The following is real life, real-time text report that came to me last Sunday morning from a young adult I know who attended one of the largest Southern Baptist churches in America. Please keep in mind that this was not a major holy day of any kind, whether secular or religious. Yet it was the 21st anniversary of 9/11.
- Today at (Name) Baptist Church we are back on Critical Race Theory and the waking world
- Oh, and we pledged allegiance to the Christian flag
- I didn’t know there was a Christian flag
- This guy is so (expletive deleted) crazy
- This church is literally a political rally every week
- Idk if they ever talked about the bible or anything
- He said woke up 75 times
At the risk of beating a dead horse, let me repeat: And we wonder why people don’t show up to church anymore.
Except that the church where this mixture of Christian nationalism was preached on September 11 is a huge church with several campuses. People are still flocking to hear this. What we can easily deduce is that this is a deep red congregation in a deep red state. It’s supply and demand.
Later that afternoon, I was catching up on social media when I came across a post from a non-profit organization called Campus Pride that ranks the best and worst college campuses in America for LGBTQ students. , the campuses where they feel safest and where they feel the most danger.
As I was going through the two lists, I noticed that no denominational schools made the list of safest campuses, but almost every Baptist school I know made the list of most dangerous campuses – often with detailed documentation explaining why.
And we wonder why young people are drifting away from the faith.
Except most of these faith-based schools that aren’t safe for LGBTQ students are doing pretty well on enrollment, thank you very much. Parents of heteronormative children feel more secure sending their darlings to colleges where they might not be exposed to dangerous new ideas and new people. What we can easily deduce is that most denominational schools – especially Baptist schools – also understand supply and demand.
“Find me a college campus in America where LGBTQ students feel fully safe and students who oppose LGBTQ identity feel fully safe.”
Find me a college campus in America where LGBTQ students feel fully safe and students who oppose LGBTQ identity feel fully safe. I don’t think such a place exists.
I’m not talking about a campus where one point of view or the other is tolerated. I’m talking about a campus where the two opposing viewpoints are celebrated equally.
This is not possible because the two ideas cancel each other out by definition.
Yes, there are campuses and churches where “both sides” exist together, but it always comes at the cost of one viewpoint being subordinate to the other. This is where colleges and churches are alike: it’s not easy to be purple.
“Purple” is the label given to spaces where red (Republicans) and blue (Democrats) blend to form a third color. Typically, this assumes a 50/50 mix of red and blue. While this produces a beautiful hue on a color chart, it produces a dead end in other areas of life. Exhibit A depicts the current US Senate. It’s as purple as it gets, and doing anything significant there requires a decisive vote from the vice president.
Now imagine that you are the pastor of a “purple” church. The first question I want to ask you is this: what shade of purple? By this I mean not only what is the difference between red and blue, but also what is the intensity of red and blue.
Look at the color chart at the top of this article. This shows some of the possible ink combinations that achieve varieties of purple in the CMYK printing process. CMYK is an additive color process used by printers. C stands for cyan (blue), M stands for magenta (red), Y stands for yellow, and K stands for black. Showing 0000 on a CMYK graphic is putting no ink on the page. A printing press mixes these four basic colors in varying proportions to create what we in the printing industry call “four-color” images.
The darker the shade of purple, the more red and blue it takes to craft it. The paler the purple, the less red and blue is needed. And also note that some variations of purple include a splash of a third color, usually yellow.
“It is impossible to characterize a type of purple church. It all depends on the mix and the intensity.
This color chart helps us understand why it is impossible to characterize a type of purple church. It all depends on the mix and the intensity.
But here is the fundamental truth: the purple churches only survive when minority and majority groups agree to live in the proportions they have.
I remember a wise question a friend asked a group of other friends when our church was moving towards a more inclusive stance to fully welcome LGBTQ Christians. The friend who favored the new position told a group of others who didn’t like the new position, “Look, I’ve been in the minority here for 25 years but I stayed because I love the church. and people. Would you be prepared to do the same – to stay with us – even if you will now be in the minority? »
Whatever verbal answer was given that day, the real answer became known in the months to come when almost all – not all, but almost all – of those who had been in the majority determined that they could not stand to be in the minority and left to find other churches where they could again be in the majority.
Some pastors feel called to lead purple churches — and God bless them. However, this is becoming increasingly difficult to do for four reasons:
- The intensity of red and blue has increased considerably. Partisanship is at its highest level. More people aren’t just a little Democrat or a little Republican. They carry their political and social opinions intensely. There is less and less room for compromise.
- The stakes are less negotiable. You can’t be a bit for or a bit against LGBTQ inclusion. Either you’re okay with ordaining gay deacons or you’re not. Same with America’s racial history. Either you’re into teaching kids the full story of America’s racial history, or you’re not. Abortion was once an exception to this rule, with many Christians forming a middle class of opposition to abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the life of the mother. Unfortunately, that’s not an option on the ballot today.
- Simple things are interpreted as major signs. Code words are so loaded today, and tolerance for compromise is so absent, that pastors must measure every word in a sermon or prayer or they will be accused of shading their language to the other side.
- The truth has been auctioned off. Let’s say it again with emotion: there’s no way to have a civil conversation between two points of view when one of those points of view is rooted in fantasy. Truth and lies do not inhabit the same universe, the same language, the same reality. When pastors try to keep the peace in congregations where some people believe the truth and others believe the lie, brothers (and sisters) cannot live together in unity, as Psalm 133 urges. .
Last week I received an angry letter of a reader who accused me of trying to tell her what the truth means when she should be able to have her own idea of the truth. But that’s not how the truth works. We cannot bring opposing definitions of truth to the church and expect to understand the word of God.
The main reason the purple churches are in danger is that even reading the Bible and preaching its redemptive purpose cannot find fertile ground in minds closed to the truth. The gospel of Jesus Christ richly dwells in open minds and hearts of all colors that appreciate the very words of Jesus, “I am the truth.
Mark Wingfield is executive director and publisher of Baptist News Global. His forthcoming book, Honestly: Telling the Truth About the Bible and Ourselvesis available for pre-order from Fortress Press.
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