I am a pastor at one of many dying liberal churches. Liberal churches are those that affirm many paths up the mountain of God. We affirm that life itself is good and that we human beings are capable of great achievement and cooperation. Liberal churches operate with the belief that the future is full of possibilities and that through our hands and hearts, a better world is possible. One would think such a message, embodied in spiritual community, would be desired and embraced by the liberal worldview of this spiritual but secular city.
The irony is that it’s the conservative churches that thrive. The churches that grow are the ones where preachers proclaim we are a bunch of sinners in the hands of an angry god, one who will soon come down and fry our asses in eternal hellfire and damnation. It is churches that scare you with end-times rhetoric and create either-or moralities that motivate people to seek out a “power greater than themselves.” It is the hyper-masculine fascism of blowhard pastors such as Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church and Ken Hutcherson of Antioch Bible Church, in Kirkland, that fuels the fervor of those who seek acceptance in the eyes of a powerful God of holiness.
Years ago, after a descent into despair and drugs, I, too, found comfort and direction in such churches. In a way I still see them as useful. When a person is utterly out of control and in need of boundaries, conservative churches offer stability, sobriety and sanity. They do a good job of washing one’s toxic brain so that it can think again, beyond more than simply getting high. They do a good job of deleting
life’s complexity while offering a simple path, an alternative to critical thinking that requires acceptance of ambiguity. In other words, given the overwhelming stimuli of this world, conservative churches do a good job for overwhelmed people who are too afraid to assume responsibility for their own lives.
Liberal churches, in my opinion, are dying not because of their message, but rather my people are dying because they’ve lost a passion for caring. The only thing worse than Christian fascists are Christian liberals who know better but have given up. The plight of the liberal church is that we’ve given up believing that we are truly the hands and heart of a “power greater than ourselves.” We’ve given up on a future that is ours to shape and build, ours to dream, and yes, ours to fight for until dream becomes reality. We’ve gotten old and tired, lulled into sleep by material success, narcotized by media amusements and numbed by a world of horrors endlessly repeating.
Conservative churches thrive as they build upon a fascist mind-set that believes the “strong man” will save us. Liberal churches wither into hospice care, dying before the light they once held but now view as so dim; it no longer burns.
Pray for us.