I am only now beginning a serious but somewhat sporadic study of church history but even at this point in my study it is clear that the church has remained silent about many moral wrongs of the times. The most notable in recent history is the holocaust. Millions of Jews were being sent off to their deaths by Hitler and the church for the most part remained silent.
By their silence they were indirectly condoning the moral wrongs. When there is hatred and moral wrong being committed on any in our society the church of Jesus Christ must speak out against it as Jesus himself did. But lets face it, silence in the church is notorious.
Another example is the slavery and the later Civil Rights era in our country. While Martin Luther King was marching throughout the South to end segregation most of the church was silent. Some even condoned segregation as being biblical. They said the bible told slaves to obey their masters. Many passively stood by while racists burned church after church in southern states.
I recognize that many in today’s church are of the ultra-conservative brand who adamantly resist change. They will do anything to maintain the status quo as change is just too frightening to them. Unfortunately many have hooked their churches up with the radical right political agenda of our times. This link is proving to be detrimental to the fabric of the church. They are quickly losing tomorrow’s members as a result of this attachment. They are even losing seniors such as myself who don’t see the words of Jesus in their actions.
I want to believe that this type of silence is due to human nature instead of the soul of the church. Many are just too afraid to attack the problems of the times. It seems that when personal wants and needs are thrown opposite of the foundations of the church the foundations end up with cracks.
Anyone who has read much of this blog knows how I feel about the slippery slope. I believe that the very concept has damaged us theologically, politically and personally beyond anything good that could come out of it. The very concept that everything we believe about a subject becomes worthless if we come to believe that any small part of it is questionable.
Here is what Tony Jones says about the slippery slope in his book The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier:
That theology is local, conversational, and temporary does not mean that we must hold our beliefs without conviction. This is a charge often thrown at emergent Christians, but it’s false. As a society, we’ve been wrong about all sorts of things in the past, like slavery. And not letting women vote. And not letting nonwhites drink from the same water fountains as whites. I could go on and on. Our forebears held positions on these issues with deep conviction, but they were wrong. And I can say that unequivocally. At least, I can say that from my vantage point-as one who came after them-they were wrong. What I cannot say is which side of those issues I would have been on a century or two ago. Nor can I say which issues I’m mistaken on today….
Unlike Mr. Jones I “did” live through many of the issues he discussed here. I have to admit that I was wrong to have such a non-committal attitude toward many of them when they were happening. Since I was a white kid growing up in rural America I, at least initially, didn’t think they had anything to do with me. In college in the 1960s I finally had some direct encounters and conversations with my first African-Americans. From conversations with them I came to understand that I too had a stake in these matters. It was not until my local circumstance changed that I knew how critical the civil rights demonstrations of the time actually were.
Dispatch 11: Emergents believe that awareness of our relative position-to God, to one another, and to history – breeds biblical humility, not relativistic apathy
Our understanding that throughout history the theologians in particular and the church in general has both evolved and devolved. To deny that fact is to deny history itself. We can’t just ignore the fact that during the period quoted above many Christian denomination claimed that segregation and denying people of color their God given rights was biblical. Among other things they pointed out the various reference to slaves in the Bible. We are all relativists to one degree or another. When we recognize that fact it frees us to look for further understanding of God’s infinitely complicated words to us. When we lock onto one version of our choosing we lock out further revelations from God or Scripture.
The concept of the slippery slope is a dangerous one but not from the fact that we look at things differently but from the fact that we refuse to do so…..