Shuck and Jive

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Can Diversity Hold?

A UU friend sent me this with gratitude that we allow some "wiggle room."
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- The Presbyterian Church USA's statement of faith says God through Jesus Christ delivers followers ''from death to life eternal.''

But a recent poll suggests about a third of the nation's largest Presbyterian denomination finds some wiggle room for non-Christians to get into heaven.

The Presbyterian Panel's ''Religious and Demographic Profile of Presbyterians'' found that 36 percent of members disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement: ''Only followers of Jesus Christ can be saved.''

Another 39 percent, or about two-fifths, agreed or strongly agreed with the statement.

Experts say the result could be rooted in a belief that God's work can be carried out even by those who don't believe in Jesus Christ.
Someone had forwarded this story to him with the subject title, "Oh, Gawd: Pathetic!"

That is what many of my friends think about Presbyterians if they think about us at all--pathetic--a bunch of ignorant bumpkins who think we are the only ones "going to heaven."

I hear you. But we aren't all like that. Some of us are apostate heretics!

Speaking of pathetic, the LayMAN thinks this is a gawd-awful story too. They don't think we are exclusive enough. According to them, apostates are diluting the true gospel. The LayMAN uses news stories like this to raise funds with which to do battle against the encroaching liberal menace.

A recently-released survey by Presbyterian Church (USA)’s Research Services shows that more than half of Presbyterians surveyed reject Jesus Christ as the only way to salvation.
You want to use the phrase "Reject Jesus Christ" as much as possible to get the fundies a-frothing and the coffers a-filling.

Then there's "Apocalyptic Al" Mohler. Apparently, there is not enough superstition in his own tradition to keep him busy so he writes
about us.

This is a church that has lost its confidence in the Gospel in terms of the clear biblical claim that salvation comes only through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This latest report confirms the continued abandonment of the Gospel in an increasingly secularized denomination....

...As the boundaries between liberal Protestantism and the secular culture vanish, there is little reason for anyone to join one of these churches....

....Make no mistake -- in the end, vanishing theological boundaries will amount to vanishing Christianity. This report makes that point with devastating clarity.

Al and the LayMAN think if unless we hold to their superstitions, Christianity will vanish. Well, their understanding of Christianity might. Although it seems safe to say that superstition is alive and well.

All of this is in response to survey questions asked by our denomination's research division. You can read the results of the survey for yourself.

What the research shows is that members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) are a diverse bunch. Within the tent you will find an entire range of belief from fundamentalist to universalist.

This is probably fairly reflective of a denomination whose popular slogan is "reformed and always reforming." We are reflective of protestantism in general that struggles with an inherited tradition in conversation with ever-changing knowledge and awareness. When asked to agree or disagree with the following statement:

''Only followers of Jesus Christ can be saved.''
  1. About a third disagree.
  2. About a third agree.
  3. About a third aren't sure.
I am sure it is no surprise that I put myself in group one. It isn't that I allow "wiggle room" for non-Christians. I think the statement itself is dated. Many of us are light years beyond worrying about what we think is archaic theology. But I am not going to say I am not a Presbyterian because not everyone agrees with me.

We are in the time of great change. Despite Al and the LayMAN there are many congregations who are progressive and growing. More and more people are looking for congregations that are not exclusive and that are open to wisdom from the sciences and the humanities, such as those (like ours) that affiliate with The Center for Progressive Christianity.

The PCUSA is an interesting experiment.

Time will tell if this amount of diversity will hold.


  1. I find it interesting that Dante Alighieri was putting non-Christians in heaven back in 1300. Just a thought. :)

  2. Al "The Eugenicist" Mohler writes, "As the boundaries between liberal Protestantism and the secular culture vanish, there is little reason for anyone to join one of these churches"

    Leave it to Al Mohler to believe that the only reason for going to church is a get out of hell free card. I'd say his Baptist roots were showing, except even the Baptists don't believe that kind of crap. And these people think *we* don't take faith seriously?! Sheesh. Talk about cheap grace.

    The proper, orthodox response to questions about who gets in and who doesn't is "I don't know who will be saved, but I sure hope and pray that it's everyone!"

    A true Calvinist, BTW, wishes he/she was a Universalist. They don't crow about not being one.

  3. For me, the whole question of "Only followers of Jesus Christ can be saved" is meaningless, and so I reject the premise behind the question. Saved from what? The purpose of religion for some people isn't to "get saved", but rather to server as a way of mediating one's highest values, hopes, and aspirations through myth, story, and tradition. It is its own reward, not a conduit to some sort of afterlife.

  4. Al Mohler is an asshat. Just sayin'. I'm still not even sure he actually believes half the stuff that squirts out of his mouth - he just wants to keep his ridiculously ostentatious mansion for as many more years as possible.

  5. @AJ Nice thought!

    @Alan Like that definition of Calvinist!

    @Seeker Agreed.

    @Mick Well played!

  6. I always love seeing your emphasis on layMAN!

  7. I am sure I told you, but I got that from you. I remember the moment. It was 1997 at a Utica Presbytery meeting. You were reporting on the General Assembly. It was really funny.

    You thanked the presbytery for giving you a free trip to Syracuse and then gave your report on the meeting including a bunch of off the wall stuff and the proposed change to G-6.0106b (that unfortunately didn't fly).

    Bob O'Meara said something about the Layman and you went off talking about the LayMAN emphasizing the second syllable for effect.

    I will treasure the moment and remember you when I write about the LayMAN.

  8. Thank God for apostate heretics!

    Also, having given this a little thought, I'd also like to extend a bit of gratitude to your congregants for their continuing support of your enterprise.

    Nuff said.

  9. @Steve the rest of the apostate heretics say, "You're welcome!" : )