Confusing Modernist Advocacy for Evangelization
It broke my heart recently to discover that a once friend of mine has now publicly stated that “there is no God” on his social media page. I’m not sure what he means by this statement, but it is highly concerning to me. When I knew him, this man was a seminarian and small church leader whose frustration with “religious rightness” was an ever present issue. His desire to be a social justice warrior was always a prominent part of our conversations, and when it came to exegesis, biblical interpretation was always tied to the political goings on in our country. I’m not sure where he actually stands on the Christian faith now, since he has broken all contact with me, but to the best of my knowledge, any desire he might have had for evangelization has now turned to “advocacy.” He is no longer serving in any church, nor does he appear be pursuing any such role. He is angry with conservative Christians and has chosen a liberal advocacy approach to attacking conservative ideas and those who believe them.
As tragic as his story is, it is not a unique one.
All across the world we are seeing prominent church leaders confusing Christianity with the social justice movement (From Catholics like James Martin to new-agers like Nadia Bolz-Weber). Many pastors and priests have turned their eyes from Christ and looked to social movements to solve the issues of the world. This is a mindset that is completely un-Christian. While Christ would surely advocate for the lowly, the meek, and the oppressed, He would never fight for ideologies that go against His own teachings. After all, to fight for humanity is not to fight for a social ideology, but to spread the love of the Gospel, trusting that He will transform souls along the way. I am not personally against all of the intricate teachings of social justice, but I am against social justice—or any social movement—becoming the voice of morality in the Church. There may be many hints of goodness to the social justice movement, but there are also many elements that unquestionably contradict the teachings of the Church throughout the entirety of it’s history (abortion, homosexual marriage, female pastors/priests, and inter-faith universalism to name just a few). The moment we allow ourselves to be swept up in a movement, we run the risk of confusing the movement for our faith. This is incredibly dangerous because we are suddenly relying on someone other than the author of our faith to determine our praxis.
Please know, I am not siding with politically conservative Christians here, even though we may have more in common with each other. I believe that politically conservative Christians have their own social sins that go against Church teachings as well, and that there are leaders who have also left the faith in order to preach politics from the pulpit. The biggest difference between politically conservative “Christians” and politically liberal “Christians,” however, is that conservatives have abandoned some traditional Church teachings while liberals actually preach against holy tradition altogether. What I personally side with is the tradition of ancient theological beliefs and practices; practices that are before our modern politics and outside of social influence; practices established by the apostles and Church fathers themselves. Even the Devil will quote scripture for His purposes, but the ancient tradition of the Church has maintained the mind of Christ through the centuries. There is no greater place to be, as a Christian, than in the heart of God following scripture through ancient tradition. There is no higher communion than communion with God and the saints throughout history.
In short, we have forgotten how to be humble, and our pride has led to an advocacy “faith” that is custom built for modernism and social media viewership. We are so closed off to correction that we refuse to be wrong (even when we are), and support things that have nothing to do with the Gospel. The lie that each person’s reality is Truth has been pushed into our way of thinking. We are tolerant without being tolerant of tradition. We promote being accepting without accepting the Truth of the faith. We are simultaneously confused and dangerously confident in our own ideologies. Where are we to run to when the world changes? Where are we to find comfort when we are suddenly rejected or even persecuted by society? Only in God’s loving arms and in the soul-shifting power of the Holy Spirit. When we are transformed by His love, we can expect to be rejected by the world, but we will find our strength, joy, and fulfillment in His overwhelming love. This is the place the Church needs to be in, and the only way we are going to get there is through grace and humility.
“Do not conform to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what is God’s. ~St. Paul
“You wish to reform the world? Reform yourself, otherwise your efforts will be in vain.” ~St. Ignatius of Loyola
“A time is coming when people will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will mock him saying: ‘You are mad, you are not like us.’” ~St. Anthony the Great
“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” ~2 Timothy 4:3-4
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” ~1 John 4:1-6