This town I have come to call home has by turns been known for militant puritanism and opportunistic paganism. Rational understandings of how the spiritual world might interact with the physical don’t seem to get much traction here.
The urban renewal witchcraft tourism has brought to this Puritan mecca, has attracted in its third wave a critical mass of well-educated young professionals. Those well-educated professionals are in turn attracting megachurch satellite campuses.
Last night, I found myself at one of these upstarts’ outreach events: “Theology on Tap.”
It’s an increasingly common ecclesiastical activity: encouraging theological discussion in non-ecclesiastical surroundings.
This “Theology on Tap” – addressing the theme, “War: What is it good for?” – was held in the upstairs function room of a local restaurant. There was a projector and screen. Cocktail waitresses took our orders: mainly tea or Guinness. At the end, as we passed in our evaluation forms, someone noted how Christian we all had been; no one had even copied answers for the eval. Not sure why we couldn’t have been in the fellowship hall; the beer would have been cheaper.
It was certainly the most Christian event I’d attended in a decade, and I’ve been a semi-regular churchgoer in that time.
Sans woman pastor and beer, it’s an evening I could have imagined participating in a decade ago in my past life as a preacher’s kid. This time was less painful, though. I had more resources and perspective.
“What is the Christian view on war? :: “What is Christian?”
“Pacifism is not realistic.” :: “Is it biblical?”
“Shouldn’t Christians wage war on immorality/injustice?” :: “Without a Holy Roman Empire or chosen nation status, by what means can Christians wage war?”
What became clear to me is that there is indeed a “Christian” worldview which has a particular culture of security and temperance as its locus, more so than scriptural fidelity. The more “Christian” responses to war were rational and realistic, taking liberty with scripture as security and modern morals necessitated. The more radical views were literal and idealistic readings of the biblical narrative (privileging a mythical interpretation of the by all accounts bloody Old Testament).
I’m pretty sure Salem’s third wave is not going to be driven by a Christian world view. But a radical adoption of Jesus’s “Sermon on the Mount” (Matt. 5-7)? That might just work.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted.”