Last night, I heard a theologian teach at our church. He started by saying he was very depressed because we are losing the war for evangelical Christianity in America. Needless to say, his depression had to have something to do with the election. He tried to hide his partisanship but it leaked through.
He was absolutely horrible, but I am heartened. He was an old man, and I think he represents an old way of thinking. At least I can hope.
This theologians point was that Christians need to learn how to think and persuade people to our way of thinking. He decried the anti-intellectualism in the church. He completely missed the point. The problem is not that we do not think enough. The problem is that the conservative evangelical theological system makes people anti-intellectual. The problem is that any theology which purports that the earth is 10,000 years old cannot be intellectual. What is needed is a new theological framework, a new wineskin to hold the wine of scientific FACTS. If we cannot reasonably and elegantly address the facts, then we cannot be intellectual or thinking people. The problem is that the 20th century conservative hermeneutic is not capable of addressing scientific fact. Therefore, a new hermeneutic is needed, a new wineskin.
This theologian was forlorn about the votes on homosexual marriage. If we cannot support equal rights and liberty for ALL, then we cannot have a place at the table of democracy. We need a new political philosophy that shows a compassionate and grace filled face to the Church in the political arena. It is so obvious that Christians are supposed to be the voice for the poor in America. Instead, we are seen as people who believe that what is on God's mind is the idea that homosexuals want rights under the law. In a democracy, it is fine to believe that BUT it is not the basis of a political philosophy. The American political system is founded on the motto of e pluribus unum. The American experiment is an experiment centered on belief that the a diversity of peoples can become one people. This political philosophy by definition must not bring our religion into our politics. Unless we develop a political philosophy based in a commitment to civil liberties and a passion for justice, we cannot be intellectuals in the realm of politics.
What this theologian didn't realize is that what created the anti-intellectualism is the inability of his generations theology to incorporate scientific facts and to understand the relationship between religion and politics under our constitutional democracy. What is needed is better ideas not doubling down on the failed ideas of 20th century evangelicalism.