I was an early adopter to Twitter and still use it on a daily basis. For the last several weeks, my feed has been occupied by modern day prophets who are elbowing their way into the evangelical conscience, pounding the keyboard about problems in the American church in 140 characters or less.
There are three predominant stories that loom large, first among those being the book Jesus and John Wayne by Kristin Kobes DuMez. If you haven’t read it, it’s an important analysis of patriarchy in the evangelical church over the past 70 years. DuMez’ goal is not just to expose the subtleties of patriarchy, she does a thorough job of linking conservative evangelicalism to the right wing of the American political spectrum. For those of us who grew up in predominantly white, middle class evangelicalism, it is a fair reporting of our history, not all of which is kind.
The second predominant voice I’ve come across is Mike Cosper’s Christianity Today podcast titled, The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill. Over multiple episodes, Cosper conducts interviews with people associated with and impacted by the pastoral leadership of Mark Driscoll. He tells the story of how Driscoll’s leadership created a spiritual movement in Seattle, and how ultimately that same leadership turned abusive and came crashing down, causing the same church to disband.
Third the is conversation surrounding the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee’s refusal to follow the instructions of the messengers to waive attorney client privilege in the face of hundreds of accusations of sexual abuse across the denomination. As of this writing, the Executive Committee continues to deny this request in the name of fiduciary responsibility to the denomination’s coffers.
On one hand, these stories and more like them have been labeled “failure porn,” because nothing garners clicks like good old fashioned dirty laundry aired for all to see. And while its easy enough to sympathize with those in the cross hairs of no holds barred investigative reporting, there’s something else important at work, that being the prophetic voices who are speaking truth to power on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves.
On the surface, we observers of these story lines are acutely tempted to pick sides with one side or the other, like children on the playground, and rally support in favor of one versus the other. Our knee-jerk reactions to these stories further division in the Church when we choose positions or personalities over the actual truth. But the truth, as Jesus said, will set you free. It may ruin your day first, but it will ultimately set you free indeed.
It has been said that we are as sick as our secrets. And if that is true, there is a lot of sickness in American religion. And it’s not just limited to conservative evangelicalism. There is but one remedy for what we see and read in social media and Christian websites. It’s found in James 5:16, which says, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”