Death of the Cool

Did you know that it might be “cool” to be a Christian again? Yeah, that’s right. I have it on good authority that since All the Important Christians are now firmly on the side of statist economics and the New Sexual Orthodoxy™, we now officially have an open door to get back in the good graces of the arbiters of culture. That’s according to Paul Raushenbusch, writing in the Huffington Post:

Hallelujah! 2013 may be the year that it became cool again to be a Christian.

Given the last several decades of political domination of Christianity by a coalition that described themselves as ‘the religious right’, it is hard to remember that there was a time in the 20th century when Christians were cool and spoke with a powerful, prophetic voice to the major issues of our day.

There was a time when Christians like Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Berrigan brothers, Thomas Merton, Paul Tillich, Dorothy Day, Henri Nouwen, Howard Thurman, Reinhold Niebuhr and John XXIII offered the basic framework for what Christianity meant to the world.

Yes, I’m sure Paul Tillich is exactly the name the man on the street came up with when asked in 1950, “who defines Christianity for you today?” And though I think I know American church history pretty well, I’d never heard of Howard Thurman. As for the rest, I doubt that Merton, Day, Nouwen or the Berrigans (except for their political grandstanding) were ever known by any but a small percentage even of the Christian population other than some Catholics. This is the liberal version of the supposed conservative desire to return to an earlier utopian age when Christianity was utterly dominant and all but a tiny handful of people didn’t identify with the church. Anyway, he continues:

In those days you could say you were a Christian and the above names might come to the mind of the listener—and they were cool; meaning relevant, compelling, edgy, and forward thinking.

The delusion runs deep in this one.

Sadly, that has not been true in recent history. And it has infected the American psyche so much so that when a stranger tells even me, a Christian pastor, that they are a Christian it puts me on edge. Imagine what it must do to a person of another faith or someone who don’t subscribe to any religion.

Me, I’ve never felt like I had to apologize for those people who have hijacked the name of Christ to baptize their political agendas, whether they be on the left or the right. I don’t know why Raushenbusch would feel this way, unless it’s that he’s less than secure in his faith and desperately needs others’ approval for what he believes.

The generic Christian profile that has emerged over these last decades has been someone who does not believe in the equality between men and women, degrades LGBT people, is opposed to science, especially in regards to evolution or climate change, is suspicious of people of other faiths and no faith, and is pro-militarism in foreign policy.

In other words, take media distortions of evangelicalism, put them in the worst possible terms, and then make clear that disagreement with the liberal left on political issues is what makes you a poor public model of a Christian. I don’t suppose it has ever occurred to Raushenbusch that part of the reason that “Christian” is now such a dirty word with so many people is that liberals like him have joined in the media’s demonization of those who refuse to toe the party line, all while descrying the “divisiveness” and “intolerance” of those with whom he disagrees.

In short, it has been a while since it has been cool to be Christian.

Another way to put this is, “it has been a while since the liberal elites have had a religious lapdog they could call their own.”

This week has been a particularly cool Christian week. To start with the amazing Pope Francis took advantage of his time in Rio for World Youth Day to make sure he visited the nearby favela (slum), a prison, and a drug addict center. While there, he continued his habit of speaking about the poor and inequality in a powerful, focused way that no world leader of any kind has for a long time:

Without taking anything away from Pope Francis, this is a splendid example of the liberal delusion that if you don’t buy into the total theological, sexual, and political agenda of the left, you don’t exist, and nothing you do or say matters. I don’t have the time or inclination to go through the countless evangelical and Catholic leaders who have done exactly what Raushenbusch claims “no world leader of any kind has for a long time” (we could start with Pope John Paul II–whose encyclical Centesimus Annus is the most powerful statement of Catholic social teaching in the last century–and Rick Warren–who has done more for gays and others afflicted with AIDS than Paul Raushenbusch could ever hope to do–to name just two). The point is that unless you do and say things just the way the religious left wants you to, you are dropped down the memory hole, and counted among the Neanderthals who hate gays and want poor people to drop dead in the streets.

The Pope was not the only world religious leader to make news this week on gay issues. On Friday, Archbishop Desmond Tutu rocked people’s mind when he said that he would rather go to hell than a homophobic heaven.

Yeah, blasphemy “rocks people’s minds” every time it comes out of the mouth of a supposedly Christian leader.

The icon of the anti-Apartheid movement made the comments at the launch of a United Nations gay rights program in South Africa:

“I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this. I am as passionate about this campaign as I ever was about apartheid. For me, it is at the same level.”

Really cool.

Right about now I can imagine Cheech Marin doing his best stoner, slurring out, “wow, man, he just gave God the finger, man! Really cool!”

But these are just the latest headlines that are bubbling up with cool Christians doing relevant compelling things. The United Church of Christ has voted to divest from fossil fuel companies, the Episcopal Church is headed by an amazing woman who is both a scientist and pastor and who is spearheading the conversation between science and religion;

Evangelicals are taking the lead on climate change, the American Bishops are lobbying for immigration reform, the Patriarch Bartholomew is known as the ‘Green Patriarch’ for his work on the environment, Christians are involved with innovative and crucial dialogue with people of other faiths and no faiths; and pastors and priests across the country and the world are ministering to broken people with love and compassion every day.

Christianity is cool again.

So apparently “cool” is defined in Christian terms as a combination of heresy, hipsterism, anti-humanist (and anti-science) environmentalism, pointless political gesturing, and, oh yeah, the kinds of things that Christian have done for 2000 in accordance with the commands of Scripture rather than of liberal preachers. (That would be that last item Raushenbusch mentioned, the one that goes completely under his radar unless you’re a goatee-sute, Birkenstock-wearing, Marx-quoting, Democrat-voting, heresy-embracing, UCC-ordained gay woman whose Bible has been reduced to Micah 6:8 and Matthew 25:31-45.)

Here is one case in point. On Gay Pride Sunday in New York I invited a couple of my colleagues to a church where a friend of mine is the pastor. They were having a ‘disco mass’ and I thought my friends might be intrigued enough to go. They were.

We had a great time at the church. My friends fell in love with the pastor whose style was relaxed and hip, and whose sermon was smart and compelling. They loved the community feel of the congregation, and they thought the ideas they heard there a good way to start gay pride.

Mind you, neither of them had been to church of their own volition—ever. And they may never go back to church. I really don’t care—they are wonderful, spiritual, and ethical people—I don’t need them to become Christian.

Because it is more important to feel good about yourself and whatever sin you commit than to repent and come to faith in Christ. It is more important to be a trendoid than give a second thought to ancient truth. It is more important to be liberal than Christian. It is more important to be “cool” than to be faithful to the Lord of the universe and Savior of humanity. You can put that on liberal Christianity’s tombstone:


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