Friday, September 16, 2016


"The reports of my recent death have been greatly exaggerated."
- attributed to Mark Twain

I just finished reading the book, The End of White Christian America by Robert P. Jones.  As I am a Christian who happens to be white and American, I felt I needed to be informed concerning the demise of a group of which I am apparently a member.  The book has enthusiastic blurbs on the jacket by a number of men whom I respect.

Robert Jones, we are told, "is the founding CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and a leading scholar and commentator on religion and politics."  He informs us that he was raised in White Christian America (henceforth to be referred to as WCA) and comes from a long line of Georgia Baptists, though he does not claim to share their faith.

I have been concerned for many years about the politically rightward drift of many of my fellow Christians, especially of those in leadership roles.  My concern involves the association by many, of these three terms as describing themselves:  white, Christian and American; for some the words are practically synonymous.  So I wanted to see if this author could offer some encouragement.  Before I make further comments on the arguments presented, I must say I appreciate the data given.

The book begins with an obituary for WCA.  WCA is, as presented in this book, White Protestant American Christianity, which the author tells us, can be divided into two groups:  Mainline Protestantism and Evangelical Protestantism.  He starts with the stories of three buildings which he apparently considers allegories for the history of the decline of WCA:  the United Methodist building in Washington, DC (ca. 1923), the Interchurch Center in New York City (ca. 1960) and Robert Schuller's Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, CA (ca. 1980).  The decline of these three began almost as soon as they were built.

The author tells us that his story does not deal with the distinctions between the sub-groups, but deals with WCA as a "single dynasty."  "The key question here is not why one white Protestant subgroup is faring worse than another, but why white Protestantism as a whole - arguably the most powerful cultural force in the history of our country - has faded.  This is a story of theology and culture, but it is also a story of powerful demographic changes."  (page 40)

Chapter 2:  "Vital Signs ... " is the most informative with charts and graphs to back up its claims; this data makes a clear case that WCA is declining in number.  Though Mainline Protestantism was the first to decline from its position of power, Evangelical Protestantism is now beginning to decline - at least as a percentage of the American population.

Then follows Chapter 3:  "Politics:  The End of White Christian Strategy; Chapter 4:  Family:  Gay Marriage and WCA; Chapter 5:  Race: Desegregating WCA.  In these chapters the author presents brief histories of the actions of WCA, with criticisms for the behavior of Evangelicalism and mild praise for the behavior of Mainline Protestantism.  Most of the material in these chapters has been heard before and it is here that the author clearly reveals opinions that are sometimes biased.

The 6th and final chapter is entitled "A Eulogy for WCA."  In it the author uses Kubler - Ross' well-known stages of grief and applies them to WCA:  "Denial and Anger," "Bargaining," "Depression and Acceptance."  Though I don't believe their use was meant to be humorous, I actually found this chapter a bit amusing.

So?  What to do with this book?  I fear that like many books of this sort, it will be applauded by those who agree, and either condemned or ignored by those who disagree.  However, I find myself in some place in between.

Mr. Jones appears to be one who is not really mourning the end of WCA.  And while I agree with him in many areas, I find my major area of disagreement is that we come from two very different starting points.  The author seems to judge WCA from modern, pragmatic criteria, rather than a biblical, spiritual base.  His is the judgment of the "natural man" (to use Paul's term) or the man "under the sun"(to use Ecclesiastes' term).  So the following are my views on WCA:

- First, I agree that these three have been identified too closely by many of my Christian brothers and sisters.  We have failed to get out of our cultural shell and to judge our culture from a truly biblical worldview.

- The political adventures of many prominent Evangelicals have brought shame on the Name of the Lord.  Sadly this is becoming more and more evident in this election season.  What this book brought out is the idea that (perhaps) this is a last-ditch effort to recover an influence that is rapidly slipping away.

