(Not to be confused with those who just give it away. If this article brings to mind any particular organization, denominational entity, or a certain pastor in Florida with an almost unpronounceable name, then that is purely a figment of your wicked imagination.)
The savage wit of Ambrose Bierce has quite a bit to teach us victims of the cultural tempest in our particular little fin de siecle teapot. In his Devil’s Dictionary he left us a short little edifying story under his definition of “valor”:
Why have you halted?” roared the commander of a division at Chickamauga, who had ordered a charge; “move forward, sir, at once.”
“General,” said the commander of the delinquent brigade, “I am persuaded that any further display of valor by my troops will bring them into collision with the enemy.
This kind of thing can happen for two reasons. First, the troops may be more than a little sympathetic with the adversary. They don’t want to fight when they could be friends. Or, second, there may be true antipathy—but it is mingled with cowardice. David’s brothers didn’t like Goliath, but they didn’t want to actually go out there either. It’s far easier just to sit eating cheese and chiding your younger brother which you accuse of having come down just to watch the big boys “fight.”
Theological liberals and moderates in our midst don’t like the antithesis and don’t want a fight. They expend their energies trying to make the Church relevant to the world by making the Church a third-rate copy of that world. For the purposes of definition here, by “moderates” I mean “liberals” who are confused enough to think they are evangelicals—which, incidentally, is now the character of the tepid moderate water of the evangelical mainstream. Just as conservative Republicans today are far to the left of the Democrats of forty years ago, so contemporary evangelicals are to the left of the theological liberals of forty years ago—and all done with the kind of serene ignorance that would make the Buddha envious.
At any rate, this relevancy gambit is taken up by all those who want to pimp the bride of Christ, although they usually like to use different verbs. And whenever you hear the word relevance used in any religious discussions, prepare for the most astounding irrelevance to follow on hard.
But then there are those who don’t like the bad guys—David’s brothers—so they stand over on the Israelite side of the line, vaporing helplessly with their swords. They do have enough valor to shout back at Goliath, something witty along the lines of “Oh, yeah?” But any display of valor beyond that would bring them into a collision with the enemy.
I know that many will think that this is an over-generalization, and they will think of many individuals and organizations that are involved in our “culture wars.” But this reputation for heroism is largely undeserved. We are generally so cowardly that we think yelling at the giant is Bronze Star level behavior. Conscientious insiders in many of these organizations will tell you that there is a fatal rule requiring hesitation and shrinking back. They will tell you of many discussions or board meetings where it was decided to hold back “for fear that . . .”
And so the armor continues to sit in Saul’s tent, with no one to wear it.
It may actually be the right size…