How does Redeemer respond to the difficulties of being a church in a place that is skeptical of religion?
You know the new book by Robert Putnam? It’s called American Grace. Putnam is a Harvard guy—he wrote Bowling Alone. He’s written a book, and it’s trying to be a snapshot of where America is on religion. It’s quite an interesting book. But the one thing he made a pretty interesting case for is, he said that in the end of the ’60s, the mainline liberal churches got very politically involved with liberal politics. They identified with liberal politics. And that put them way out of step with the mainstream. And there was actually a real reaction against it, and people left the mainline. It just turned them off.
But he’s made the case that in the ’80s and ’90s the evangelical church did the same thing, except with conservative politics. Because it identified so strongly with conservative politics, that also put them somewhat out of step with the mainstream. The mushy middle is kind of moderate about politics, really.
And as a result there’s been a backlash against evangelicals. And I think that’s true. Because I’ve been here during that time. And I would say that as a fairly orthodox believer, that I’ve seen in a place like New York, because of the identification of orthodox Christianity with conservative politics, there’s actually more antipathy here than there was 20 years ago. There’s more fear. Part of the reason why Redeemer has done well is because we’ve always said, “We’re about Christianity, not politics. And we know that your Christian faith is going to affect your political views. We know that—we’re not saying that won’t happen. But we also don’t think that your Gospel faith necessarily throws you into one party or the other. ” And because we’ve had that stance, it’s one of the reasons I think we haven’t had a backlash here.
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