I live near Colorado Springs. Something that just happened here caught my attention.
In case this article disappears or goes into a paid archive or something like that, here’s the gist of it. A Presbyterian church, founded in 1872 (one year after Colorado Springs itself was) has voted to leave the national Presbyterian congregation and join a new startup.
Sunday’s vote was the culmination of 10 months of work by church leaders to distance themselves from the mainstream governing body of Presbyterian church in the United States, which voted in May 2011 to allow openly gay ministers to be ordained. Singleton cited several other scriptural reasons for the split and said that the move has been “coming for a long time.
In order for the vote to have effect, it had to pass by 80%. It passed. In essence the oldest, most prestigious Presbyterian church has overwhelmingly decided to split from the national organization over the ordination of gay ministers. Even though individual churches were still free to refuse to do so.
It turns out that at least eight other Presbyterian churches in Colorado Springs are following suit: Other congregations are staying, and they expect to get some increase in membership from the 20 percent or less of dissenters from those congregations that are leaving.
Now don’t get me wrong. I think a church should have a right to ordain whomever it wishes, and exclude what they wish. It’s freedom of association. (Admittedly I cannot imagine why a gay would want to be ordained in a faith whose guiding scripture disapproves of homosexuality–dare I say a homophobic faith–in the first place.) So I am not complaining about this action so much as interested in the dynamic here.
I see this as part of a wider trend. Christians are leaving “moderate” churches in droves. Sometimes en masse, in whole congregations. (Pun intended of course, what do you think I am?) This group of upstanding citizens has decided they don’t want gays ordained by their church–presumably because they believe that God does not want them to be. In other words, “moderate” Christianity is not satisfying people, and it’s not satisfying them in droves.
Why is that? Perhaps because at a fundamental level, it’s not as consistent as fundamentalism. Ultimately every Protestant sect claims the Bible as authoritative. It claims we got our morality from the Bible. But in order to be moderate, you have to pick and choose what parts of the Bible you will actually pay attention to. Which means your real source of morality, or decider of truth claims isn’t the Bible; you are judging pieces of it by some other criteria.
This is a fundamental contradiction in one’s thinking. The moderate professes to base his worldview on the Bible, yet he/she must disregard certain pieces of it. Many go through their lives without confronting this head on. Others find themselves facing it, and they have two alternatives: 1) ditch the Bible or 2) embrace it wholeheartedly. But since the Bible is the root of their faith, 1) usually loses. Unfortunately.
What we are seeing in this country is a growing population of atheists and other forms of non-belief or very vague “spiritualism” belief. And a growing number of fundamentalists. Both groups are growing at the expense of the moderates. America is polarizing on religious grounds.
We’ve seen it happen in politics; it will probably be nastier in religion because these issues are fundamental, more so than politics.
Contentious times ahead.