Friday, September 18, 2009

Mark Tooley: See 4(b)

JERK
Pronunciation: \ˈjərk\
Function: noun
Etymology: probably alteration of yerk
Date: 1575
1 : a single quick motion of short duration
2 a : jolting, bouncing, or thrusting motions b : a tendency to produce spasmodic motions
3 a : an involuntary spasmodic muscular movement due to reflex action b plural : involuntary twitchings due to nervous excitement
4 a : an annoyingly stupid or foolish person b : an unlikable person; especially : one who is cruel, rude, or small-minded
5 : the pushing of a weight from shoulder height to a position overhead in weight lifting

Sometimes, people can give church renewal a bad name.

Since Mark wrote me a letter and addressed it "Dear Sky," I don't have any problems being a bit casual with my remarks. And since I cannot abide "liberals" or "conservatives" who take things out of context, here is his letter in its entirety:

September 18, 2009

Church Officials Start to Acknowledge
Persecution of Christians by Radical Islam

Dear Sky,

Would you believe that liberal church officials are actually starting to speak out about radical Islam and persecution of Christians?

Yes, it’s quite amazing, and good news certainly. The recent ravaging of two Pakistani Christian communities, resulting in scores of burned homes and 7 dead Christians, has sparked distress. A bishop from The Church of Pakistan also recently visited offices in New York for the National Council of Churches, the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries, and the Episcopal Church, igniting statements of concern from all.

The
statement by United Methodist West Ohio Bishop Bruce Ough, as president of Global Ministries, was especially good. Encourage him with a supportive email, thanking him.

And here’s
my article, quoting Bishop Ough and others.

This Pakistani bishop especially expressed alarm about his country’s Blasphemy Law, which makes illegal any criticism of Muhammad or the Koran. Angry Islamist mobs exploit the law to create rumors about Christians and then to attack them. Theocratic laws forbidding criticism of Islam are common throughout Muslim majority countries and are often aimed like a knife against vulnerable Christians and other religious minorities.

But typically, left-leaning church officials say nothing about persecution of Christians by Islamists. They prefer to think of Christianity, and the West, especially the U.S., as the persecutor, and Muslims everywhere as only victims. Liberal church officials often prefer apologizing for the Crusades of 1,000 years ago rather than recognizing today’s injustices. The outrages in Pakistan seem to have aroused some new concern. Let’s pray the Holy Spirit will water and grow this concern for persecuted Christians!

Of course, most of the Religious Left will remain silent about persecution of Christians, whether by Islamist or Marxist regimes. The Religious Left prefers its usual political themes, such as attacking capitalism as a cosmic threat to Planet Earth. A group of Presbyterian and Congregationalist theologians from around the world recently convened to issue their denunciation of free markets as the supposed tormentor of the poor.
Here’s my article.

Which has sustained more poverty in the world? Free markets and protection of private property, or state control and corruption of markets? Tens of millions of previously poor people in the Global South, especially in India and China, have escaped centuries of poverty and experienced relief thanks to the former. But the Religious Left prefers its own ideology, to reality and traditional Christian thought. Unfortunately, at least if you are a Mainline Protestant, the Religious is often funded by your donations to your local church!

Please continue to pray for our churches, for the persecuted church globally, for our country, and for IRD’s ministry of church reform. Your contribution allows IRD to report and to speak about what is happening in our churches. Your gift of $25 will help us continue. Please easily donate here.

With appreciation,


Mark Tooley
IRD President

It is a weird letter that at best congratulates leadership in a backhanded way while still labeling them and getting in the Talking Head-Like-Jab that seems to be so obligatory these days.

Rude: "Would you believe that liberal church officials are actually starting to speak out about radical Islam and persecution of Christians? Yes, it’s quite amazing, and good news certainly."

Small minded (and broad generalization): "But typically, left-leaning church officials say nothing about persecution of Christians by Islamists. They prefer to think of Christianity, and the West, especially the U.S., as the persecutor, and Muslims everywhere as only victims. Liberal church officials often prefer apologizing for the Crusades of 1,000 years ago rather than recognizing today’s injustices." What a liberal use of generalization, and right out of the Liberal's handbook at that!! Take Stephen King's advice about words like "typically": use adverbs sparingly. (A sense of humor helps too).

Sarcastic: "Of course, most of the Religious Left will remain silent about persecution of Christians, whether by Islamist or Marxist regimes. The Religious Left prefers its usual political themes, such as attacking capitalism as a cosmic threat to Planet Earth." Good grief, give that tired old jab of hyberbole a rest.

Pretty close to a lie: "But the Religious Left prefers its own ideology, to reality and traditional Christian thought. Unfortunately, at least if you are a Mainline Protestant, the Religious is often funded by your donations to your local church!" Just about anyone could refute several parts of that. Better learn some qualifiers, Mark, like "some" or even "most." The problem with generalizations is the same problem when you assume; it definitely makes an "ass" of "u" and "me," Plus, there's a comma splice in there too.

I tried being a liberal - and found it weak on doctrine and continuity of faith. I tried being a conservative - and found the same thing. This power struggle between Left and Right is becoming a game the United Methodist Church cannot afford to play anymore. More to the point: the people in the pews are getting tired of it, and are no longer impressed. We need less liberals and conservatives and more radicals, in the radicalness of Jesus.

Here's a generalization I'll make after attending four General Conferences, one of them as a delegate:

The Left: Lacks a lot on tradition and theological consistency. Bad technology geeks. Great meals and hospitality.
The Right: Holds (selectively) to tradition and theology. Great technology geeks. Bad food, and lacking in hospitality.

