This post is the continuation of last Friday’s post on Evangelicals working through the rising problem of the Evangelical Elite.
It is ironic the amount of pushback one can receive from simply stating a truth. Aaron Renn pointed out the inconvenient fact that liberal, even liberals in the church have no problems lying if it advances their agenda. For them perhaps they consider it to be a noble lie like the government is known to make. Or maybe they consider themselves to be similar to the midwives who lied to Pharaoh about the Hebrew boys. Either way, their tendency is to assume that those who are more fundamental than them, are less enlightened and it is their job to assume control and guide these sheep into new progressive pastures. When pushed or confronted that what they snake oil they are selling smells an awful lot like leftist poison. They lie. They claim they affirm all the same creeds this, now suspected legalist, believes. They swear up and down and on their mothers grave that they are not trying to give the red wagon we are all in a shove down a particularly Calvin and Hobbes-esqe hill with a confirmed crash at the bottom. They are just empathetic, you are being an unloving pharisee who loves rules more than people.
They lie through their teeth. Lying liars who lie lies, like their father before them. And shockingly the people who rush to defend these people against against such a charge are those empathy deficient legalists. My surmise is that because those hustling a leftist agenda into the side door of the sanctuary claim to be Christians; and the prevailing virtue of the evangelical church is, “niceness.” It is at a minimum indecorous to think that any professed one of us would possibly lie. It seems so harsh to shoot the wolves, they have made that cozy den in here, and their cubs are so darned cute… For the time being.
I tell you a parable. As a child my neighbor kept a wolf for a pet. They had raised it. And for a time it seemed as a dog. But one day, when they were out of town, and I as a young lad, had been hired to “dog sit” it attacked me when I came to feed it. Wolves in reality are dangerous, wolves in the church are dangerous.
For some time now a “wolf in the church” has been identified as a young guy who is a schmuck and dates around the college ministry, or a husband who is abusive, or a pastor who is manipulative, and increasingly anyone who hurst people’s feelings. Strangely it is never the gay couple that is somehow heavily involved and wants full membership, the lady who thinks she should be an elder* or pastor, the family with a child that is transitioning to another gender and they are so proud of their eight year olds bravery, the hip young couple who are “educators” and are telling the pastor to read Kendi and DeAngelo, or the pastor who is more concerned with the Trump voters than all of those mentioned above.
What Has Been Missed
And it is on that last point I wish so spend some time. Along with the incredulity that members of the church could be lying, is the greater skepticism that a pastor would be pushing these things. And to be sure a good amount of charity goes into the calculation that is made. But a lot is ignored or was quietly slipped past the watchmen. Consider:
- it has been assumed that the, “Battle for the Bible” was won. The Broadman Commentary fight in the Southern Baptist Convention was won by the theological right. Before that the fight for Concordia Seminary was similarly won. Even earlier Machen had founded Westminster as a model of staunch fundamental theology. House was cleaned at seminaries and publishing houses across the land. And as icing on the cake Young Restless and Reformed emerged. It all seemed grand. But just because the battle was won, now many many years ago, does not mean the war was over. While resting on our laurels, the left licked their wounds, and began their slow march through the institutions once more. It has been observed the Right is excellent at founding institutions but poor at maintaining them, the Left is expert at exploiting that and taking over. Many lying pastors today are the students of lying professors. And again, do not forget, these lies, half-truths, fibs, obscuring of certain facts, is all for your good. They are the ones over you, and you are merely a sheep.
- Even a pastor who starts rock solid can be worn down. Ministry is hard, often thankless, work. And to keep the standards of theology, ecclesiology, and liturgy high and correct is, as one pastor told me, “A lot of work.” And lo, to lighten the pastors load come helps, such as Docent, or The Gospel Coalition. Up until a year ago in the Southern Baptist Convention pastors had a steady stream of reasons why they should hate their congregations flowing from the pen of Russell Moore. A man who was hired to represent those churches and instead called into question their salvation based on how they statistically voted. Or, and I have seen it often, those friendly liberals in the church, offer far more emotional support and generosity than those cold conservatives that only email when he preaches something they don’t like.
