their Progressive ideology should from 2008 until the next century at least win every Presidential election?    Wasn’t it agreed by all that the revenue (IRS), justice (department, including the FBI) and intelligence services (CIA, NSA) should be weaponized to ensure that the American electorate always voted the “righteous” way?  Wasn’t it unanimous in their circles that with the victory of gay marriage all Christian conscience to the slightest contrary should be snuffed out?

They wonder, who but utter moral degenerates would find fault with support of abortion up to delivery and infanticide after?  Only the irredeemably evil, they reason, could oppose the creation of a totalitarian green-state. What kind of morons would question the idea that Conservative speech is illegal violence but Progressive violence is protected free speech?  And surely only the already guilty would oppose transition to a system of justice based on guilty until proven innocent (and Progressives never guilty of anything as long as their hearts are in the right place)?

smell-trump-support

High ranking, perfect-righteous FBI agent Peter Strzok text message while at a Walmart store.

How could the smelly rabble have failed to recognize their moral, intellectual and spiritual inferiority?  After all, hadn’t the high-priestess of the perfect-righteous put them in their place during the 2016 Presidential campaign?  How dare these deplorable everything-phobes/ists reject that which their betters had deigned to offer them — membership in a second or third-level quasi-caste?

It is impossible to predict just where this belief system and consequent behavior will lead.  But let there be no doubt, the forces that led so many supposedly educated, responsible, powerful people to join the thoughtless, ranting social justice mob have not yet run their course.  A Conservative self-righteous counter-attack will only push us further down the road to perdition.  Our nation will either reform and recover or descend into a Weimar Republic-like state, possibly on its way to something much worse.

This is the consequence of an insane pursuit of self-righteousness.  Without the Church reforming itself and reinserting a Christian understanding of righteousness, sin and redemption into this nation’s moral life we may well be lost for the foreseeable future.

The Silence of the Lambs (6)

Screen Shot 2019-05-06 at 7.58.47 AM

Image and caption of the BBC report quoted below.

A Timely and Tragic Confirmation

For anyone who suspected that I’ve been exaggerating or am being overly-dramatic about Christian persecution note that none other than the government of the United Kingdom has confirmed my position.  In fact, their commentary on this issue is significantly more extreme than has been mine thus far.  Here’t the BBC report titled: Christian persecution ‘at near genocide levels‘ (emphasis added):

The review, led by the Bishop of Truro the Right Reverend Philip Mounstephen, estimated that one in three people suffer from religious persecution.
Christians were the most persecuted religious group, it found.  Mr Hunt said he felt that “political correctness” had played a part in the issue not being confronted.

The interim report said the main impact of “genocidal acts against Christians is exodus” and that Christianity faced being “wiped out” from parts of the Middle East.
It warned the religion “is at risk of disappearing” in some parts of the world, pointing to figures which claimed Christians in Palestine represent less than 1.5% of the population, while in Iraq they had fallen from 1.5 million before 2003 to less than 120,000.
“Evidence shows not only the geographic spread of anti-Christian persecution, but also its increasing severity,” the Bishop wrote.

The report itself has this to say about Christian persecution in the Middle East.

Regional Focus: Middle East & North Africa (MENA)

The persecution of Christians is perhaps at its most virulent in the region of the birthplace of Christianity – the Middle East & North Africa (MENA for short). As mentioned earlier, forms of persecution ranging from routine discrimination in education, employment and social life up to genocidal attacks against Christian communities have led to a significant exodus of Christian believers from this region since the turn of the century.

Regional Focus: South Asia

To the east of the MENA region lie countries with a diversity of majority religions. In nearly all of these there is routine discrimination against Christians which has crossed over into outright persecution in recent years.

Numerous other regional areas are covered, each with its own unique set of religious, cultural and ideological issues that lead to varying levels of Christian persecution.

christian-persecution-1Note that this report also supports my contention that “political correctness” is a key reason that Christians in the West have abandoned their brothers and sisters in Christ to their fates.    Let’s be clear: if true this means that Christians in the West value their own social standing far higher than the actual lives of Christians throughout the world.  I believe that this is at least in part true, and that it is a shameful consequence of our purposeful ignorance and selfish need for social affirmation by a godless secular culture.

The Problem of Righteousness (6)

Narcissist-Self-love

The concept of an objectively real sovereign God has been replaced by that of a subjectively imagined sovereign-self in Western Civilization and much of Western Christianity.

The Self-Righteousness Compulsion (2)

The-Death-of-Truth1. Postmodernism

I have written at length about postmodernism’s impact on Christianity in general and the PCUSA in particular.

The Encyclopedia Britannica top-level definition of postmodernism is:

Postmodernism … in Western philosophy, a late 20th-century movement characterized by broad skepticism, subjectivism, or relativism; a general suspicion of reason; and an acute sensitivity to the role of ideology in asserting and maintaining political and economic power.

The same article goes on to explain the postmodern view of “truth.”

2. The descriptive and explanatory statements of scientists and historians can, in principle, be objectively true or false. The postmodern denial of this viewpoint—which follows from the rejection of an objective natural reality—is sometimes expressed by saying that there is no such thing as Truth.

The destructive consequences of this philosophy are obvious and can hardly be overstated.  Given that “political and economic power” is the only remaining value and that there “is no such thing as Truth,” then there is nothing wrong with the use of deceit or the talking of contradictory positions in the pursuit of raw power.

So, postmodernism has created the conditions by which identity politics can prosper.

