James Davison Hunter, in his new book, (To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World
), contends that the Christian Right, the Christian Left and the Neo-Anabaptists are dwelling in an illusion that their approach can change culture.
His accusation is severe; his rhetoric is pleasant, but his critique is relentless: these approaches won’t work. Why?
I quote something from later and ask you what you think: “But the consequence of the whole-hearted and uncritical embrace of politics by Christians has been, in effect, to reduce Christian faith to political ideology and various Christian denominations and para-church organizations to special interest groups” (172).
Yes, secularism is rampant; yes, the Christian Right has held more power than the Christian Left; yes, the consumer culture is shaping the Church too much. Christians want to do something, but the approaches of the above three groups aren’t working and won’t work.
They’ve politicized themselves into a power that eats at the inner core of the Christian meaning of power and in essence have given in the gospel. There’s too much ressentiment — angry resistence. State and democracy are not the same thing, and the former is not transformed by electoral vote. There are, Hunter argues, not political solutions to most of the concerns of the Christian Church.
So listen to this one again: “But the consequence of the whole-hearted and uncritical embrace of politics by Christians has been, in effect, to reduce Christian faith to political ideology and various Christian denominations and para-church organizations to special interest groups” (172).
The tragedy: these approaches distort theological truth and historical reality.
“Christianity is defined to the outside world by its rhetoric or resentment and the ambitions of a will in opposition to others” (174). And: “In effect, [the neo-Anabaptist theory] is a world-hating theology” (174).
And now he sounds like Hauerwas: “By nurturing resentments, sustaining them through a discourse of negation toward outsiders, and in cases, pursuing their will to power, they become functional Nietzscheans, participating in the very cultural breakdown they so ardently strive to resist” (175).