I expect to be challenged by George Yancey’s forthcoming book One Faith No Longer: The Transformation of Christianity in Red and Blue America but perhaps not by the conclusions drawn by the work. Rather I expect my struggle will be over how to respond to the people I know that fall into the camp opposite mine. The head knowledge says, with charity, and grace, love them as Lewis defines desiring their good. But in my heart I feel that perhaps those will play out in a far less delicate way. And it is because what the authors, while trying to be charitable can not stay out of the truth.
“One of our findings is that progressive Christians prioritize political values more than conservative Christians do. Political conformity is more important for progressive Christians than for conservative Christians. At first I thought this merely reflected a reality that progressive Christians care more about progressive political ideology than conservative Christians care about conservative political ideology.
But as we dug down into the data, I saw this was incorrect. Progressive Christians have an underlying value system that leads them to a stronger political loyalty than the value system of conservative Christians does. Progressive Christians stress values such as social justice, inclusion, and tolerance. For many progressive Christians, those values are best shown through their understanding of progressive political ideology. Consequently, they develop a much stronger degree of political allegiance than the political proclivities found among conservative Christians.” – George Yancey, Who’s More Political: Progressive or Conservative Christians?*
“An underlying value system” which could be argued away if it were not for Yancey’s definition of a progressive Christian, “Those who do not see the Bible as the inerrant Word of God and do not see Jesus as the only path to salvation are progressive Christians.” This problem with this definition is that people who profess this are simply not Christians. This is engaging in the exact fallacy Lewis describes early in Mere Christianity where the word is devalued, and ultimately rendered meaningless, to include people who demonstrably do not fit the criteria. This error does not take place in one book alone but in many of our churches. There they sit merrily, working their way into the leadership, and because no one is willing to hurt their feelings at the risk of being accused of being unloving, the inevitable explosion still comes as a shock.
God has given two gifts to ward off those who lie to themselves and to churches. Church Membership and discipline. Or to put it another way Mark Dever and Martin Luther. Robust membership is a first line of defense against heretics, 9 Marks of a Healthy Church is a good place to start. Luther reminds us that Shepherds in the church have the duties to, feed the sheep, rebuke the swine, and shoot the wolves. It is high time that open season be declared in many churches. Wolves eat sheep, and in many cases, as Yancey points out, they are not even bothering with the sheep’s clothing.