That didn’t take long. Two weeks ago evangelical Christians were debating whether a Christian florist should violate her conscience and festoon a chapel for a gay wedding. Suddenly we are debating whether the happy couple should be employed in a Christian parachurch organization.
One day after World Vision announced it opposed sexual immorality but not gay marriage, the “evangelical” world seems decidedly split. I don’t know what the percentages are, but I’ve seen a fair amount of passionate posts on both sides. Neither side can quite believe the other. I think World Vision’s decision is an obvious case of theological liberalism, and said liberals respond that my side obviously doesn’t care about people. I think this charge is preposterous, and they think it’s preposterous that I think it’s preposterous. There’s no persuading the other.
So why try. The evangelical church is rapidly dividing along liberal (or progressive, if you prefer) and conservative lines, just as it did in the first decades of the twentieth century. We have different views of Scripture, authority, humanity, sin, salvation, and Jesus, and there is no bridging this divide. It’s out in the open now, both sides are dug in, and there’s no getting along.
So let’s separate. Let’s agree that we can’t agree on enough essentials of the Christian faith to do gospel ministry together, and bid each other goodbye. We conservatives will focus on living as exiles in Babylon, and the progressives can enjoy whatever cultural favor they can obtain. They can have their own churches and aid organizations run their way, and we can run ours in the way we think is right.
The downside of giving up is that we sacrifice the hope for unity in the body of Christ, which is a tragedy and a scandal. But seeing how neither side thinks the other is thinking or acting Christianly, we’ve implicitly already crossed that bridge. The upside of giving up is that we may be able to call a truce. If we acknowledge that we really are promoting different gospels, then we might feel less inclined to urgently post “Can you believe what (famous Christian leader) just said!” on our blogs. I’m not optimistic, as some celebs seem to make a good living by criticizing the leaders on the other side. But if their base gets tired of constantly haranguing people who are too far away to count, then maybe they’ll run out of steam and be forced to come up with more original ideas.
This truce may lead to a cooling off period, which may eventually lead to both sides talking again. So unity might one day be possible, just not now, no how. The one thing we can agree on is that the breakup is the other’s fault. It’s not me, it’s definitely you.