The research and thought required to generate the previous 99 posts has certainly changed me, and perhaps, some of my readers as well. So, with this 100th post, I’ll pause to take stock.
The most significant change has been in how I understand the motives for what our PCUSA leadership has wrought. Near the very beginning, in My Sojourn into a Foreign Land, I made the following statement.
Many of the individuals and organizations that I include in postmodern Christianity are seeking to be kind, generous, loving and honest. They truly believe that they are “doing good” in all that they propose and achieve. Thus, it is not their motives that I am primarily calling into question. Rather, I am pointing out that this group has bought into fundamental errors regarding the nature of truth; God’s character, purpose and Word; Christian theology; and human abilities and prospects as moral actors, among others. As has been often demonstrated in history, good motives applied to the promotion of flawed ideas leads to negative, and sometimes disastrous consequences.
However, as it has become clear how this group has abused the PCUSA’s rules to make life miserable for any majority that opposes their radical ends, and eventually, to drive them out of the church, my willingness to assume good will has waned considerably. Here’s what the Presbytery of Santa Barbara had to say about one aspect of this abysmal situation at the 2014 General Assembly (emphasis added).
Official committees of the PC(USA), like the Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) and the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP), have failed to recognize the spirit and intent of prior General Assembly actions and have continued to promote the very kind of negative approach to peacemaking that prior General Assemblies have rejected. This is wrong and must end.
This situation is ending, not because of a change in heart by our leadership, but rather because so many orthodox-minded Presbyterians have been driven out of the PCUSA that there is no longer the realistic possibility for majority opposition to their schemes. As I have noted on numerous occasions (most recently in The Disappearing PCUSA, 2014 Data (Part 6)):
There is an extraordinary, disconcerting compulsion that appears to drive this process. While in pursuit of their goals there appears to be no damage to the PCUSA – massive departure of existing members, collapsing influx of new members, stress to mission relationships, loss of theological, intellectual and institutional credibility, among others – that our leadership will not accept until their demands are fully met. No matter how many times the denomination rejected their demands, they continued in their quest.
This is not the work of a group steeped in Christian prudence, temperance and justice. Rather, it is the action of a self-defined elite whose every opinion and goal is presumed to sit at the pinnacle of moral perfection. There is no trading-off of one good against another, no self-awareness of their own limitations in motive or knowledge — there is only the naked determination to impose all that they have agreed to be “the good” on this denomination. As Joan Didion wrote in “Slouching Toward Bethlehem.”
…when we start deceiving ourselves into thinking not that we want something or need something, not that it is a pragmatic necessity for us to have it, but that it is a moral imperative that we have it, then is when we join the fashionable madmen, and then is when the thin whine of hysteria is heard in the land, and then is when we are in bad trouble. And I suspect we are already there.
For all the PCUSA elite’s presumption of having a “prophetic voice” by mimicking whatever is trending in radical secular Progressivism, with a thin veneer of faux Christian theologizing as their only contribution, I note that Didion’s statement is the real thing. Fifty years ago, in 1965, she saw the seed of the bad tree that would come in its fullness to bear the bad fruit that I have been chronicling for the past 99 posts.
If 99 posts seems like a lot of ground to cover, then this excerpt from An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America by Joseph Bottum provides a concise summary.
Formed in the victory of civil rights activism, a new version of the social gospel movement became the default theology of church bureaucrats in the Mainline. The churches “increasingly turned their attention to the drafting of social statements on a variety of contemporary problems,” as the religious historian Peter J. Thuesen has noted, and their statements “revealed a shared opinion among Mainline executives that the churches’ primary public role was social advocacy.”
Note well — not the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but “social advocacy” of a particular secular stripe. When the General Assembly Moderator, Heath Rada, addressed the April 18 Presbytery of Chicago Assembly meeting he had precious little to say about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. However, he had a lot to say about the effectiveness of the PCUSA’s social advocacy. In fact, I’d say that the central theme of his “pep talk” was something to the effect of ‘Rejoice sisters and brothers! The PCUSA is a highly regarded little cog in the Progressive political machine!’ This was the same meeting in which the Rev. Sara Dingman, Transitional Synod Executive of the Synod of Lincoln Trails, did an end-zone dance about the PCUSA’s contribution to the evisceration of Indiana’s RFRA law. I’m certainly not alone in this position. For example, here’s an excerpt from Edward R. Norman’a Christianity and the World Order.
Christianity today is, in this sense, bing reinterpreted as a scheme of social and political action, dependent, it is true, upon supernatural authority for its ultimate claims to attention, but rendered in categories that are derived from the political theories and practices of contemporary society. . .
I am also more convinced than ever that our PCUSA leadership is utterly dominated by post-modernism. They appear to believe that their primary purpose is to continually dissolve boundaries. That is, to a post-modern Christian, their identity appears to be entirely bound up by the destruction of theological, social, political, personal and any other kind of norm that can be imagined.
This idea is at the core of their identity because they appear to have concluded that most of what actually exists in our civilization is defective or worse. The only “good” that exists is in their false presumption of moral superiority. For example:
Thus, they live to impose their “superior” moral precepts on us poor, ignorant, unenlightened folk. They can never be proved wrong because, in their presumed enlightened state, they can always imagine reasons why the evil world of existence prevented the arrival their perfect but non-existent world. Returning to An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America:
This is the final remnant of the Christianity of their ancestors, the last enduring bit of their inheritance: a social gospel, without the gospel. For all of them, the sole proof of redemption is the holding of a proper sense of social ills. The only available confidence about their salvation, as something superadded to existence, is the self-esteem that comes with feeling that they oppose the social evils of bigotry and power and the groupthink of the mob.
Their disdain for our civilization implies a disrespect for the toil of generations past, filled as it was with imperfect people. We certainly see this in their disregard for the historic PCUSA Confessions. They therefore seem unable to integrate the profound Christian insights from our history, such as those so powerfully conveyed by by
It was granted to me to carry away from my prison years on my bent back, which nearly broke
Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn
beneath its load, this essential experience: how a human being becomes evil and how good. In the intoxication of youthful successes I had felt myself to be infallible, and I was therefore cruel. In the surfeit of power I was a murderer and an oppressor. In my most evil moments I was convinced that I was doing good, and I was well supplied with systematic arguments. It was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good. Gradually it was
Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn
disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political
parties either—but right through every human heart—and through all human hearts. . . . That is why I turn back to the years of my imprisonment and say, sometimes to the astonishment of those about me: “Bless you, prison!” … I nourished my soul there, and I say without hesitation: “Bless you, prison, for having been in my life!” (The Gulag Archipelago: 1918-1956, 615-617)
And finally, they are literally careless about the consequences of their actions on future generations. Living as they do in a hermetically sealed bubble of moral presumption they can’t imagine that future generations, looking back at their enthusiastic support for abortion on demand, that they dissolved the foundational institution of the family into meaninglessness, that the State of Israel was weakened in its defense against the monsters at its doors, and, that the Gospel of Jesus Christ was turned into nothing more than a helping hand to secular radicals (just to name a few), might judge them to have been both ignorant and dishonorable.
Even with humbling considerations such as these, leading to lives of Christian prudence and temperance, we are still susceptible to acts of misjudgment and ignorance. However, the absence of such considerations leads to a far more dangerous situation, where we are actively courting catastrophe. This is the appalling state of our current PCUSA elite. May God have mercy upon us.