The Long View

I found this interview with Pastor Aaron Graham of The District Church in Washington, DC so encouraging. It reminded me that God is working in that city, regardless of the politics and power struggles I see in the news.

From the article, one question and answer:

Elijah: You mentioned the progressive bubble in D.C. earlier, it seems to be around the world. Both large national church organizations all the way down to the local church are grappling with this progressive social narrative, issues like gender identity or abortion, life issues, racial issues. It seems to be really this tension between the church trying to welcome as many people as possible while also standing firm theologically. How have you tried to meet that intersection, and also bring the church through it as well, particularly being in such a progessive area?

Pastor Graham: I think it’s just doing the hard work of trying to teach people to think Biblically, and to increase Biblical literacy. Because we live in the social media age along with 24 hour news cycles, that many Christians today are more discipled by media commentators than they are by the Word of God. It becomes difficult for a pastor to speak to the issues in a way where it’s not already emotionally charged. I try to teach and preach the Bible, and allow the Bible to speak to the issues of the time. When I went through the Sermon on the Mount recently, I critiqued progressive Chrisitanity and Christian nationalism. What happened in our city on January 6th with the insurrection had its roots in Christian nationalism, where people don’t know where the American dream begins and Christianity ends. It’s just all one and the same, and it’s like Christianity is America and we have to create this top down. That’s dangerous, we have to preach against that. Likewise, there’s a movement deconstructing core theological doctrines that have been consensus doctrines for 2,000 years in the local church. In our quest to do good, to do justice, we’re forgetting fallen humanity, that the chief problem is fallen humanity and that’s shared across all groups of people. That’s what makes the gospel so great and so inclusive, is that we’re all fallen, and that God has given us a way to be reconciled to Him through Christ and through His death for us on the cross.

It’s easy to respond to whatever’s popping up here or there, important things and important current events, things that we should be engaged in, to forget our history and to forget the Bible. Biblical literacy and understanding the core Christian doctrines of the faith have become an increasing priority to me the longer that I’ve been here, because I’ve realized that I think secular culture is doing a better job of discipling urban Christians than the local church is. I’m having to be more intentional and aggressive about that, to say hey, let’s make sure the questions you’re asking around progressive Christianity, that progressive Christianity doesn’t become a layover to post-Christianity. That reading progessive Christianity becomes a place where you can wrestle with your doubts and come back to historic Christianity and a deeper sense, rather than “oh, this is just an exit for me to total deconstruction.” I talk about the difference between doubt and deconstruction, that doubt is a normal part of growth, asking questions, not just inheriting your parents faith, wrestling with these things, but active deconstruction is trying to tear down things where progressives have an agenda to then convert Christians to their agenda, just like Christian nationalists have the same thing.

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