The modern Liberal Christian, largely an invention of the last two centuries, tends to identify as broad thinking risk taker. One daring enough to embrace change/compromise and face up to the future without fear of repressive past. Yet I suspect the polar opposite is true- and that far from being risk takers most liberals actually seek comfort. Which is to say this group, so often rooted in the middle classes, yearn for conformity at all costs. The place at the supper party, the space within the respectable quarter. They want to go with the flow of the society around them.
Now I have met lovely liberal Christians and rather hostile and difficult ones. But what actually unites them all is not an ability to pioneer to new places. Rather it is the gift to fudge issues and bring everything into the arena of popular thinking. A hunger to be led by the world -to ever fit the zeitgeist. What a contrast this is to the Early Church where the first Christians dared, at great personal cost, to be different. Where followers of Jesus moved beyond the comfortable places to suffer in speaking truth to power.
But then Christianity gained power for itself and enjoyed the place at high table. Zeal was dampened and compromising Christian born. Leading to the wishy washy Christianity rife today. Where what is presented is not the full truth of the Gospel but a watered down version to offend and inspire nobody in equal measure. Where nothing too contentious must be said for fear of offending others. As if being nice and polite is the chief Christian virtue…as if the saints martyrs were somehow out of sync with what passes for faith today.
If you doubt that liberals love conformity then explain this. Why were there no voices clamouring for women priests before feminism became de rigour? Why no cry for “same sex marriage” (?!) prior to the rise of homosexual activism? Liberal Christianity loves to portray itself as cutting edge but time and again it is found -NOT going it alone in the driving seat- but following behind the world like a lap dog. What the secular thinker says today – the liberal Christian repeats tomorrow…
It is a major problem for the Church in the 21st Century where Liberal Christianity has come to have such a powerful voice. Where committed expressions of faith are dismissed as extreme and those teaching heretical notions are left undisturbed.
Yesterday, at a meeting I attended, Cardinal Burke spoke powerfully of the need for priests to live out their faith in prayer. To dare to be different and avoid the trap of becoming secularised. The same is surely true for laity. We live in extraordinary times and our faith is undeniably under attack. This is not easy. But understand that the answer will not be found in seeking popularity, conformity or comfort in this world.
It will be found in witnessing to Christ in a radical way. In daring to be Saintly in this world that has lost its faith. Whatever the answer -and we don’t have it yet- it cannot be found where conformity to Christ gives way to the popular culture.
And there in a nutshell is my beef with modern liberal Christianity. It’s intentions are often laudable but the methodology and conclusions flawed, skewed as they are to give precedent to the world and not to Christ. Let us never forget the role of the crowd within the passion narratives.