In the wake of 9/11, unexamined American triumphalism has done much to convince me that, while a bunch of people claim to have been renewed by the Holy Spirit, the processes of change that I once saw as supernatural were merely natural, relating to how the human mind works.
I was first attracted to the teachings of Jesus as a teenager when the movie “Gandhi” touched on his “turn the other cheek” teaching. Christ seemed to stand the order of things on its head. This was radical and it seemed right. The rest of humanity struggled to fight selfishly and fearfully for their real or perceived rights, while Jesus was focused on something higher.
After 9/11, the evangelical church was the most enthusiastically pro-war bloc of all; this came as a special jolt to someone who had preached to his family that evangelicalism represented something different from other faiths. It was a jolt to see fellow congregants rationalize away any of the New Testament’s clear teaching on cheek-turning, and to do so with passion and zest. A few faithful evangelicals maintained that Christ’s teaching should restrain warfare, but they were theological liberals, not evangelicals. This raised a conundrum: the evangelicals are the ones who speak most dramatically of how true faith in Christ regenerates a person away from worldly concerns, and yet they seemed the most worldly of anyone.
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