What can American Churches do to help?

I have been severely disappointed in Christian leadership for many years. The failure of most American Churches to fight for the preservation of beauty and justice, or even to acknowledge and condemn blatantly obvious evils, is disgusting. My feelings of disappointment have given way to a slowly churning nausea. Because this sickness is obvious, in that others can tell I am constantly on the verge of vomiting, I have been asked, by a pastor, ‘What would you like us to do, if you had it your way?’ With the caveat that laity should not have the burden of this question placed on them, I have worked out some general points.

  1. Churches must recognize, publicly condemn and fight against the disgusting and destructive nature of contemporary American culture, exemplified by the following.
    1. A pervasive, generalized sense of moral entitlement to believe whatever we want. “I have my beliefs, you have yours.”
    2. A pervasive, generalized sense of moral entitlement to enjoy, take pleasure in, or value whatever we want. “I have my tastes, you have yours.”
    3. A sense that our private lives are somehow divorced from our public lives, paired with the belief that, so long as we do not directly harm people in our public lives, then our moral character is at most trivially flawed and beyond significant moral criticism.
    4. An obsession with material utility, and no sense or ability to even conceive of the intrinsic value, beauty and goodness of objects external to ourselves…
      1. …leading to a narrow-minded anti-intellectualism, and inability to understand our intellectual limitations.
      2. …leading to lives stripped of beauty.
      3. …leading to lifestyles and worldviews which are centered on the individual and what is perceived to be their personal success.
    5. A prioritization of personal and psychological comfort over goods external to ourselves.
    6. A prioritization of relationships between family and friends over other concerns.
  2. Churches must also recognize, publicly condemn and fight against the vices particular to Christian American culture, exemplified by the following:
    1. A pervasive, generalized sense of persecution, involving willful ignorance of the fact that white Christians have had, and still have, an enormous amount of power in the U.S., and have themselves been major sources of persecution.
    2. The belief that God is only concerned with our individual salvation, and will forgive and thereby save us just in virtue of our believing or saying the right things (see also 1.d).
      1. …leading to a narrow-minded anti-intellectualism, and inability to understand our intellectual limitations.
      2. …leading to lives stripped of beauty, exemplified especially in the architecture as well as the style of worship in evangelical Churches.
      3. …leading to lifestyles and worldviews which are centered on the individual and what is perceived to be their personal success, exemplified especially in the commodification of worship and salvation in evangelical Churches and ideology.
    3. An anti-historical, anti-theological bent.
    4. A sense of moral entitlement to the pulpit, consisting in a sense that unlearned, unvetted and autonomous (i.e. unaccountable) would-be preachers have every (moral) right to seek pastoral positions.
  3. Churches must condemn the outrageous acts of police brutality, especially Trump’s use of rubber bullets and tear-gas against peaceful protesters in front of St. John’s Church.
  4. Churches must actively, and sometimes publicly, condemn expressions of support for governmental violence directed against civilians.
  5. Churches must actively, and sometimes publicly, condemn racist, classist, and homophobic remarks and actions among their congregants and those under their jurisdiction. Churches must recognize white-supremacy as a harmful doctrine, perhaps even approaching heresy.
  6. Churches must actively, and sometimes publicly, condemn expressions of right-wing, partisan attacks against left-leaning congregants, and vice-versa. Clergy must actively seek to reconcile their laity to one another. (By partisan attacks, I mean rhetoric which demonizes or attempts to delegitimize someone’s views without actually engaging in argument; I have in mind sophistic arguments. Obviously, discernment will need to be practiced here, and moral criticism cannot be taken as personal-attacks (see 1.c). Still, it should be possible for Church leaders to publicly reprimand their congregants for attacking one another in bad faith.)
  7. Churches must emphasize and teach their congregants about the multi-cultural and multi-ethnic nature of Christianity.
  8. Churches must actively and publicly use their academic and financial resources to support research into and dissemination of Church History, Historical Theology, Philosophy, the liberal arts, and sciences, especially insofar as they will aid in addressing points (1-2). That is, Churches in America, particularly Churches which function as institutions, have a duty to become centers of and advocates for culture and education, and to act as preservers of not only abstract theological traditions and practices, but of the cultural and intellectual backdrops which shape them. This vocation of the Church should not be limited to within the Church, but extended to as many people as possible.

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