Liberal churches are morphing into self-parody

By Jonathon Van Maren

In Chapter 8 of my 2016 book The Culture War—“Who Killed Religious Freedom?”—I described how the Sexual Revolution succeeded, in part, due to assistance from liberal churches that were either willing to offload unpopular theological teachings in exchange for social acceptance, or thoroughly infiltrated by those who wished to use the gravitas of religious institutions to further their agenda:

Liberal churches, on the other hand, served as convenient collaborators for the gay liberation movement. Just as the abortion activists in both Canada and the United States had targeted pseudo-Christian churches that had long repudiated anything resembling orthodoxy to gain support for their abortion-legalization campaigns, Kirk and Madsen detailed how the support of churches was essential for their campaigns, as well. If the gay liberation activists could convince liberal denominations to support their cause and erode the resolve of weak-kneed churches through massive cultural pressure, they could utilize such endorsements to claim moral legitimacy for their cause.

As liberal churches began to permit same-sex relationships, take steps towards the ordination of gay clergy, and make approving noises concerning gay marriage, gay activists were able to send a loud message to a culture that was awaiting the Christian response. They could effectively push to the fringe orthodox Christian denominations who held to 2,000 years of Christian teaching on sexuality, while declaring that the liberal denominations, (those who endorsed love in all its forms,) were the true representatives of Christianity in the West. That is why orthodox Christians who despise homophobia have found themselves consistently lumped in with the hatemongering Westboro Baptists—because the gay liberation movement has, through the careful cultivation of alliances with post-Christian churches, redefined for many in the culture at large what it means to be a Christian. Adhering to orthodoxy is no longer important, they say. Not judging the actions of your neighbors, however, is paramount: Judge not, except when you are judging those you find judgemental.

Well, if you’d like to get a sense of where those churches are heading now, the answer is into self-parody—and I’m not even talking about the atheist pastors of the United Church of Canada. Their American counterparts have decided that some fundamental changes are necessary going forward. From LifeSiteNews:

The Episcopal church in the Diocese of Washington, D.C., passed a resolution last week to stop using masculine pronouns for God in future updates to its Book of Common Prayer. The resolution to stop using “gendered language for God” was passed quickly by delegates to the Diocese’s 123rd Convention.  

“If revision of the Book of Common Prayer is authorized, to utilize expansive language for God from the rich sources of feminine, masculine, and non-binary imagery for God found in Scripture and tradition and, when possible, to avoid the use of gendered pronouns for God,” the resolution stated. 

“Over the centuries our language and our understanding of God has continued to change and adapt,” the drafters of the resolution stated. The drafters said that referring to God using masculine pronouns is to “limit our understanding of God.” 

“By expanding our language for God, we will expand our image of God and the nature of God,” they stated. But Clergy delegate The Rev. Linda R. Calkins from St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in Laytonsville, Maryland, challenged the delegates to go further. 

Calkins read from Genesis Chapter 17, in which God tells Abraham “I am El Shaddai.” She said that if Episcopalians “are going to be true to what El Shaddai means, it means God with breasts.”

“Having studied much feminist theology in my masters’ degrees, I wrote a thesis on liberation and freedom and non-equality in feminist theology and existential counseling,” Calkins told the delegates, as reported by The Institute On Religion & Democracy.

“And I am still waiting for the Episcopal Church to come to the place where all people feel that they can speak God’s name. Many, many women that I have spoken with over my past almost 20 years in ordained ministry have felt that they could not be a part of any church because of the male image of God that is systemic and that is sustained throughout our liturgies. Many of us are waiting and need to hear God in our language, in our words and in our pronouns,” she added. 

It’s funny, in a depressing sort of way, that these people aren’t even trying to hide the fact that they desire a god made in their own image, rather than the other way around. They’re not even trying to pretend that they see the past two thousand years of Christianity as anything but a problematic history to be overcome. One leading Anglican raised some hackles in the Church of England recently, for example, by suggesting that Christians “pray the gay” into young Prince George. From LifeSiteNews:

A leading Anglican has urged British Christians to pray that four-year-old Prince George becomes a homosexual.

The Very Reverend Kelvin Holdsworth posted a prayer request on his blog, hoping that if Prince George became homosexual then the Church of England might officially recognize same-sex “marriage.”

The provost of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Glasgow proposes “How to change the Church of England” would be to intercede “for the Lord to bless Prince George with a love, when he grows up, of a fine young gentleman.”

Holdsworth even advocates that people openly pray “in public if they dare” for Prince George to be same-sex attracted.

“A royal wedding might sort things out remarkably easily though we might have to wait 25 years for that to happen,” Holdsworth hoped.  “Who knows whether that might be sooner than things might work out by other means?”

“To use prayer as a mechanism for wishing this on Prince George is an unkind and destructive thing to do,” former royal chaplain to the Queen Rev. Gavin Ashenden told BBC News.  “It doesn’t have the prince’s best interests at heart, but uses him as a gender-political football to please 1.7% of the population.”

“What is especially odd and incongruous is the fact that it is suddenly OK to pray for someone to be gay, but totally unacceptable to pray for them to be free from being gay and to resume a sexuality that was in tune with their biology,” Rev. Ashenden, a Christian Episcopal Church missionary bishop, added.  “This seems not only contradictory but hypocritical.”

Back in the day, churches were more into encouraging virtue and less into virtue-signalling, but that was then and this is now. As Peter Hitchens has sarcastically remarked, soon the only marriage the Church of England will be interested in is the lesbian wedding of the Archbisop of Canterbury to the Archbishop of York. And it is for precisely this reason that liberal churches are emptying out, while—to the shock of progressives—it is conservative churches that are remaining steady.

After all, Christianity has weathered heretics before, although it must be granted that they were less ridiculous in the past. It will do so again.

For anyone interested, my book on The Culture War, which analyzes the journey our culture has taken from the way it was to the way it is and examines the Sexual Revolution, hook-up culture, the rise of the porn plague, abortion, commodity culture, euthanasia, and the gay rights movement, is available for sale here.

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