Friday, December 22, 2006

They Will Know We Are Christians by Our Acrimony

Here is a local editorial from The Falls Church News that describes a little bit of what it has been like for the neighbors of The Falls Church in the city named for the parish.

One gets the impression that the parish's neighbors are disappointed that they are leaving the Episcopal Church--and not their town!

The Falls Church Episcopal Church is now front page news all over the world for its vote, announced Sunday, to formally defect from the Episcopal denomination. But the 10,500 folks in the tiny City of Falls Church have had the Falls Church Episcopal -- with its membership drawn from the wider region almost a third the size of their whole town -- not only in their midst, but “in their faces” for much of the last 20 years since the church took a decidedly right-wing turn.
I notice in their description that the parish took two of interrelated turns to get to their current situation.

It is one thing to be evangelical in both theology and outlook but the first turn they made was towards a style of personal pietism-with-attitude.

The other turn was political. They linked up their personal piety-with-attitude with a political ideology that is equally self-righteous and self-centered. This is what happens when people with power, money and influence see themselves as a beleaguered minority on a religious crusade.

Surprise! The folks at The Falls Church are being true to their roots! It's just that their roots are no longer Anglican in any way shape or form--no matter how they dress or what liturgy they use. Their roots are thoroughly and completely American with a peculiarly American mix of piety, individualism, and politics.

The real lesson of the editorial is that how we witness to Christ in public is very, very important. The ministry of this parish has perpetuated the impression that to be Christian is to be small minded and obnoxious. In their wake, when their neighbors see Christians coming, they run. If the choice between faith and no-faith is the choice between arrogance and compassion, guess what most people will choose. It is no wonder that more and more people tell us that they think of themselves as "spiritual" but not "religious." If these folks have been my neighbor--and they have been, but they weren't Episcopalian--I'd be allergic to religion, too.

This is what happens when you choose to become a poster-child for the IRD, you stop being the icon of Christ.

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