- All of their pastor friends, if they have them, are a bubble of the same experiences have the same input from resources. There is a reason TGC has become something of a cottage industry. Everything the contemporary pastor takes in comes in a unified voice. Need to understand a current issue? Check out TGC, Christianity Today, or World Magazines website. Long form reading is out, they need it short and sweet. They want to be told what the answer is quickly. They want to be told what to think. And this is a hive mind. Every one of their peers is doing the same thing. So when they talk together they are all in agreement, and what is exhausting them are those conservatives who only see problems in the church.
So many pastors in mainstream evangelical churches lean left, some might not even know it, but the problem is there. And the Biblicists are sitting in the pews reeling over what they are hearing from the pulpit. They are shocked when people with clear sin on display are elevated to leadership and honored. They are confused and appalled when their pastor takes snide potshots at them for being conspiracy theorists, or rebuke them for watching Fox News but never rebuke the MSMBC people smugly sitting there in BLM T-shirts. The people who won the battle for the Bible have been caught with their britches down, and they are not happy about it. What do they do, they march down front after service and demand answers. Or they, “get coffee” and lecture their pastor on what Tucker Carlson thinks. Frankly they dig themselves in a hole.
What is to be Done
I do think there is a growing problem of pastors despising portions of their congregations. As well as eschewing the hard work of thinking for themselves and letting Docent do it for them. They gaslight their congregations, claiming to hold to and love the fundamentals while chipping away at them consistently. These are all things that need to be repented of. A noble lie is still a lie, and it is compounded by the sin of arrogance. But short of Christ bodily appearing in an elder meeting and smacking him around the head for considering that nice lesbian lady to be a deacon, what can be done.
The low hanging fruit is hospitality. Don’t let the liberals in the church have the monopoly on this. Meeting with a pastor, buying him a meal, coffee, or hosting him well in a home for no other reason than to be generous and honor him is not only a good way to build a relationship and trust it is simply Biblical. Avoid politics, let him talk about his story, what he could use prayer for, don’t lecture on what you know or how he can do better, basically don’t ambush. Show grace, honor, generosity, kindness, and charity. Fools are quick to speak, the wise hold their tongue. Playing the long game is not weakness, it is patience.** There is a difference between responding and reacting. Making it on a pastors list of conservative cranks does not bring him back.
Also it is good to remember how the conservative resurgence in denominations won. It was not done with long and drawn faces. Criswell’s Wether we Live or Die sermon was presented with tears and passion, not just cold logic. We are not called to be a party of Vulcans. Perhaps it would not be amiss to take Doug Wilson’s advice and fight this one like Narnians. Or if Wilson raises your hackles. Take the Piper route, “I will out rejoice you, and I will out live you.” This is slightly tied to the first point, but it is hard to dislike people who are inviting you to join them in their joy. And if there is one thing that is lacking on the liberal side, it is joy.
And if anyone with any influence in an institution that is in the process of being assimilated is reading this. Now is the time to declare war. You should walk into work every day prepared to go out in a blaze of glory. You should laugh, out loud, when someone tells your their pronouns. You should remind students that they are just that, students, they are there because they know next to nothing. You should make delightful the truth of the gospel and the way of Christ. Like the prophets of old you should mock with glee the idols of this world. On short do all you can to maintain the institution, not let it fall.
Finally, it’s time to stop assuming that the left will continue to use the rules of fair play that we order our lives by. Of course we would not want to be called a liar, but when you catch someone in a lie… They did it to themselves. Children all the time get caught and deny their actions. The left is very much like a petulant child. Just because they are our kids does not mean we should keep coddling them. They are born in iniquity, it is not loving to cover their sins. They must repent and be converted. And a good way to begin to encourage this is for us to repent of being cowards.
So yes, conservatives in the church have seen this kind of take over attempt before, we are not wrong in our read on the situation. But we have been reacting very schizophrenically. It is neither helpful to corner a pastor and try and fix him without any relationship. Nor defending the liberal wolves in the church because we don’t like to be thought of as a mean person.
I will not say the stakes are too high. Christ will keep and preserve his church. It just may be that he has a role for you to play.
*A local church put a woman through church discipline for consistently nominating herself for eldership and trying circulating rumors about the elder board among the congregation. She sued the church, and called the press, and took a few people with her to another church that was more easily cowed.
**That said patience does not mean infinite inaction, it should be coupled with wisdom for when to go to action.