Grace Emerges

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Chap. 4, "A Moderate Wall" Blogbook

A Moderate Wall

a blogbook by Brad Duncan

Chapter 4

Why a Moderate Wall? 

In the last chapter I tried to answer the question “Why a wall?”. Why does an isolating but protecting wall describe the position of modern Christianity? In this chapter I want to delve into the modifier -- “Why a moderate wall?”. I don’t if most modern Christians even consider themselves as moderates, or if Christianity would be happy to proclaim itself as upholding the moderate position, but let me explain. To explain I’ll show that many in modern Christianity are indeed upholding a moderate, mainstream, centrist, rational position that is a delicate balance between the liberal left and the fundamentalist right. It is not a criticism. It is a realistic assessment of where many of us stand, those of us anyway that are not taking more radical positions on the left or the right. In any case, where ever you may stand in particular, you will probably agree that the moderate position is a very popular one. It is a position I would like to explore in much more depth.


Fundamentalism is a very real problem in Christianity. As usually tends to occur, progress is usually met with reactionary resistance. The modern trend for Christianity to allow more flexibility and to get along nicely with culture and society has of course been challenged by a strengthening of the far right who seeks to maintain the stricter, more dogmatic, version of Christianity from previous ages. Fundamentalism is often accompanied by dominionism, in which the far right seeks to forcibly spread its dogmatic ideals. Fundamentalism in Christianity takes the wisdom of God provided in the Bible and turns it into a Tower of Control, an ax to chop away the unwanted limbs, and a spear to dominate its surrounding environment. Fundamentalism is the same evil today that Jesus fought tooth and nail during his ministry. If there was anything that Jesus was the most clearly against, it was the religion-based domination and exploitation that he saw in the Jewish teachers of his day. To Jesus, this kind of religion was the worst kind of sin.

I was taught not to act or believe this way. When many of us Christians read the teachings of Jesus, we learn that he wanted transformation of the heart that made living by merciless laws unnecessary, and that enforcing laws on others is not kindness, but rather a kind of injustice. I was taught to enforce only the basics (doctrines, sins, etc.), because without these my relationship with God was in jeopardy, but to as great an extent as possible I was to tolerate other people’s opinions and actions, and not to ever force my (absolutely correct) beliefs on them.  Mainstream Christianity is not fundamentalist   On the other hand, there are far right factions that are clearly bent on domination, and as far as I am concerned they should just pack it up and go home.  Their way is based on trying to relive the past successes of domination of their fellow man.  They should get with the times and embrace their place in the world, which is along-side others instead of crushing others under their boots.  And this is all saying it nicely.  Fundamentalism is injustice when enforced on others.  Period.  

As I said many Christians, like 99% of the ones I know, would agree.  So, modern Christianity has largely abandoned the tower of control as a failed structure.  Like the people of Kog, this tower was toppled and lay in rubble until the new, more moderate structure of modern Christianity was built.  Meanwhile some smaller pockets of resistance keep their towers of control in tact.


So, the modern Christianity I am talking about is not on the fundamentalist right.  But is it on the liberal left?  Clearly not.  I speak from personal experience -- that same 99% of Christians that I know who are anti-fundamentalist, are also anti-liberal.  They uphold certain doctrines, beliefs, values, and views whether spiritual, political, or social, that are conservative and non-negotiable.  So, in regard to the those in the world that are more flexible on these ideals, modern Christians tend to uphold the more conservative position.  Obviously I am required to overgeneralize in order the make this statement, and there are some of us Christians who, like myself, are not conservative or moderate at all, and want to have our own category called "progressive" but are also fine being called liberals.

More specifically and more practically, why is modern Christianity anti-liberal?  Christians take a strongly conservative position when it comes to the Bible.  The essential tenets of belief are distilled from the Bible in such a way that doctrines and prohibitions can be listed along with their social implications in order to form the guiding documents (usually a constitution) of the local church or church governing body.  There is enough consensus across various churches that Christians can go easily from one church to another and feel at home.  In my case, I could find a non-denominational church (many of them) in any city that I visited or lived in that held to the same basic beliefs.  Of course, having firm beliefs does not necessarily make someone anti-liberal, unless they could be considered anti-liberal for their inflexibility for discussion and lack of tolerance of other views.  But beyond their inflexibility, the beliefs themselves of modern Christians tend to separate those Christians into a special category of favor with God where they are separate from the outside world, and protected from intrusion by those that commit sinful practices.  Christians believe themselves to be "Separate but equal" in society and in the eyes of God, and they believe that they should enforce norms of behavior in their churches in order to maintain this separateness from the outside world.  Without the dividing wall of separateness, they believe they will no longer be distinct from their fellow man, and will in a way cease to be Christian.  Without being "special" they cannot even be saved to spend eternity with God in heaven.  To get back to the question of anti-liberalism, most Christians believe that liberal views are blurry and flexible, if not fully opposed, to the views that hold up the separateness of Christians.  In other words, liberalism is opposed to the wall, and embraces the world outside, and an anti-liberal stance is needed to maintain the structure and institution of the modern church.

I will explore the specific doctrines that hold it up, but as you can see, this separateness is aptly described as a Moderate Wall.  A wall that stands for the doctrines and prohibitions of the modern Christian, that allow the modern Christian to be separate and different from the world outside, and at the same time making him or her in a special class in the eyes of God.  To give up this wall is to give up identity as well as salvation itself.  Thus the wall is firmly defended.  

But what if many of these doctrines are wrong?  What if in the face of scrutiny they are found to be opposed to the very message of Christ, and that following Christ would be better accomplished by believing something else?  What if, some of the tenets do not stand the test of time in the ages to come?  What will happen to this moderate wall?  Maybe, just maybe, the moderate wall of modern Christianity will give way, and something else will be built in its place.

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