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42 Responses

  1. Jean says:

    The concluding paragraph from the article on the SBC decline:

    โ€œThe younger generations are going away,โ€ she said. โ€œTheyโ€™re saying, โ€˜We wonโ€™t be the church of the status quo. โ€ฆ We donโ€™t want you to be the church of Caesar,โ€™ and meanwhile the people who are in charge are saying, โ€˜Look, thatโ€™s where the money comes from.โ€™โ€

  2. em... again says:

    two kingdoms… found the website source a bit confusing, but reading the post it seemed to me that the “two kingdoms” simply boil down to one item: power – who has the power? man and therefore, Satan or God? so are we a Christian nation? no, but we, the Church, strong can, and should, be its pivot…

  3. WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

    as someone who’s taken an oppositional stance to civic religions red and blue state in the last few years … the question of what Americans mean by exceptionalism and what we think that entitles to on matters foreign and domestic has occupied my thoughts a little since 2014 or so.

    Walter A. McDougall might be a bit of a crackpot on certain things (defenses of Nixon, for instance) but his recent book The Tragedy of U.S. Foreign Policy makes a case that civic religion is one of the key ways to understand U.S. interventionism of the last … well, two centuries. He also has a concluding observation that the kinds of civic religions political leaders have been urging are not necessarily compatible with what would be understood to be traditionally “evangelical” Christian orthodox thought.

    That said, it’s worth noting that you don’t have to be religious to embrace some form of civic religion as it pertains to foreign policy. Christopher Hitchens was as atheistic as they came but he endorsed a foreign policy action (i.e the war on terror, etc) that was an outworking of a civic religious view of traditional liberalism.

  4. Scooter Jones says:

    Do you have a link that says whether or not God approves of Christians lighting off fireworks? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. em... again says:

    everyone can sing…
    might better be stated, everyone may sing – should sing…

    i have a daughter (the one with the cats) who can sing, a pretty voice that can replicate perfectly any melody – i sing not perfectly and my pitch is only made up for by lack of range, but i sing anyway…
    my point? nothing is more beautiful to my ears than a congregation singing their hearts out lost in the words of hymns that give sound declarations of the Faith

    #4 – ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    This gets down to some level of crap. So WtH, to fight terror, and by extension, to speak against terror is somehow tied to civic religion?
    How about just good old national defense, one of the few federal mandates in the constitution.

  7. Xenia says:


    I have been quite disparaging of America of late. I have been depressed that my fellow Americans would elect the person they elected.

    But today my husband and I attended the 4th of July parade of our neighboring town Monterey and I had tears in my eyes the whole time. We saw:

    + Local high schools’ marching bands playing patriotic music
    + Members of all 4 branches of the military marching
    + The guy who has exotic birds down on the wharf wheeling his birds by on a little cart
    + Jimmy Panetta, Leon’s son, our congressman, going by in a convertible
    + A giant octopus balloon
    + A contingent of democrats
    + A contingent of republicans
    + A group of bag-pipers playing Scotland the Brave (Some were Asians)
    + Dogs
    + Belly dancers
    + The weatherman from the local TV station
    + Fire trucks from next door Pebble Beach
    + Koreans from the Korean school, marching in costume w/ drums (Some were Caucasian)

    + Boys scouts and girl scouts
    + Little league kids
    + The Monterey Bookmobile
    + Jazz dancers and musicians
    + Roller bladers
    + Old ladies from the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) in costume
    + And a lot more

    I was so happy to see all these people. I love them all. I was happy to be an American again. I am hoping this feeling lasts a long, long time.

    Happy 4th of July!

    God bless America. We ARE a special nation, after all.

  8. JD says:

    One nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all. Happy Independance Day!

  9. The New Victor says:

    I stopped reading the Thank God for the Idea of America article when: “Of course, this truth, as much as any, unmasks our history of hypocrisy, for 3/5 of a person is an eternity from equality. ”

    Again, a complete misrepresentation of what the 3/5 Compromise was about or why it was in The Constitution in the first place.

  10. WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

    MLD, if that’s how you insist on reading what I wrote about Hitchens and civic religion then there’s probably not much point in attempting to explicate what you already don’t want to understand about how even atheists can endorse a civic religion regardless of formal atheism.

