Though it’s hard to draw a line in the sand that definitively separates groups of Christians, it would hardly be a stretch to say that most types of Christianity in America right now exhibit elements of Christian apologetics and moderation. Many of the best-known Christian thinkers of our time are apologists who diligently try to reconcile the overtly outdated concepts contained in the Bible with our modern-day lives. Christian moderates are unique in that they flippantly convert the inerrant “word of God” into literary metaphor (in some cases ditching the relevance of entire books of the Bible). It’s a trait that’s enough to make a fundamentalist’s hair stand on-end, but it’s also one that affords the moderate a unique opportunity among their Christian brethren: to be tolerant.
Moderates bare no resemblance to the xenophobic Christians of yesteryear, they can open their church doors to homosexuals, vampires, pedophiles, atheists and those who eat shellfish without a shred of shame. This tolerance is a striking trend for many reasons—not the least of which is the Bible’s explicit condemnation of it. In particular the Bible is very clear about homosexuality and, as such, it will be the primary subject of this article.
By eschewing traditional Biblical notions of right and wrong, the moderates effectively burrow themselves into an impenetrable and unfalsifiable faith-based worldview that is at odds with the world at large and with Christianity itself. Worse still is that these beliefs are based on nothing in particular—not scriptural knowledge or empirical evidence. I can think of no better way to phrase the predicament than Sam Harris did in The End of Faith:
“Religious moderation is the product of secular knowledge and religious ignorance.”
Only the religious moderate is capable of being tolerant and accepting of alternative lifestyles like homosexuality without realizing that said lifestyles are blatant violations of the tenets of their Christian faith. Here’s what the Bible has to say about homosexuality and other “alternative lifestyles”:
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.“ 1 Corinthians 6:9-10
And that’s from the New Testament, so the moderate’s hackneyed response, “those rules no longer apply because of Jesus’ sacrifice” is not relevant here. And in case that verse weren’t damning enough, an earlier passage in the very same book tells Christians what their behavior should be towards those with alternative lifestyles:
“But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner – not even to eat with such a person…Therefore put away from yourselves the evil person.” 1 Corinthians 5:11-12
I’m no Bible scholar but that sounds an awful lot like not accepting homosexuals and other “immoral” persons into the church. And I’ll reemphasize that these passages come from the same book of the Bible—one needn’t spend months going through the Bible from cover to cover in order to have an informed scriptural position on their beliefs.
The plain and simple fact is that the Bible is exceedingly clear on homosexuality and other alternative lifestyles when they are mentioned. They are evil and expressly forbidden by the church. On top of that, welcoming these “evil persons” into the church is not morally excusable. However, as noted earlier, the modus operandi of moderate Christianity is to dismiss a verse as metaphor or throw it out completely when it’s convenient, so we shouldn’t expect scriptural arguments to hold much water with the modern-day, reformed Christian.
But hang on a minute, isn’t tolerance and acceptance from the church a good thing?
Perhaps if the church knew why it was promoting such a clearly secular value like broad tolerance and acceptance, we could forgive or even applaud taking steps away from Bronze Age scripture. Unfortunately, most moderate Christians have no idea that they are making concessions to modern-day, secular society. In fact, many of them are proud to lord their moral superiority over other people’s heads, not having realized they’ve borrowed from non-believers.
Moderate Christians, due to a lack of understanding of their own religion, are boldly proclaiming that God is not the central figure of moral authority in their lives, but that they themselves are. They are the ones who can correctly divide right from wrong, where no other Christian has been able to, and they alone possess the true knowledge of what is and isn’t divinely inspired writing within the Bible. Ironically, this is the same disposition they claim atheists have. The only difference is that the atheist is being intellectually honest about where their morals come from (themselves) whereas the moderate Christian is under the mistaken assumption that their morals are divinely inspired—and thus of greater value than their secular counterparts. The moderate Christian is actively changing their faith to conform to the external values of society, but the real kicker is that they aren’t educated enough to realize they’re doing it!
