Will Christianity have a progressive or conservative future? | The Tylt
Will Christianity have a progressive or conservative future?
CNN's Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons highlights Christianity's divide on the public stage. Public figures like Lady Gaga and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez represent progressive Christianity, while politicians like Mike Pence and Sarah Sanders demonstrate fundamentalism. The difference, he says, comes down to opposing interpretations of scripture. Can marriage be between two members of the same sex? Is abortion murder in the eyes of God? Does God dictate natural disasters?
First, the LGBTQ rights and climate change debates illustrate US Christianity's diversity. Progressive Christians embrace both causes, while fundamentalist Christians tend to support the discredited practice of gay conversion therapy and distrust climate science.
Both camps use the bible to explain their reasoning, but as the divide in the country increases, many wonder if Christianity itself is headed toward another dogmatic split—or if it will fall in line with one side over the other.
The church has a long history of denying the truth in the name of fundamental beliefs. The Catholic Church famously charged Galileo Galilei with heresy and threatened torture when he claimed the Earth revolves around the sun, and not vice versa. Now, the leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, repeatedly condemns climate change deniers, proving that science can indeed find a home in scripture.
Responding to questions from an Italian journalist on board his flight home from Colombia, Francis said that the halting response to climate change reminded him of a “phrase from the Old Testament — man is a fool, a stubborn man who will not see”: an apparent reference to Proverbs 12, a section of the Bible that condemns those who resist correction in matters of knowledge.
But for some Christians, climate change is of little concern. Some believe that as humans were "created in God's image," they are called to have "dominion" over the Earth. Others simply take the view that an omnipotent God can both cause natural phenomenon, like those created through climate change, just as God can take them away.
When asked about a possible Green New Deal on Fox News, Sarah Sanders implied that no such deal is necessary and that the Trump administration did not need to pay attention to "anything that we will leave into the hands of a much, much higher authority," implying that God alone is responsible for the future of the planet.
Evangelicals will often tell [Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist at Texas Tech University] things like “God’s in control,” “God gave us dominion over the Earth” or maybe “God told Noah he would never flood the Earth.” Oil was seen by some Christians in the late 1800s as God’s gift to the United States.
According to LifeWay, the majority of pastors do not believe that global warming is real or man-made. If this is the case, an entire generation of church-goers will hear from their spiritual authorities that climate change is not something they need to worry about, paving the way for a future of Christian fundamentalism.
But if the religious body itself evolves without the help of its leader, there's still hope for a progressive future. Catholicism, for example, does not support contraception of any kind and is firmly against abortion. Yet, according to Graves-Fitzsimmons:
Roughly two-thirds of Catholics (like Ocasio-Cortez and Lady Gaga), Orthodox Christians and mainline Protestants favor same-sex marriage, according to the Public Religion Research Institute's 2017 survey.
Many Christians are also working to right the wrongs the church has committed against the LGTBQ community, particularly given the number of people who identify as LGTBQ who are also Christian. According to NBC News:
Sixty-eight percent of white mainline Protestants, 67 percent of Catholics and 44 percent of black Protestants now say they accept same-sex marriage, according to a 2017 Pew Research Center study.
Clearly, progressive values have not completely won out among Christians. But progress is much more likely if church members call for reform collectively, rather than waiting for it to come from top authorities. With public figures like Lady Gaga calling for that same reform, an open-minded future might be possible.
But some believe fundamentalists will take the lead in Christianity for years to come. In many ways, public perception of progressive Christian values (such as fighting against climate change and advocating for pro-choice values) has emboldened fundamentalists.
Heath and Human Services finalized rules that allow employers to deny employees birth control for religious reasons. Modern Healthcare reports:
Employers are now able to get an exemption from offering contraceptive coverage based on "sincerely-held" religious beliefs, according to regulations issued Wednesday.
With this kind of narrative breaking into the everyday life of both Christians and non-Christians, fundamentalists will write the story of Christianity, taking the reigns on the religion that 75 percent of the country practices.