Matthew Lee Anderson has published over on Medium a transcription of a great little talk he gave recently at the Evangelical Theological Society. [Aside: I cringe every time I see good authors publishing stuff at Medium… it’s not hard to own your own words on a site of your own, come on, folks!]
Anderson makes the point that, as much as anything, it’s evangelicals’ attitude that needs to change – an approach that Andrew Wilson, picking up from Anderson and riffing off Rod Dreher, describes as The Taylor Swift Option:
[T]he conservative evangelical political witness has been fueled by a narrative of decline and of its own precarious position in the world. This narrative, that to be an evangelical means to be an embattled minority fighting the dark forces of an oppressive secularism lurking in every public school and in every corner of Hollywood, empowered evangelicals to be adept users of the grievance politics we are now so familiar with from other communities…
Every response by evangelicals to contemporary events happens against this backdrop, whether we like it or not, or were responsible for it or not. Regardless of our intentions, our denunciations of the spirit of our age invariably take on the atmosphere of fear, anxiety, and resentment that has suffused evangelicalism’s political life for the past 30 years. The first task, then, is to purge ourselves of such affections and passions and establish the evangelical political witness on a new foundation. Such fear and resentment cannot be simply verbally repudiated; they must be expunged, rooted out and replaced by a hope that is less spoken of directly and more felt, a hope that we do not name but that permeates and suffuses our response to culture war conflicts. Such good cheer must be hearty, for Christ hath made our hearts glad—and he is waiting for our political discourse to someday catch up.
Second, with this gladness I would commend a deflationary attitude toward those grand narratives of decline and to the day-to-day disputes and dramas that we think embody them. If the West is dying….so? If we are all going to be bigots, well, we might as well get on with it and become likeable bigots. If “marginalization” or “dhimmitude” are the new form of persecution, I for one will happily take it over many of the alternatives. The sooner we turn such instruments of stigma into pieces of art, the sooner we will begin actually resisting the very ideology we claim to be. As the prophet Taylor Swift hath said unto us, “haters gonna hate, hate, hate….you just gotta shake, shake, shake…”
I’m not much for claiming the evangelical label myself these days, but I think Matt’s put his finger on changes that have to be made if the evangelical church is ever to regain its witness in America.
I’m reminded of the subtle dig thrown by Metropolitan Tikhon Mollard in the statement from the Orthodox church after the Obergefell ruling back in 2015. His opening paragraph:
The recent ruling by the US Supreme Court on the legality of “same-sex marriages” has received much press coverage and has already caused some consternation about its implications and ramifications. But we Orthodox Christians must rest assured that the teaching of our Holy Church on the Mystery of Marriage remains the same as it has been for millennia.
“Eh, what’s that, a “recent ruling”? The church has been around for millennia. We’ll survive this. ”
Regardless of your feelings about Obergefell, this is the sort of attitude the evangelical church should be taking more often.
Now if I could just get that Taylor Swift song out of my head…