The postmodernists built on the Marxist ideology, Peterson said. “They started to play a sleight of hand, and instead of pitting the proletariat, the working class, against the bourgeois, they started to pit the oppressed against the oppressor. That opened up the avenue to identifying any number of groups as oppressed and oppressor and to continue the same narrative under a different name.”

“It was no longer specifically about economics,” he said. “It was about power. And everything to the postmodernists is about power. And that’s actually why they’re so dangerous, because if you’re engaged in a discussion with someone who believes in nothing but power, all they are motivated to do is to accrue all the power to them, because what else is there?” he said. “There’s no logic, there’s no investigation, there’s no negotiation, there’s no dialogue, there’s no discussion, there’s no meeting of minds and consensus. There’s power.”

Berkeley-Protesters

“By Any Means Necessary” (BAMN) protest in Berkeley California

What we see here is the emergence of a dominant organizing ideology built of the rejection of truth and the embrace of power at all costs.  This elite cohort doesn’t consider itself to be “righteous” because they conform to any objective standard of morality.  Rather, they are “righteous” because they have, by any and all means necessary, occupied positions of power in our civilization.  They have made it absolutely clear that they will utilize any and all means possible to safeguard and extend that power.  Thus, they are “righteous” because they have achieved the power to crush anyone who dares to challenge them.

Can there be any less fit a foundation upon which to base the moral life of a civilization?

Template-5col2. Social Media Enabled Mobs

I have also previously discussed this phenomenon within context of the gay-marriage debate.  However what is observed for this specific case is clearly applicable to our general political discourse.

The tragic fact is that almost every person with exposure to the public square lives in fear of being targeted by the social justice mob.  One group that is particularly terrorized by this mob are the public “intellectuals” (Jonathan Kay on the tyranny of Twitter: How mob censure is changing the intellectual landscape).

… you will find intellectuals who have made extraordinary financial sacrifices to pursue their artistic or activist passions, and whose entire livelihood hinges on a thin patchwork of government grants, modest book advances, sessional teaching contracts, and honoraria from small journals, websites and magazines. Just one wrong Tweet or misplaced open-letter signature can send these people back to a life working for Uber or foodora.

The following excerpt provides an accurate summary of the environment that has been created social media’s mobs.

rights-feelingsTheir behavior is so insane, their on-command ability to jump on anyone or anything who deviates from the now-current party line so absolute, their arguments so ridiculous, it took me a while to realize what they’re doing is the equivalent of Mao’s brigades of aggressive young people fanning out to rural areas to teach the peasants how to think and what to do.

Our colleges and universities are purposefully creating hordes of these cultural revolution goons … tragic credentialed, entitled lives with no actual useful skills but masters of personal and civilizational destruction.  These hordes of social justice warriors have conquered much of our mass media and social networks (including the private companies that deliver them).

Even people living generally non-public lives fear that they could be, for mysterious reasons, singled out and viciously attacked by this mob.  Small business owners who offer services to the general public are particularly vulnerable.

And so, we come to the crux of our current predicament, that being the increasing inhumanity in our supposed pursuit of social good (as profoundly explained by Dr. McClay).

The presence of vast amounts of unacknowledged sin in a culture, a culture full to the brim with its own hubristic sense of world-conquering power and agency but lacking any effectual means of achieving redemption for all the unacknowledged sin that accompanies such power: This is surely a moral crisis in the making …. The rituals of scapegoating, of public humiliation and shaming, of multiplying morally impermissible utterances and sentiments and punishing them with disproportionate severity, are visibly on the increase in our public life. They are not merely signs of intolerance or incivility, but of a deeper moral disorder, an Unbehagen that cannot be willed away by the psychoanalytic trick of pretending that it does not exist.

While these social justice mobs are comprised by a small percentage of the population their weaponization of social media multiplies their power many times over.  Given this threat people have become increasingly protective of their public “self-righteousness” persona, either by aggressively identifying with the mob’s current talking points or by retreating into sullen, fearful silence.  Both of these responses are detrimental to an understanding of human righteousness that leads to a proper mix of humility and responsibility.

The Problem of Righteousness (5)

self-righteousness-consigns

The “it” here is self-righteousness, Christian or otherwise.

The Self-Righteousness Compulsion (1)

The destruction and despair to which self-righteousness leads is not limited to the Christian experience.  However, it is particularly tragic that Christianity as practiced in the West has been so completely consumed by this false doctrine.  Could Jesus Christ have been any more direct on this point than in the following parable.

Pharisee-tax-collector

The Pharisee and the tax collector…the self-righteous and the Christ imputed-righteous, respectively.

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”  Luke 18:9-14 (NIV)

Does this Parable of Christ not embody the “rejection, isolation and condemnation” of this post’s top image?  The Pharisee “stood by himself” in splendid moral isolation; from which position he spewed condemnation on everyone else in general and the tax collector in particular.  The result was rejection by God Himself!  And yet, even Christian denominations theoretically founded on Reformed theology are dominated by self-righteous leaders and laity.  This is to say nothing of the rampant self-righteousness in our secular culture used to seek raw power over others.

Let’s stop kidding ourselves.  Self-righteousness is an unavoidable compulsion caused by our fallen state of sin.  I am guilty of it, you are guilty of it.  We all are guilty of it.  But there is something at work in our contemporary Western culture that has supercharged this compulsion to create a particularly powerful weapon of destruction.

I believe that this self-righteousness supercharger has two primary components, those being:

  1. The osmosis of postmodernism from the universities into our general political, educational, legal, media and cultural institutions;
  2. The power of social media to enable easy creation of “social justice” mobs that can in just a few days destroy the character and livelihood of their targets.

I will discuss these two components in the next post.