Vital Signs

Be Fair to the Liberals

After some years of ecclesiastical combat (Episcopal battlefield), I think I know why so many conservative Christians do not respond to liberalism as strongly as one would expect. They think that liberals are just cheating: that they know the rules, but like spoiled and willful children have decided to play by rules they like better. Since they are just cheaters, they only need to be shamed into behaving, and if they won't be shamed into behaving, conservatives can try to change their church's rules and structures to prevent them from cheating anymore.

An evangelical friend recently told me that he wanted to tell Bishop John Spong and his allies, "O.K., fine. Believe what you want. But don't call yourself a Christian. You can't be a member of the club without paying some dues, and the most basic payment is to believe. Get in or get out, but stop muddying the waters." The Roman Catholic bishop of Omaha, Fabian Bruskewitz, is reported to have said that "the difference between a dissenting Catholic and a Protestant is that the Protestant has integrity."

This isn't really fair to most liberals. I'll admit, it is irritating when a man who has made quite a good living from his church declares his rejection of yet another of her doctrines and praises himself for his prophetic courage, while irreligious reporters applaud him and publishers strew book contracts at his feet. It is more...

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