- The issue of race has been a burden of mine for a long time.  White Christians judge their brothers and sisters from their own WCA perspective and fail to deal with the blatant racism that permeates not only our politics, but our churches themselves.  The chapter on race points out many of these faults, criticizes and praises some, but seems to be brought more from an outside perspective.

- The issue of the church's dealings with the LGBT community is not as clear-cut as that of race, in spite of the claims made in this book.  With the race issue efforts can and must be made to clear away non-biblical traditions; but with the issue of sexual orientation, we cannot clear away biblical teachings to just get along.  We must learn to love those who are different, but we cannot endorse certain behaviors.

- The book did not (I feel) deal enough with the "America" part.  There is much more that needs to be said about the identification of Christianity with the super patriotism that is being over-emphasized by many today.

So is WCA dying?  I suppose so.  But Christianity is not!  I believe we need to shed WCA's trappings and live a purer Christianity - one that identifies with those of other ethnic and national groups.  Perhaps the information in this book will lead to a Christianity that is cleaner, purer and less encumbered with wrong standards and goals.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016


Well, it's that time of the year when I feel like skipping church.  Memorial Day and Fourth of July weekends, and later Veterans' Day, are usually extremely uncomfortable times to attend Sunday morning worship services.  There will usually be a bit of flag-waving and we'll sing patriotic hymns; perhaps we'll see a slide show praising our Founding Fathers or veterans or something like that.  Many in the congregation will seem more enthusiastic than usual.  And I - and I suppose a few others - will feel very uncomfortable - that is if we attend at all.  (I will also!  Uni)
Perhaps some of my readers will agree with me; some on the other hand, on reading the above paragraph may question my patriotism, even my devotion to Jesus.  My contention, however, is that my commitment to the Lordship of Christ precludes the above behavior.  As I understand it, Jesus does not wish to share the platform with others.

This has nothing to do with my "patriotism"!  I love my country; I pray for it; I thank God for America every day.  I try to perform my duties as a citizen:  I pay my taxes; I vote; I fly my flag on appointed days; I even served as a Marine Reserve.  But this has every-thing to do with my commitment to Christ!

Those of the early church in the Roman Empire confessed "Jesus is Lord" in spite of the demands that they confess "Caesar is Lord."  And many died for that distinction.  The Roman Empire was not too concerned about the religious beliefs of its subjects, as long as they could make the required confession.  But the followers of Jesus could not do so.  For them there was only one Lord.  Should it not be the same for us?

America is not a theocracy; it is not a "Christian nation"; it is a secular democracy and as such, it is part of "the kingdom of the world," which will one day "become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ" (Revelation 11:15).  But we're not there yet.

I  may attend some Fourth of July celebration, but I'll probably stay home and watch the celebrations on TV.  I'll grow teary eyed as patriotic hymns are sung and as I sing along.  I may even post Ray Charles singing "America the Beautiful" on my facebook page.  But I pray that I may always recognize that my allegiance to my country, as all my other allegiances will be under the Lordship of Christ.

Friday, June 17, 2016


Most Americans were appalled at the slaughter in a gay night club in Orlando this past week.  The outpouring of sympathy and compassion for the survivors as well as the victims' families was quick and seemingly universal.  The words and acts of comfort, while never adequate, helped to soften the blow, at least for those of us not involved.  As a follower of Jesus, I was blessed, even proud to hear of many of the churches, of the ordinary Christians, as well as some of our spokesmen reaching out.
The pundits and politicians, however, were confused.  Should we call this a hate crime or a terrorist act?  After all, the perpetrator, a Muslim, boasted that he was doing this as a follower of ISIS. And I believe many in the Evangelical community are also confused.  We have been repeatedly told by many who claim to be our spokesmen that Islam is a great danger to America, threatening all we hold dear.  And on the other hand, we've been told that there is a conspiracy afoot by the LGBT community and their "liberal" fellow travelers to destroy America.  Throw in the fact that there are those of us who believe that every American has the right to own a semi-automatic weapon of mass destruction, and one can see why we are confused.  Guns, Islam and the gay rights' agenda - three issues that are perceived as hot button issues - have converged in this horrible act.

