The Answer, Fleming Rutledge, Is Blowing (in Part) in the Lectionary

This interesting exchange between Danté Stewart and the well-known Episcopal theologian Fleming Rutledge appeared in my Twitter feed:

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It’s not a simple subject to unpack but it’s not as hard to understand as Rutledge thinks it is.

First, no matter how you try to make it happen the New Testament doesn’t really advocate changing, let alone overthrowing, the existing social order.  As John McKenzie pointed out in The Power and the Wisdom, “…if any image represents the encounter of Church and state, it is the image of Jesus before Pilate.”  Although it’s a stretch to say that the Roman Empire ruled for so long bereft of the consent of the governed, it’s also true that it did not have the “democratic” means to effect change in a peaceful fashion the way we take for granted.  Those democratic institutions–imperiled by our current political situation–are a necessary prerequisites for the kind of change that is generally advocated by the SJW’s.  The New Testament moved in a world where such change was effected by armed revolt, as the Jews disastrously tried two score after Our Lord’s death and resurrection.  That’s still true in many parts of the world today.

Second, when white Southern evangelicals had much less education than they do now, they pushed through some pretty populistic, anti-moneyed establishment things which we, with our venal political system, would struggle to replicate today.  I discuss that in my piece on Elizabeth Warren (a product of that culture) and won’t repeat that analysis here.  A major reason why Southern Evangelicals have gotten away from this or any other “social gospel” is that they’ve shifted to a more aspirational mode of life, and if there’s anything people on the left hate, it’s being aspirational.

Third, there’s always the natural enmity of the secular left to Christianity, one that goes back to the Enlightenment and the French Revolution.  That’s one which is hard to get away from no matter how Christians view the situation.  I discuss some of that in a European context in my review of Daniel-Rops’ A Fight for God.

My last point, however, is that the difference between what parts of the Bible Evangelicals and others are fed in church.  Evangelical pastors can pick and choose the parts of the Scripture they want to for their sermons, and they know their audiences better than most of us care to admit.  Growing up as an Episcopalian, I was presented (esp. in the Sundays after Trinity) with some pretty challenging stuff, as I document in my pieces on ordinary time and my “return” to my home church, Bethesda-by-the-Sea.  That will raise your consciousness on what the Gospel really means when lived out as our Founder intended it to be lived.

The problem with that consciousness raising, at least for me, is that it became soon apparent that the Episcopal Church, with its elevated demographics (and largely white ones too) was inherently unsuited to be the engine of social change.  So I took my leave.  There is no substitute for personal action.  At this point it’s nice to point out literature to people, but really, if you can’t manage to sell all or shut up, the least you can do is quit your job.

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