If you want to do the cause justice, Mark - encourage good behavior and validate it, rather than mock it. Your tactics have their place and work well for politics and rhetoric and CIA-type deception and propaganda... but I suspect they are suspect when it comes to the Kingdom of God. The ends never justify the means.

In short, Mark, if you want to make a difference, be kind. Be charitable. Don't be a clanging cymbal. Love is never rude or boastful. That goes for all you liberal lefties out there, too... as well as my own self; I know that I can be a jerk too.

God forgive me. And God forgive all of us for making His Kingdom an ideological playground.

Pax,
Sky+

9 comments:

Jay Voorhees said...

Yeah, I think Mark may not appreciate this.

David said...

Thank you. Now if there were only a viable third option for Left/Right like the Government...oh wait, we don't one there either. Go BULL-MOOSE!

The Tractarian said...

Wow! You have hit bull's eye in naming one of most glaring problems that occurs when our faith becomes completely co-opted for the sake our political postions: We become simply unable to rightly call good, "good." Our whole ability to make moral judgements becomes compromised to the point of being able to see good only in our allys and only evil in our opponents. One of the hardest ideas to digest, for me personally, is that should Jesus decide to show and talk politics with me, he may well condemn much of what I hold to.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post. But you never addressed the central point. UMC and Mainline/Oldline church officials have essentially ignored persecuted Christians for the last 40 years. Why? Shouldn't this be an issue on which conservatives, liberals and "radicals" can agree?

...Mark Tooley mtooley@theird.org

Sky McCracken said...

Mark:

I think it SHOULD be an issue. And most certainly persecution and other atrocities HAVE been ignored - by our government and by the Church alike. However, when our church officials DO act, your tone is less supportive and more of an attack. You robbed your central point of your article with a perceived need to jab at several places. I know that I'm not the first person to point this out.

Mark, in my opinion, you need to decide if you're going to be a politician or a prophet. A politician takes a political position - a prophet points out the truth, uncomfortable as it may be even to ourselves. The reality is that in the UMC, the Left and the Right (and any shades in between) have a lot to atone for. My beef with the Confessing Movement and IRD is that they seem to be "selectively" conservative and claim orthodoxy when it suits them. Conservative factions in the U.S. Church "have some 'splaining" to do, too. In the UMC, conservative factions love to quote Wesley when it comes to evangelical matters, but are strangely silent when it comes to matters sacramental. That's "selectively" Wesleyan, and to be truly Methodist, we are supposed to be Evangelical AND Sacramental. By not being evangelical, the Left has lost its fervor for conversion of souls. Without the sacramental, the Right has literally been starving its folks of grace. Wesley thought we should be both - and got labeled a Bible Moth and a Sacramentalist.

The "Left" and the "Right" strangely see being evangelical and sacramental as diametrically opposed - and that's just flat out wrong and revisionist. It fits American politics well though, with its need for "clean" delineations... which should tell us something: we need a divorce from the ways of American politics. Faith is hard and messy. And as the Tractarian says above - when we co-opt our faith for political positions, we lose our ability to call good "good" or bad "bad." We renders ourselves impotent without spiritual and theological integrity.

The fact that at the end of your response above that you don't put into quotes conservatives and liberals, but do put radical into quotes illustrates my point: you can't seem to bear to think in this way because you're conditioned not to. The Gospels are clear that Jesus was/is a radical, that the Cross was/is the ultimate political action, and that the truth will always be folly to those who insist on their own way instead of the truth.

Thanks for your response.

Pax,
Sky+

Anonymous said...

Dear Sky,

Unfortunately, when our denominational officials express the church's social witness, they merely echo secular demands for expanding the powers of the state in ways that supposedly will provide social justice. So, if you're not a statist, and are skeptical of the government's ability to construct utopia, there's not much to affirm in the UMC witness of the last 50 years. Some day, I pray, our church's officialdom will speak out for marriage and family, for the unborn, for the persecuted, for victims of addiction, and for ways that genuinely empower the poor.

As for the church being more sacramental, AMEN!!! You're probably right that many evangelicals have forgotten Wesley's heritage on that. But at least evangelicals otherwise strove to keep the essential Gospel message of salvation and new birth alive in the UMC, when the denominational structures otherwise surrendered to the asphyxiating theologies of 20th century liberalism.

As for being "radical," you'd have to explain your own views on that further. Often it's just a "third way" pose of moral smugness over and against supposedly spiritually inferior "liberals" and "conservatives." If by "radical," you're referring to the Yoder/Hauerwas perspective, then I really question how that form of neo-Mennonitism is relevant to Wesleyans!!!

...Mark

Sky McCracken said...

Evangelicals certainly helped combat 19th and 20th century liberalism... but sometimes at the expense of becoming antinomian to the point of heresy. I don't know that there is a "good" kind of heresy.

Being radical is to embrace having the mind of Christ, as Paul said, and not the mind/mentality of the world: we do...

"nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!" - from Philippians 2

It's not to be smug or spiritually superior, Mark - it's to be humble and be willing to serve. It's not the "third way" - it's the ONLY way. Do you not see how your tone even now is more about your particular "cause" and less about THE cause?

Pax,
Sky+

Sky McCracken said...

BTW Mark - thanks for your civil tongue and meaningful dialogue. It is a rarity and a blessing.

Sky+

johnmeunier said...

Love the dialogue in the comments. Thank you Sky and Mark.