August 9, 2007

Future of Christianity Depends on Moderate Christians

Jesus is considered by scholars such as Weber ...
Jesus is considered by scholars such as Weber to be an example of a charismatic religious leader. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The future of Christianity in the United States depends far more on those Christians who would describe themselves as "moderate," "progressive," or "liberal" than on the fundamentalists who have been championing the merging of religion and government. So far, many moderates have been content to ignore the fundamentalists. However, this must change if they want a form of Christianity they will recognize to endure.

As Austin Cline suggests, an important task for moderate Christians involves shifting their energy from attacks on the secular community to the fundamentalists who give their religion such a bad name.

Christians and religious believers should spend more time dealing with believers they think are giving them a bad name than with generalizations from atheists. Which is ultimately causing more harm: generalizations made by a few atheist bloggers, or the incessant privileging of religion, religious beliefs, and religious believers?
It is understandable that moderate Christians resent being lumped into the same group as the fundamentalists. They are different, and they want these differences to be recognized. The question to ask, however, is what they are doing to draw attention to these differences. The task of opposing Christian extremism should not fall to atheists alone but should be a high priority for all moderate Christians. The longer they remain silent, refusing to vocally oppose Christian fundamentalism, the more complicit they become in maintaining it. As Cline explains,
When other members of a privileged class — the ones who insist that they "aren't like that" — expend more resources and worry over the former [atheists lumping them in with fundamentalists] than the latter [fundamentalists], then they are tacitly abetting and complicit in the harm being caused. Atheist generalizations about Christians or religious theists do not lead to any religious believers being excluded from power, being denied equality, or being forced into a second-class status. Those generalizations, even if empirically incorrect, do provide strong rhetorical force behind arguments about how insidious, unjust, and indecent religious and Christians privileges really are as well as the criticism that religious theism itself is empirically and logically unjustified.
If moderate Christians remain silent and allow Christianity to be taken over by fundamentalists, Christianity will continue to morph into something with less and less relevance for the modern world until it eventually goes the way of all previous religious mythologies. While the end of religion is something you and I might welcome, I do worry that our world may not be able to survive the rising tide of religious fundamentalism as the fundamentalists become increasingly desperate. But I guess that is up to the religious moderates too.

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