29 April 2017
by Stephen Baskerville, Crisis Magazine:
From time to time, the church finds itself with egg on its face because of its failure to speak out in the face of grievous injustices. The Nazi episode, the Civil Rights movement in the United States and Apartheid in South Africa—in each case the church (or at least large parts of it) tried to avert its eyes from evil and resisted facing the truth. “The church” of course is not monolithic, and the heroism of a few could redeem the diffidence and indifference of the many. (And I am using “the church” here to mean the collectivity of Christian denominations, not any one.) But the fact remains that the few faced enormous opposition and resistance even and sometimes especially when they tried to open the eyes of their fellow believers. As Martin Luther King used to say, “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.”
It is all very well to recall that the church consists of fallible sinners, but if the Christian church does not reveal to its people any moral insight above others in the face of severe injustice and evil, what claim does it have to be set apart?
The Newest Challenge
We may now be finding the answer to that question, for the church’s present abdication may exceed all others. For all the evils of political movements like Nazism, as well as institutions like segregation and Apartheid, they all acted out of agendas outside the immediate purview of the church itself.
But today the church faces a new and more existential crisis. The threat once again is political ideology, and historically it grew out of socialism and communism and bears many affinities with them. But the new ideology strikes at the heart of the church itself and directly confronts its core mission. While it involves social and political issues that convulse the wider secular society, it also directly attacks and perverts the ministry of the church, specifically marriage, and attempts not merely to neutralize but to usurp the church’s own essential domain of sexual morality. This is not an external evil that the church fails to confront. Like AIDS, it attacks the church’s own defenses and undermines its strength from within.