Why Pushing to the Right Theologically Is Harder Than Pushing to the Left
Andrew Wilson writes:
Theologically speaking, pushing right is much harder than pushing left. I do both, depending on the context, and pushing right is definitely more difficult. When I’m trying to nudge people to their left on an issue . . . I feel radical, creative, daring, exciting, and somewhat impish. But when I’m trying to nudge people to their right about something . . . I feel conservative, stern, unpopular, staid, and even somewhat apologetic.
He offers three possible factors at play:
The first is to do with the youth-centred spirit of the age, in which freshness is more fashionable than faithfulness, innovating inspires people more than imitating, technology trumps tradition, and novelty is confused with creativity. Many still think that the Dylanesque call to change everything your parents stood for is iconoclastic, without noticing that true iconoclasm is to be found when people challenge the deepest convictions of a culture, and (say) teach that children should obey their parents rather than tell them to move over because they don’t understand the world no more. When you add to that the modernist metanarrative of progress (which is not completely dead yet), and the wider social obsession with the possibilities brought by technology, it is easy to see why the view could creep into the church that changing things was Good and conserving things was Bad.
The second is equally obvious, in some ways, but it is worth saying anyway: contemporary secular culture is well to the left of the Bible on most things it teaches. Non-Christian Britain thinks the Scriptures are backward on all sorts of topics, including judgment, evolution, tradition, war, marriage, slavery, sexual ethics, holiness, gender roles, and the idea of teaching doctrine in the first place. So when we move to the left, we are almost without exception moving closer to what the culture around us thinks, and that makes the process much more comfortable for us. (I’m not saying, of course, that moving to the left is thereby wrong, merely that it is easy – and therefore that, if I know my own heart, the temptation to distort the Bible to get there is likely to be more acute.) Moving to the right, on the other hand, makes us more likely to be ridiculed by The Independent, Stephen Fry, the writers of sitcoms, our social network, and all the other cool-ade people we desperately want to like us. It shouldn’t, but that does make it harder.
The third factor, related to this, is that the victims of excessive rightishness are much easier to identify, and to feel sorry for, the victims of excessive leftishness. An anti-war protest is much easier to recruit for than a pro-war protest. It’s easy to make movies, or posters, about the victims of slavery and domestic abuse; not so much about the victims of abortion, since they don’t live long enough to be given names. When a couple splits up through unfaithfulness, causing massive pain to their children, the individualistic, morally leftish values that made it possible are not personified, and nobody blames the newspapers, TV shows or movies that make short-term romantic fulfilment life’s ultimate purpose. Being ostracised for challenging church dogma makes a great story, but being gradually dulled to the wonders of God because the gospel is not being preached clearly does not. Suffering under authoritarian leadership results in a narrative with clear goodies and baddies, replete with emotive terms like “spiritual abuse” and “cultish leadership”; the thousands who go nowhere under directionless leaders, with churches being endlessly hijacked by oddballs and dominated by the loudest voice there, have far less grotesque villains and do not lend themselves so compellingly to Oprah. In the modern world, if you’re going to make a public argument, you need a victim and a villain. And leftish victims and villains are just that bit more identifiable than rightish ones.
You can read the whole thing here.
HT: Andy Crouch