Thursday, March 4, 2010

'that's how people become liberals'

I hear this phrase all about the place. Sometimes on the lips of evangelical leaders. uUsually people become liberals by disagreeing with whatever point the leader is talking about. Does anyone know of any research on this? What factors contribute to evangelical beleivers becoming liberal beleivers?

I haven't done the research, but the anecdotal evidence I've seen has more to do with behaviour than ideas. That is , the person becomes a christian through evangelicals, but then finds the behaviour of evangelicals, even evangelical leadersdoesn't fit with the gospel they are proclaiming. Without the resources or opportunity to critique that behaviour and still consider themselves evangelical, they go looking elsewhere.

To me this implies that, if I want my congregation to be protected from liberalism, the best strategy isn't to beat them into submission on every point. Rather it is to preach Jesus as the centre of beleif and make myself open to critique, opposition, even rebuke from my congregation members.

Again, has anyone seen any research on this?

1 comment:

Irith said...

Interesting question Mike. I think your strategy for preserving your flock in the fold of evangelicalism is a good one, though one that is rarely attempted....I think another reason for the drift to liberalism from evangelical roots is simple maturity. Evangelicalism and its less palatable cousin, fundamentalism, tend to present simplistic answers to life's complexities. While I think that Jesus has his own simple approach to life (e.g.'do unto others as you would have them do unto you') the evangelical tendency is to shy away from Jesus' simple and challenging exhortations and resort to dogma. The more I read the bible the less it fits neatly into the evangelical political agenda, throw away lines such as 'some men are born eunuchs' never seem to get an airing in discussions about the sinfulness or otherwise of homosexuality. I grew up with the 'turn or burn' message of the evangelical gospel, I guess I just don't see how that's particularly good news actually. Jesus said 'the harvest is ready but the workers are few'. There are plenty of people looking to be led into the liberation and salvation of Christ, but we don't like having to get alongside them. We don't like getting our hands dirty, we don't like the awkwardness of opening our lives to the needy and the outcast. There are plenty of people already hearing the call of God's Spirit towards reconciliation, but we are more interested in whether or not they've 'converted' than walking beside them and helping them to hear the call of God in their lives. I remember once hearing a regional bishop say that when he arrived at his diocese he brought with him the evangelical view of 'winning souls for Christ'. Over the years he moved away from that and felt his role was more as a chaplain to the whole community, churched and unchurched, and he wanted to encourage everyone in discovering the love of God and the call of God in their lives. I think I know what he meant. I'm hoping this is pertinent to your points! (I'd love you to be my pastor Mike... :-) )