A New Year and Another Tipping Point
I’ve spent the better part of 25 years following the massive paradigm shift within Christianity. As the modern age has given way to postmodernism, the church is reeling.
Cultural tipping points are interesting phenomena. Divorce and remarriage were huge issues in the church until suddenly, they were not. Divorce was no longer the scandal it once had been. America had reached a tipping point. Today you still might find a few fundamentalist churches that frown on divorced people, but for the most part the church has moved on.
Throughout the history of the church, when a culture reaches a tipping point, the church is the last cultural institution to change. It was true of the notion of a geocentric universe. Though the church put Galileo under house arrest for believing the earth revolved around the sun, it finally accepted the obvious. We see the same phenomenon today when it comes to belief in a literal six-day creation. Just a few years ago it was anathema for evangelicals to believe in evolution. Now, many accept the findings of science.
It took longer for our nation to reach a tipping point on slavery, but it finally came in the middle of the 19th century. Unfortunately, since our nation was built on slavery, undoing the damage will take centuries. We are nowhere near becoming a nation of equity for people of color.
In the last decade America reached the tipping point on marriage equality. Most Americans came to realize gay couples make great parents and good citizens. But the church lags behind. A recent study by churchclarity.org indicated, quite accurately, that of the 100 largest churches in America listed by Outreach magazine, none affirm LGBTQ individuals. (It might also be noted that 99 percent of those churches are led by males, and 93 percent are led by white males, another area in which the church lags behind.)
I am the beneficiary of American culture having reached another tipping point. Outside of evangelicalism, most Americans are accepting of transgender people. Pretty much everyone except the religious right responded negatively when Trump tweeted that transgender people would not be allowed to serve in the military. The generals ignored him, and just yesterday it became law that transgender people can serve in the military. The evangelical world is the only environment in which I am rejected for being me.
The church eventually changed its position on a geocentric universe and slavery because the church was wrong. The church was also wrong on gay marriage and the acceptance of transgender people. LGBTQ people are not a threat to anyone, anywhere. Sooner or later, common sense defeats irrational fear.
Now we find ourselves at another tipping point. #MeToo is the tipping point on sexual assault. But as usual, the church is slow to respond. We need look no further than Alabama to understand that difficult truth. Evangelicals preferred to believe the claims of one white male over the claims of nine females. To the rest of the nation, the evangelical church in Alabama seems woefully out of touch. They are right. When it comes to sexual assault, the evangelical church in much of America is out of touch.
I do have hope. Though late to the party, the church usually does eventually come to its senses. Religious people do not like change. But given enough time and information, history tells us they do eventually embrace the truth against which they initially railed.
At the moment, we are in a dark season. The tide has turned on LGBTQ issues and now it is turning on sexual assault. And while we have barely begun the work needed on America’s greatest problem, racial injustice, we can be pleased that the voices calling us to action are being empowered as they have never been empowered before. Those in power don’t get it, but as we saw in Alabama last month, the people do.
And so it goes.