Soup without a Spoon

Christianity in America is a soup sandwich. Yes, you read that correctly. Coming from my days in the Navy, few metaphors more vividly conjure a genuine mess than the image of a man attempting to hold soup between two pieces of soggy bread.

Celebrity-ism, moral confusion, biblical illiteracy, political entanglements, juvenile worship, rampant materialism, gluttony, apathy, consumerism, and general shallowness plague the Church in America. The Church presents a sad picture, a veritable rogues’ gallery of sinners and scandals.

Why do so many wounds fester in the body of evangelical Christianity? Many explanations could be offered, but no silver bullet answers adequately.

What follows is just one observation that may—or may not—help.

Evangelicalism obsesses over cultural decline. Our Puritan forefathers viewed the nascent nation as a covenanted people, holy before the Lord, and therefore accountable to reform every aspect of society in light of Scripture. Our post-Revolutionary fathers carried forward that ethos, clothed it in representative government, and viewed America as a holy Republic, a burgeoning beacon for other nations. Still today Christians in America take public morality seriously. Since its birth, the American Church has therefore proven incapable of resisting a moral crusade, for the Church believes—to its core—that it is supposed to make the world moral. If it sees a sin in society, the Church must fix it. Never content for Christians to behave like Christians, the Church is convinced that the world must behave like Christians as well. Hence the obsession with culture.

Here’s the rub: The sequoia sized log in evangelicalism’s eye seems to offer no hindrance to the Church’s obsessive focus on the speck in society’s eye. Said another way, the Church in America is so busy trying to make the culture holy that she has forgotten to pursue holiness herself.

Maybe Christians should expect unregenerate people to act like unregenerate people. Maybe we should expect the world to act like the world and concentrate on the Church behaving like the Church. Instead of engaging in social moral engineering, the Church could strive to remove the sequoia, and model holiness. If evangelicalism pursued its own holiness half as vigorously as it morally polices society, the Church might find itself healthier and more influential.

Or she could continue eating soup without a spoon.

3 thoughts on “Soup without a Spoon

  1. It seems to me that evangelicalism has embraced cultural decline in favor of political power; which has been going on now for quite some time, and is now a blaring, blazing, evangelical characterization. I’m hesitant to call “evangelicalism” a religious entity, rather a political one that has rendered morality and ethics nil as far as a requirement to serve in office, which in turn makes me wonder just where evangelicals lie in societal virtuosity. If the church sees sin in society as something to fix…well? I see the evangelical church taking a stance only on politically approved immorality seriously, and this has degraded considerably of late. The rest, well it beats a Democrat, right? I’ve come to cringe at the words, Democrat, Republican, and Evangelical. The grouping, however, seems appropriate to me.

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    1. No doubt a shift is taking place. I think that evangelicals are willing to overlook what they deem to be relatively “small” sins in the lives of politicians so long as those politicians support legislation that opposes “big” sins and promotes a conservative moral agenda. Cultural holiness still matters, but the personal holiness of those promoting cultural holiness does not. And I think you’re right about the term evangelical–it’s broken beyond recognition, and now refers to a blended cultural, religious, political, ideological demographic that has relatively little to do with promoting biblical Christianity. I’m not sure of a better word yet, and tend to refer to myself as a confessional Christian or an historic Protestant.

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  2. Michael Gerson addresses this at length in the current issue of The Atlantic, vis-à-vis Evangelicals’ (and many of their well-known leaders) endorsement of DJT. It’s a lengthy article, but elegantly written. And what makes it unique and more weighty than what others (Tim Keller among them) have written on this theme is that Gerson writes in the context of historical Evangelicalism in the U.S. He’s a graduate of Wheaton, so I think he has lots of credibility. Must reading! (IMHO)

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