Thursday, May 03, 2007

Strange Bedfellows

As a confessional Lutheran, I tend to think of things as a confessional Lutheran would. One principle I espouse is the dual kingdom principle: There simultaneously exist a spiritual (right hand) kingdom, and an earthly (left hand) kingdom. I live in both, and therefore have to deal with the tenets of both.

This dual kingdom principle came to mind as I was considering earthly topics, namely modern Christianity (as evidenced by church growth principles) and politics. Church growth, when you look at its intent, is a secular concept. Today’s politics are also secular. In their separate evolutions, they both lost their focus on the individual, and now focus on the ongoing stability and growth of the organization.

Both of these operations exist in two “kingdoms”. One kingdom is the kingdom of principle, the one that caused the genesis of each operation. The other kingdom is the kingdom of consumerism, succinctly defined by the mantra, “The customer is always right”.

Can modern Christianity and politics successfully exist in these two planes? I don’t think so. In Christianity, doctrine is watered down to become acceptable to the consumer. This can only lead to a less educated “consumer” who either never has, or regresses in, the knowledge and doctrine behind their beliefs. In other words, the following generations of Christians will have less knowledge of the basis of their faith, and therefore, less ability to defend it. They will be more fervent in their unsubstantiated personal belief, because consumerism focuses on emotion and not on fact or belief, but when push comes to shove, they will not have the response or the gumption to defend their faith.

In politics, we are seeing the impact of consumerism now. The 2008 presidential campaign cycle is in full swing, with hundreds of millions of dollars exchanging hands without a viable exchange of ideas. Those citizens who cannot monetarily contribute, and those superior candidates that cannot raise the funds, are left out of the game…the most important secular game in the U.S. The “consumers” are redefined as those who contribute, not as those that are eligible voting citizens.

Both operations need to stop balancing the two kingdoms, and return solely to their kingdoms of principle. As long as we put any effort towards focusing on what the customer wants, we will always disdain principle and chase the almighty dollar instead.


Dana said...

I agree completely. There is an excellent book I haven't quite finished reading called "The Market Driven Church." If you have some time, you should check it out.

Rick said...

Hi Dana,

Thanks for the recommendation. I am getting the book; it should be an interesting read.

Scott said...

Indeed. A friend of mine suggests that the modern pop-Christian church-growth stuff has roots in Marxism....He hasn't fleshed out the argument, but Hegel's concept of history (from which Marxism is derived) is teleological, ie the ends justify the means, and what means need to be used to attain the ends are fine. For an example, see the current hypocrisy in the application of "Free Speech." Not everyone gets free speech. The oppressed do, in order to fight the oppressor. The latter has no free speech. (Imus?)

Interesting to think about.