In Christianity, the gospel is sometimes called the “Good News.” The phrase evidently heralds the imminent coming of the Kingdom of God. If you have landed on this page in hopes of a post exploring that concept, you’ve come to the wrong place. I don’t even recognize “Christianity” these days. (Granted, I’m not a Christian.)
In fact, when it comes to contemporary news, I’ve become used to seeing headlines like this one, on articles documenting the ways in which Evangelical “Christians” have become more and more indistinguishable from GOP cultists.
A group that says its mission is “to halt and push back the forces of darkness” is holding a tactical event in southwest Missouri this weekend to train Christians in “hand-to-hand combat” and “fighting from your vehicle.”
I’m not Christian, but I really don’t think Jesus would approve…
Peter Wehner, a lifelong evangelical, recently wrote an article for the Atlantic about the internal conflicts being caused by the politicization of Christianity. I recommend it.
My “good news” is very different– an explicit rejection of that perversion of belief . There are evidently evangelical pastors who are genuinely religious–that is, concerned with concepts like brotherly love, ethical behavior and the golden rule.
Emotions ran high at the gathering of about 100 pastors at a church, about five miles from the University of Notre Dame. Many hugged. Some shed tears. One confessed she could not pray anymore.
Some had lost funding and others had been fired from their churches for adopting more liberal beliefs. All had left the evangelical tradition and had come to discuss their next steps as “post-evangelicals.”
Those who planned the meeting–which took place in South Bend, Indiana–had expected 25 pastors. Word-of-mouth expanded it to over 100. The appeal appears to be part of what the report calls a” larger reckoning” that has been triggered in individuals and congregations that are “grappling with their faith identity in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidency and calls for racial justice following the murder of George Floyd.”
Many of the (formerly) evangelical leaders in attendance at the meeting had been deeply concerned when they learned that approximately 8 out of 10 White evangelicals had voted for Trump in both of his presidential runs–evidence, as they see it, that the evangelical movement has been co-opted by Republican politics.
As the pastors traded stories, they quickly found shared experiences. They lamented their conservative evangelical parents who watch Fox News, as well as their peers who had re-examined their beliefs so much that they lost their faith entirely. They skewed younger, many in their 30s with tattoos covering their arms.
Most of the leaders held some belief in Jesus and the idea that people gathering in churches is still a good idea. Many want their churches to be affirming, meaning that they would perform gay weddings and include LGBTQ people in leadership and membership. They preferred curiosity over certainty, inclusion over exclusion.
According to the article, all of the attendees agreed on two things: they opposed Trump and they opposed racism. (Some of us would suggest that Trumpism is racism, so maybe they only agreed on one thing…)
One of the most positive signs of change came in a quote from Amy Mikal, who was once a pastor at the Chicago-based megachurch Willow Creek.
“The hardest part is that we were taught to take the Bible literally,” Mikal said. “We want to be a place that asks more questions than provides answers.”
I have previously shared my youngest son’s distinction between a good religion and a bad one: a good religion helps you wrestle with morally-fraught questions about life’s meaning and challenges; a bad religion gives you predetermined “correct” answers and demands that you live in unquestioning accordance with them. Mikal obviously reached a similar conclusion.
The article quoted a different participant, Brit Barron (who had worked for a megachurch in California before she began re-examining her beliefs) for a similar sentiment. Barron opined that “Our job is to create the conversation. If someone opens up and says, ‘I don’t know if any of this is real,’ then we’re doing our job.”
The participants in this meeting understood that the “job” of a pastor is to provide a safe space for questions and debates about morality and faith. That sets them apart from the mega-churches and celebrity pastors who increasingly seem to believe that their job is to program troops for the GOP while raking in lots of money.
The refusal of a growing number of pastors to participate in the con games of the Falwells and Grahams really is “good news.”