How best to transform the evangelical church so it will gain sight to eliminate its blindness to such things as racism and classism and consumerism? Here Paul Metzger, in Consuming Jesus, reveals his evangelicalism.
The solution is a theology that begins with personal conversion that works itself out into genuine reconciliation with others and downwardly mobile ethic.
[My contention: Either evangelicalism is filled, big-time filled, with unconverted folks or this strategy is just words. The fact is that many, if not most, of evangelicals — or those who claim personal conversion — are not that involved in the anticonsumerist and antiracist and anticlassist agenda Metzger advocates.]
“The fight against racialization and related problems requires regeneration, repentance, and forgiveness — the key ingredients of being ‘born again'” (89). One must assume personal responsiblity: “In addition to overturning victimizing structures, people should never make excuses for taking part in victimizing activities and should never play the victim card” (89).
Two dangers involved in “reordering the Christian’s life”: moralism and escapism. “A neglect of the vertical dimension leads to moralism, while a neglect of the horizontal dimension leads to escapism” (91).
1. Moralism: “According to a properly framed evangelical ethics, the unilateral relationship between the vertical and horizontal dimensions implies that a converted heart will manifest itself in concern for the neighbor… But the flipside of that is not equally true: concern for the neighbor does not necessarily flow from a converted heart” (92). Here’s a bold claim: “those who find favor with God give themselves on behalf of the poor” (97).
In this section he appeals lots to Jonathan Edwards. Authentic Christianity is contrary to moralism.
2. Escapism: looking inward and looking upward are the two forms of escapism. Giving family security instead of following Christ.
“In light of the preceding discussion, we need to ask ourselves whether we are truly converted” (106). Are we calling the consumer church to its knees? Here he appeals to Martin Luther King Jr.
“Converting consumer structures inside and outside the evangelical church, as well as converting consumerist souls, is necessary if we are to realize King’s dream, if the new world order is to come into being, if there is to be truly one people of God — one people from differnent ethnicities and classes who are united in Christ by the Spirit and united by faith” (110).