Are Conservatives Assimilating Jesus into the Militarist, Consumerist, Macho Pop Culture of Late Modern America?
Over the past few months, I’ve noted a pattern:
We live in a context when Richard Land, who has served as president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission since 1988, can sensibly suggest that the war in Iraq is an example of “Christian love that seeks to accomplish the divinely ordained duty of the state: to punish and restrain evil and to protect and reward good.”
We live in a context when, according to a recent Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life survey, over 55% of white, Southern evangelical men can justify state sanctioned torture.
We live in a context when some members of the church attend worship services armed with hand guns, and a context where some churches are training and arming internal security forces or contracting out the security help.
We live in a context where conservative Christian commentators from Mark Driscoll to Albert Mohler have spilt much ink on the issue of manhood and the dangers of an overly feminized church.
Supporting war and torture, arming church goers with weapons, and harping on gender insecurity don’t strike me as representing the Way of Jesus insofar as we can discern from the Holy Bible.
But, apparently for many other believers, these are important issues around which they organize their effort and act in the name of Jesus. That so many Christians do this raises at least two questions that are worth probing:
As I see it, the predominant pop cultural context in which many conservative Christians live has overwhelmed many believers. Justification for actions like torture are not found by believers in the Bible. Rather, for many conservatives, “national security” or some other vague slogan like “the world is a dangerous place” justifies their daily actions of carrying weapons to church or supporting government torture. The pop cultural context provides many extra-biblical resources for constructing a way of life. In these instances, conservative Christians have latched on to those extra-biblical resources instead of holding firmly to the possibilities opened up by God’s great story and our role in it.
In turn, by holding to these extra-biblical resources and using them to define their everyday lives, many conservative Christian embody an insecure community of faith (enemies within (feminization of church)/enemies without (gun wielding hooligans, criminals and terrorists)) that seems rather quick to make war and use force against those deemed enemies.