But where would Jesus be in all of this?  Where would we find the One who was accused of being "a glutton and a wine guzzler, a friend of tax collectors and sinners" (Luke 7:34)?  Some readers were probably put off by the title of this post, but really, where would He be?

I believe His heart would be with the ones who reached out to those who were devastated by this tragedy.  He would be with the survivors - people already discriminated  against and now traumatized .  He would be with the families of the dead and wounded, some of whom may have found out for the first time that their loved one was gay or lesbian or transgender and some whom may not have been reconciled with their loved one's condition.  And He would be with the family of the dead killer as they attempt to deal with his actions.  And He would be with those of the Muslim community who now find themselves even more the objects of suspicion and loathing.

I believe we who are followers of Jesus, have a responsibility as well as an opportunity to help these who are all victims, to know the love of Jesus.  They need to know the loving compassionate Jesus, the One who left heaven's glory to become one of us.  They don't need more condemnation and political pronouncements. 

"When He saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd."  Matthew 9:36

Friday, June 10, 2016


" ... that the living may know that the Most High is Sovereign over the Kingdom of Man and grants it to whom He wishes, and He sets over it the lowest of men" (Daniel 4:17).

These words were spoken to Nebuchadnezzar, the great world ruler of his day, one year before he was driven mad.  We may see them as an ancient rebuke to a man, arrogant in the belief that all of his great realm was the product of his own doing.  We may fail to see that it is a truth as relevant today as it was two and a half millennia ago.

Today we see and hear in the world many Nebuchadnezzars, "speaking loud boasts of folly" (2 Peter 12:18 ESV).  And in the good old USA we have a loud mouthed contender for President who fits the description.  It seems that daily some new arrogant racist remarks spew from his lips.  And he is now the candidate of one of our two major political parties.

It wasn't long ago that Donald Trump was considered by many to be an anomaly, a rich source of material for the late night comics - nothing more.  The pundits and talking heads were predicting his disappearance from the Presidential race at any moment.  The pundits are no longer making predictions; their speculations are presented with great caution.  The comedians are getting sharper and more pointed in their comments.  Will this man become our next President??  If so, the statement quoted above will be verified.

As one who has been attempting for the last 60 years to observe and interpret American politics and history from a Christian and biblical perspective, I have been trying to wrap my head around all of this.  Presidents and Presidential candidates have come and gone, but never anything quite like what we are now seeing.  How is God working all of these things for good?  How should I as a follower of Christ, react?

Some pundits and even scholars have cautiously predicted the possible collapse of the Republican party  That's doubtful; we've heard similar predictions about one party or the other every election cycle in my memory.  But perhaps what is happening will lead to the collapse of the Religious Right, or at least the (illicit?) love affair between many Evangelical Christian leaders and the Republican Party.

To the embarrassment of many followers of Christ we have heard for years those who are (or believe they are) our spokesmen making authoritative political pronouncements, even to the point of endorsing Presidential candidates.  We have winced as we have heard people whom we have respected - even admired - inserting their foot in their mouths.

And here we are today - Republican leaders doing their little two-step:  "Donald Trump may be a hateful racist bigoted bully who seems to have no concept of truth, but we'll still endorse his candidacy."  Really?  Well, what about those on the Religious Right, some of whom have already given him their blessing?  Are they going to do the same?  Or will they (we} finally realize that they (we) need to keep their (our) mouths shut and get back to the business that Jesus left us here to do - making disciples, loving our neighbors?

I can't predict what will occur on election day or in the four years following.  I do hope, however, that somehow God will use whatever He sovereignly brings to pass to purify His church and to get the church in America (myself included) back on course.

            SEE:   I'm a Member of a Voting Bloc?
                        She's a Good Hearted Woman