Charisma’s Insane Diagnosis of Progressive Christianity

Charisma News' image of the enemy.

The enemy, according to Charisma News.

Oh, Charisma News. You amuse and enrage in bafflingly equal measure.

Another screed from the evangelical watchdog website has been making the rounds on Christian social media, this time bemoaning the treachery of a “New Christian Left.” Says the author:

It’s painful for me to admit, but we can no longer rest carefree in our evangelical identity – because it is changing.

Gone are the days when a true believer could simply rest on his privilege, er, laurels. Today there is a war for the very heart of “evangelical identity,” and apparently that’s quite a very bad thing. What exactly is happening to threaten Evangelicalism? The author continues:

But now popular culture is being aided by Christ-professing bedfellows whose message to “coexist,” “tolerate” and “keep out of it” is more marketable to the rising generation of evangelicals.

That’s right, “popular culture” is coming for you, and they have operatives among your own ranks! If these wolves in sheep’s clothing have their way, you and your family will be forced to coexist with and tolerate other human beings!! How could they achieve such an unspeakably diabolical goal?

Desperate for acceptance in a fallen world, many young evangelicals (and some older ones) choose not to take Christ out of the chapel, and so they are unwittingly killing the church’s public witness.

In the universe according to Charisma News, heinous sins and like tolerance and brotherly love run rampant because Jesus is trapped in the chapel and unable to eradicate them. The article goes on to describe the “hijacking of Christian doctrine” by “the left,” and even names three types of modern Evangelicals: “couch potato Christians” who keep quiet on culture war issues, “cafeteria Christians” who pick and choose which parts of the Bible they will obey, and “convictional Christians” like the author who “compassionately” confront the sinful culture like Jesus did.

What is the solution to this grim diagnosis? How do we create more “convictional Christians” and fewer “couch potatoes”? Wait for it:

In order to safeguard the trajectory of young evangelicals, we must uphold the authoritative Word of God. It is imperative that those in a position to influence millennials have transparent and honest discussions about the culture wars evangelical youth are already engaging. Otherwise they will be silent and accepting in the face of persecution and false doctrine.

In addition to biblical inerrancy and “culture wars,” the author calls for the rise of a new generation of leaders who will carry the torch of great Evangelicals of the past like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Tim LaHaye, and others. So, um… yeah.

A Sincere Response: It Comes Down To Jesus

While I still consider myself some sort of (lowercase) evangelical, “evangelical identity” doesn’t mean very much to me, nor to most of my Christian peers. So maybe this is just someone else’s fight. But being more than a little familiar with the movement this article is critiquing, I feel compelled to respond.

At one point in the article our author accuses the “Christian left” of employing “scare tactics” and fear to lead young evangelicals astray. In my experience, typified even by the content of this article, it is the old guard evangelical culture warriors who employ fear tactics. This author warns of the loss of religious liberty, a downturn in American prosperity, and speaks of progressive Christians as enemies (“we need to know exactly whom we are up against”). Not only are these warnings ridiculous and fear-based, they embody anti-Christian values like cultural supremacy and nationalism. The article begins with an appeal to Jesus but leaves him far behind by the end.

So, look. What can I say? For all I know there are lots of Christians toeing the liberal line in order to stay popular and to “feel good.” But the thing is, I don’t know anyone like that personally. The “progressive” Christians I know feel like they are following Jesus out of the chapel and into the streets. They see values like tolerance and affirmation of human dignity as inherently Christian. We tend to think that traditional Christianity has been attempting to hold Jesus hostage inside the chapel (and inside our doctrine) for too long. We want to see him unleashed upon the world. In fact, we believe that is already happening.

In the end, it’s not about standing up for doctrine or capitulating to culture. It’s about Jesus. Charisma News represents a segment that wants to cash in on the name of Jesus while actively working and fighting (in their own language, waging war!) against other beloved children of God in his name. Most of the Christians I know in real life – evangelical, progressive, or otherwise – are too smart and enamored of Jesus to get caught up in that deception.