The more I listen to those who speak in terms of “transforming the culture” and render blank stares when you have the audacity to ask just what that means before signing up for the seminar, the more I think that this has much less to do with any of the in-house buzzwords of us W2K folk or whatever array of -ism’s we may throw around and more simply to do with the notion on the part of the Household that true religion really is about making bad people good, good people better and changing the world.
By the response usually given when one begins to ask those pesky questions about the nature of and relationship between the two kingdoms, the nature of grace and sanctification, the nature and extent of sin, etc., it all seems easily whisked away by just coming back to the principle of betterment. The age of the therapeutic has translated true religion into that which is useful. Instead of something to be believed it is about how pragmatic the Gospel is. Talk about carts and horses. I know how to live according to law, but how does one live the gospel? For even more furrowed brows at no extra cost, while Christianity has a way of life resident within it, it is not a way of life. The funny thing is that I can sense heads nodding in agreement, but then the mouths attached to those same heads blurt out a sympathy for any host of cultural, social, moral or political agendas–all fairly comfortable with the idea that the gospel implies these things.
But is this really anything new? I don’t think so, but then again I have yet to be persuaded that there is really anything new under the sun. American religionists of all stripes are suckled on the idea that the project of true religion is to better things, from individuals to institutions. And to challenge that assumption is anathema.
Ecclesiastical totalitarianism? Yes, I think so.