Rod Dreher has an excellent find today.
This is an excerpt from a Mark Galli article on Substack. Galli used to run Christianity Today which is a top evangelical magazine that was founded by Billy Graham.
Remember, this is my controversial take on the Christian Question:
1. Christianity is immersed in time and history like everything else in the world.
2. The church is just another institution which is full of people who are immersed in their own time and culture. Thus, it is capable of being corrupted by outside influences like any other institution.
3. Christianity used to be our dominant culture, but now it is a sub culture. It no longer has a grip on the imagination of America’s elites. It lost its grip over European elites even further back in the 19th century. Christianity hasn’t been our dominant culture for a century or more.
4. The dominant elite and culture is secular. It is the “mainstream” culture. It is Madonna flashing her ass on Jimmy Kimmel’s show or Lil Nas X pole dancing for Satan. It is celebrating PRIDE Month.
5. The “mainstream” culture is created by the so-called “creative class.” Cultural power is concentrated in the hands of a handful of news, entertainment and tech corporations. It is also transmitted through the public schools and the universities. Ever since the development of radio, film and television in the early 20th century (and mass public education), the dominant culture has played out on a grand stage in the air, so to speak, as it is beamed out from New York and Los Angeles to the rest of the country and across the world. Whereas previously culture used to be transmitted locally and passed down through tradition, the vast majority of the population now passively consumes the “mainstream” culture which is controlled by a handful of gatekeepers at large corporations. Many of these gatekeepers are Jewish.
6. In the 21st century, Christian elites are in a position of weakness. They don’t command the culture like they used to centuries ago. And so, they are submissive and go long with and endorse trends and fads which get started in the mainstream secular culture, and what’s worse is that they adapt their theology to those fads and trends in order to legitimize them. They lag behind, absorb and reflect the trends in the dominant secular culture of their own times. They are not leading the culture. Case in point, the Southern Baptist Convention discovered that “racism” was a sin in the 1990s.
7. Christian elites will then say that Christianity “has always been” antiracist or opposed to “anti-Semitism” or “trans” or “woke” or supports “liberal democracy” and “human rights” or whatever is currently fashionable among the dominant secular elites even though this is preposterous.
These people have repeatedly bent the knee and echoed trends that unquestionably arise and come out of America’s dominant secular culture while denying this is what they are doing. They also laughably accuse and judge people who don’t embrace the latest fads of being bad Christians.
“Elite evangelicalism (represented by CT, IVPress, World Vision, Fuller Seminary, and a host of other establishment organizations) is too often “a form of cultural accommodation dressed as convictional religion.” These evangelicals want to appear respectable to the elite of American culture. This has been a temptation since the emergence of contemporary evangelicalism in the late 1940s, the founding of Christianity Today being one example. Letters between first editor Carl Henry and founder Billy Graham suggest the desire to be in essence an acceptable fundamentalism: Grounded in conservative theology while gaining the respect of secular academics and other cultural leaders. …”
This is exactly what I have been saying.
For a long time, I looked at this and associated it with “Christianity.” Now, I look at it and what I see are Christian elites reflecting back the dominant “mainstream” culture of their own times. They want to fit in with the world around them. They want the status of being “respectable” in our culture. What is called “Christianity” in our culture is more like Americanity.
“Indeed, effective evangelism has been one motive, and in some ways it has proved to be an effective strategy. But I don’t know that evangelicals have been sufficiently self-reflective to admit their basic and personal insecurities. It’s just no fun being an outsider to mainstream culture. We all just want to be loved, and if not loved, at least liked and respected. Elite evangelicals are not just savvy evangelists but also a people striving for acceptance.
I saw this often when I was at CT. For the longest time, a thrill went through the office when Christianity Today or evangelicalism in general was mentioned in a positive vein by The New York Times or The Atlantic or other such leading, mainstream publications. The feeling in the air was, “We made it. We’re respected.” This irritated me, because I naturally believed that CT’s outlook was superior (since it was grounded in the truth of the gospel and not secularism), so I often commented that we had things backward: The New York Times ought to be thrilled when it gets a positive mention in Christianity Today.
This tendency has only gotten worse, as now the mark of a successful evangelical writer is to get published regularly in the Times, Atlantic, and so forth. What’s interesting about such pieces is that (a) such writers make a point that affirms the view of the secular publication (on topics like environmental care, racial injustice, sexual abuse, etc.) and (b) they preach in such pieces that evangelicals should take the same point of view. However, their writing doesn’t reach the masses of evangelicals who take a contrary view and don’t give a damn what The New York Times says. If these writers are really interested in getting those evangelicals to change their minds, the last place they should be is in the mainstream press. Better to try to get such a column published in the most popular Pentecostal outlet, Charisma. Ah, but that would do nothing to enhance the prestige of evangelicals among the culture’s elite.
Evangelical columns in large part merely bolster the reputation of secular outlets, as these publications can now pat themselves on the back and say, “See, even religious people agree with us.” Rarely if ever will you see an evangelical by-line in such outlets that argues to protect life in womb or affirms traditional marriage.
We see an ancient dynamic here: When you seek to win the favor of the powerful, you will likely be used by them to enhance their own status. And along the way, many of your convictions will be sidelined. We’ve seen this happen on the religious right in the political nightmare of the last few years. But it happens on the left just as often. …”
We can put a face on the aspiring successful evangelical writer who is published in Time magazine and the New York Times and who gets pats on the head for being a submissive and respectable Christian voice who knows his place because he sucks up to and defends the establishment.
Note: As many have pointed out, Frenchism isn’t based on any “principles.” It is a sensibility. It is tailoring your “Christianity” and “principles” to people who you think can enhance your status and career prospects. It is knowing who has the wealth and power in the room and who doesn’t.