Modern Trends in Christianity – Part Two

The last post mentioned that there are two themes that occupy the writers and speakers in current religious publishing. The first theme, a fresh look at the historical experience of Jesus, is addressed in the last post. Today the mariner will investigate the preoccupation with the Religious Right as a political movement and the concern expressed about the increasing secularism of most Christians.

The mariner investigated many conservative, evangelical and fundamentalist websites searching for a core dynamic that these movements can share. In general, the websites were territorial about minor interpretations or tenets. In short, the conservative side of Christianity does not have a cohesive doctrine.

These websites were true religious websites. Government politics representing the  conservative or “religious right” were of a different ilk and focused on public policy, party politics – salted with a collection of moral issues and a lot of character assassination. Neither set of websites had any concern for the circumstances of mainstream Christian practice.

The political religious websites were a mix of conservative Christian advocacy heavily dosed with public issues. If the reader watches the news at all, they will be familiar with these issues: guns; abortion; eliminate discretionary government programs (all of them from health care to school lunch programs, Head Start, PBS, Planned Parenthood, SNAP (food stamps and other assistance programs, unemployment insurance); any extension of regulations of any kind; a major cut in government services, more or less keeping the military, central treasury and only in about half the websites, income taxes.

It is obvious why serious religious writers are looking closely at the claim of religiosity in the religious right movement.

There is not room in this post to capture a great deal of Gospel scripture that counters the misanthropic politics of the religious right but just a few references will demonstrate the massive gap between the religious right movement and the Christian positions of Jesus:

The parable of the Good Samaritan

The two great commandments

“If you have fed them, you have fed me”

“You shall love God above all things” (even your family and your money).

This could go on for pages but this is enough to expose antithetical positions between Jesus and the religious right. The mariner’s favorite Gospel is Matthew. It is an easy read and will be very clear about the principles of Jesus, none of which associate with the religious right. As to the public issues like guns and abortion, there may be a moral point, legally or religiously, but the violent and uncaring attack in an effort to obliterate these issues easily dismisses any moral intent.

What obfuscates the study of the religious right is the Tea Parties (there is more than one). Tea Party members are in the same room as the religious right because both groups are conservative. A closer look, sometimes, can determine a Tea Party person because of the absence of religious morality in their rhetoric. To the right of the Tea Party and to the left of the religious right is the libertarian – a cross breed of conservative government minimalism with a progressive approach to anything that pokes into one’s personal freedom.

Mix these three groups with the professional Republicans in the House of Representatives and it is no wonder that Speaker Boehner has no control over irrational legislation.

Ideologically, the right wing groups are noisy and disruptive but a minority incapable of streamlined organization that can overtake the middle of American religious culture. After doing this research, the mariner felt the most bothersome aspect of it all was the solidarity of the right behind the two-headed coin of nationalism and autocracy. New Testament Christianity is not to be seen.

A broader issue on religious book lists is the invasion of secularism into the religious practices of mainstream denominations. The mariner has written about this subject in other posts. (See Following Jesus Around, Is Christianity Still Christianity? Evolution of Faith, and Who is God?) Lest the mariner’s evaluation of the religious right makes the mainstream Christian self-righteous, secularism has decayed the organized church more than termites can destroy a rotten log.

It may be a good idea for every Christian to read the Gospel Matthew then ask one’s self, by sitting in a pew on Sunday, am I praying in public as the Pharisees did? If I skipped the church service and went into the poorest neighborhood to do what I could to make a life better, would Jesus skip the service and come with me?

Secularism is a failed pew-based culture. Mainstream Christians need to get their hands dirty doing God’s work as Jesus instructed. Find God’s grace through another person’s life – not your own.

Ancient Mariner

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