Writing in the OC Register, Joel Kotkin makes the case for continued social and political activity by the religious simply to preserve the most basic of things – the family. He presents an extended demographic argument – one I have seen somewhere before. Kotkin urges cooperation with family friendly liberals and says:
Yet celebrating singleness and unmarried families is not progressive in the sense of how it effects children. Broken families are associated with every kind of social dysfunction, from criminality to poverty and mental illness. Human beings, particularly children, Sigmund Freud noted, need a sense that they matter more to their parents than others; substituting “social” values for familial ones does not make up for the need for the love that comes naturally to parents. “A love that does not discriminate,” he wrote, “seems to me to forfeit a part of its value, by doing an injustice to its object.”
Agreed, but it is his prescription for the faithful that I find fascinating:
In the next few years, social conservatives need to engage, but in ways that transcend doctrinal concerns about homosexuality, or even abortion.
Transcend!? Doctrine?! I can hear so many of my friends simply aghast at the suggestion.
But here is the thing, Protestantism as it now stands in the US today has really been reduced to two things – doctrine, for those that are right-leaning, “help the needy,” for the left-leaners and a little of both for the middle. It is not that either of those things is bad, it is simply that Christianity is about so much more than simply holding the correct set of beliefs or helping those less fortunate than us. Jesus promised abundant life. I am not entirely sure what the “abundant life” is, but I do know it is about more than just holding the correct doctrine. The promise of Christianity is a promise of transformation, not simply kind acts from time-to-time.
It is interesting that Kotkin begins his piece with passive dismissal, without naming names, of Dreher’s “Benedict Option.” I agree with Kotkin that a monastic withdrawal is not the answer, but I also agree with Dreher that the church has to recapture a far more complete vision of what it really means to be Christians and be the church.
Some have noted the church will survive America as it survived Rome, and the countless empires that followed – so why fight for America? I have no doubt that the church will survive, but the church was not meant for survival and rebuilding. The church was meant to be the instrument that God uses to recreate the world. At some point we have to quite tearing it down and starting over and begin to build on the foundation we have. Even if that means fixing the foundation while we also start the structure. That’s why we fight for America – it is the foundation we have, and it has been the best that history has delivered.
The New Testament is replete with passages that try to describe the many and various “gifts” that Christians have. Such passages have been the subject of debate for centuries – and all such debate misses the meta-point. The church, because it is God’s church, is big enough for all of it. We are hampered not by the world, but by our own limited vision and the rapidity with which we debate with the other limited vision rather than engage with the world – on ALL levels.