Links and Notes for April 3

Rachel Held Evans has long expressed her discomfort and complaint with the American evangelical tradition she grew up in. In this post she explains why she doesn’t fit in the mainline either.

Andrew Sullivan’s Newsweek Piece on Christianity in Crisis

Do Christians divorce at the same rate as the rest of American society? It’s long been asserted that they do. With this study, however, it seems like a lot depends on what other factors are being taken into account.

Andrew Sullivan speaks his mind on Christianity today, and its crisis.

All of which is to say something so obvious it is almost taboo: Christianity itself is in crisis. It seems no accident to me that so many Christians now embrace materialist self-help rather than ascetic self-denial—or that most Catholics, even regular churchgoers, have tuned out the hierarchy in embarrassment or disgust. Given this crisis, it is no surprise that the fastest-growing segment of belief among the young is atheism, which has leapt in popularity in the new millennium. Nor is it a shock that so many have turned away from organized Christianity and toward “spirituality,” co-opting or adapting the practices of meditation or yoga, or wandering as lapsed Catholics in an inquisitive spiritual desert. The thirst for God is still there. How could it not be, when the profoundest human questions—Why does the universe exist rather than nothing? How did humanity come to be on this remote blue speck of a planet? What happens to us after death?—remain as pressing and mysterious as they’ve always been?

That’s why polls show a huge majority of Americans still believing in a Higher Power. But the need for new questioning—of Christian institutions as well as ideas and priorities—is as real as the crisis is deep.

Where to start? Jefferson’s act of cutting out those parts of the Bible that offended his moral and scientific imagination is one approach. But another can be found in the life of a well-to-do son of a fabric trader in 12th-century Italy who went off to fight a war with a neighboring city, saw his friends killed in battle in front of him, lived a year as a prisoner of war, and then experienced a clarifying vision that changed the world. In Francis of Assisi: A New Biography, Augustine Thompson cuts through the legends and apocryphal prayers to describe Saint Francis as he truly lived. Gone are the fashionable stories of an erstwhile hippie, communing with flowers and animals. Instead we have this typical young secular figure who suddenly found peace in service to those he previously shrank from: lepers, whose sores and lesions he tended to and whose company he sought—as much as for himself as for them.
Sullivan is fascinating. Here he tries to merge Jefferson and Francis of Assisi. Whatever you think of Sullivan’s claim he is not alone in his feelings or where he’s sniffing around for answers.

Also check out David Session’s response.

Lots of follow up on Sullivan’s blog. Garry Wills takes on Jefferson’s Jesus (paywall).

About PaulVK

Husband, Father of 5, Pastor
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