There’s nothing wrong with moderates accepting secular values, however the problem lies in the fact that they contribute their morality to the Christian God of Abraham without even the most basic understanding of the scriptures that describe such a God. The moderate Christian is deeply confused about the history of their own faith and the science regarding the natural emergence of morality. In fact, tolerance is an implicit admission that for hundreds of years the church has been…wrong. Using homosexuality as an example, it was only when the evidence for natural occurrence and against negative societal impact emerged that the church suddenly became “open” to it. But where are the verses in the Bible when Jesus says homosexuality is not a sin? When did God personally reveal this newfound wisdom to the church? The moderate will likely insist that these changes are a result of modeling their behavior after meek and mild Jesus, all the while conveniently forgetting verses like:
“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” Matthew 10:34
Or maybe that’s a metaphor too?
Again, the moderate has circumvented any real foundation (Biblical or otherwise) for the moral truth claim they are making. They’re masquerading subjective moral opinion as absolute, divinely revealed truth.
Now bear in mind, I’m not saying moderates are wrong—Christians should be open, tolerant and accepting—they just shouldn’t be Christian. Moderates don’t seem to realize that they’ve already kicked the tenets of their faith to the curb and are grasping at straws to even call themselves Christian in this day and age. If a modern-day, moderate Christian were put into a room with one of Jesus’ contemporaries, there would be no mistake as to who would appear the most devout and Christ-like. Most probably the moderate would be crucified as a heretic. In other words, the moderate is right for literally the worst possible reason—they’ve thrown logic and evidence out the window in favor of the sense of moral superiority that comes from being part of an ancient sociological “in” group.
Maybe if the moderate stopped to fully appreciate the secular values to which they already unwittingly subscribe, they might have some real reason for why they should be accepting of an alternative lifestyle like homosexuality. They might know, for example, that homosexuality indeed appears to be genetic, and has many scientific research studies to back it up1. They might know that homosexuality has often been observed in the animal kingdom amongst bonobos, dogs, orca whales and king penguins—to name a few. They might know that same-sex unions have been legalized in several countries like the Netherlands, Sweden, Spain, and Canada and that almost all of these countries, are ranked higher than the United States on the HDI (Human Development Index – a measure of standards of living, life expectancy, education and income indices)2. They might even know that children raised by same-sex couples are no worse off than their peers3. Unfortunately, the religious moderate doesn’t value secular knowledge, and therefore bases none of their behavior on it. The moderate has decided that nothing—not scripture, not data, not evidence—can be so important as clinging to a loose interpretation of what they personally and subjectively believe Christianity to be.
So even if the ultimate behavior of the moderate Christian is in line with well-established and morally valid precepts, we cannot condone the behavior because it is baseless. Here it becomes apparent why even a fundamentalist can be forgiven where a moderate cannot. At least the fundamentalist follows all the verses of the Bible. As Ned Flanders of The Simpsons humorously put it:
“I’ve done everything the Bible says! Even the stuff that contradicts the other stuff!”
Moderate Christianity is somewhere between an episode of Oprah and a self-help book. It’s a self-glorifying celebration of ignorance of the highest magnitude with an emphasis on feeling good rather than thinking critically. Ultimately that’s why moderate Christianity is so revolting. Sure, they may be more accepting and loving overall, but they’re replacing calculated condemnation with something that’s far more dangerous. Unbridled ignorance. For it’s only in the mind of a moderate Christian that one can find reasons for praise or condemnation with utterly no explanation for why such standards are warranted. The truth claims of moderate Christianity are so subjective and baseless that you’re not likely to find two people within the same church that can come to a perfect consensus on issues like abortion, gay marriage or apartheid, much less what happens to a soul after we die.
But worst of all is that moderate Christians don’t seem to realize that they’ve already stripped the religion they cling so steadfastly to of all of its authority. They’re waving war flags, but they don’t realize they’re white. All the concessions have already been made—secular society rules the morality of the modern-day Christian church—and it’s parishioners are like children playing in a sandbox in the middle of the Sahara Desert, unable to see that the things they value exist all around them—outside the confines of the church. It’s baffling, sad and unfortunately stunts the social progress of the country at large. The only solace to be taken is that moderate Christians are implicitly admitting that their beliefs are wrong every time they swing open their church doors for Sunday service.
2 List of countries’ performance on IDHI.
3 Same-sex couples make effective parents.