  11. Em says:

    “…..where the money comes from.” Jean’s quote from the SBC link he referenced. .. I should probably read the link, but it occurs to me that the comment says so much…
    I presume here on Michael’s site to speak my mind – or lack of same – and gain so from the pastors, teachers and other Christian pilgrims who comment, yet i contribute next to nothing in the way of finances to him.. Michael is a clever fellow. I suspect he could make money off of his website, but he chooses to use the Phoenix Preacher to pursue truth and the mind of Christ to the benefit of us all…
    Maybe, perhaps those “running” some of our churches could go and do likewise?

    Xenia, there’s something about those community parades… They’ve become family traditions for my kids in Bothell and Friday Harbor up here… That and homemade peppermint ice cream made with left over Christmas candy canes… so glad some of the goodness of our nation still surfaces – isn’t it MLD’s declaration that all relevant politics is local?

    Still, I really really sense an urgency to pray for our nation’s leadership today…

  12. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    “how even atheists can endorse a civic religion regardless of formal atheism.”

    That was my objection – you equate fighting terror or speaking against terror as some form of ‘civic religion’ instead of the constitutional mandate that it is.Why isn’t the comment;

    “how even atheists and religious people can endorse the constitution regardless of a formal worldview.” —

  13. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Our church (well, the church I just left) had a float (a decorated stake truck) in the city parade this morning. We have done this for the past 15 years – strictly as left hand kingdom venture to show community support and to let people know we are there if someone is looking for a church.
    No right hand kingdom stuff happening – no sin being forgiven – no baptisms taking place. God’s people work hard in the civil kingdom.

  14. Nathan priddis says:

    RE: Everyone can sing-
    I stopped singing decades ago, with a few exceptions, such as one song last Sunday.
    Contemporary music feels very tired and dated. Hymns have actually begun to feel fresh and new. Even if it is an obviously nostalgic way.

  15. WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

    MLD, since I’ve never conflated regard for the Constitution or national defense with either Gulf War 2 or the War on Terror I’m not really someone to grant that an implied or even explicit conflation of those things with either national defense or upholding the Constitution is necessarily given.

  16. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Then we are even as I have never conflated national defense or the constitution with civic religion.
    Some things in life have nothing to do with religion – civic or otherwise.

  17. EricL says:

    I love the patriotism of MLD and WtH! They’re doing their best to create fireworks here at the Phoenix Preacher.

    Did you see that last explosion? ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. em... again says:

    seems to me that there way too much consorened** conflatin’ goin on here ๐Ÿ™‚

    ** don’t know what it means exactly, but it’s what Roy Roger’s sidekicks always used to say, “consoren it, Roy!”

  19. em... again says:

    oops, forgot, “goaldangit” LOL

  20. EricL says:

    I love Xenia’s post (@7)

    Today, my family went on a leisurely hike and had a picnic at the Wildlands Conservancy’s Oak Glen Preserve. Gorgeous place only 10 minutes from our house. (Here’s a link for any SoCal readers looking for a place to escape the hustle-bustle of the city.)

    Now it’s time to barbecue and then go watch our town’s firework show.

  21. WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

    MLD, ah, then in internet terms you’ve basically agreed with me. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  22. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    My objection, I am for speaking out against terror, I am for fighting terrorists and I do not do it as a part of some fabricated civic religion.

    Now at the same time I do object to American civil religion. I would never ‘amen’ a politician saying “god bless America” as I have no assurance which god he is speaking of or which god he is speaking too.

  23. Babylon's Dread says:

    I rather think that the Donald Trump embodies far more of the notions and inclinations of the signers of the Declaration than we might imagine. I cringe with most people at his public expressions but I imagine that his fiery spirit mirrors theirs.

  24. Babylon's Dread says:

    Liberal denominations decline because their belief system makes devotion to creed and cross less compelling and relevant. Conservative churches are declining because the liberals became successful evangelists to our children. The decline is much the same.

  25. Duane Arnold says:

    From the Atlantic article… it has the ring of truth…

    “White evangelicals have entered a grand bargain with the self-described master dealmaker, with high hopes that this alliance will turn back the clock. And Donald Trumpโ€™s installation as the 45th president of the United States may in fact temporarily prop up, by pure exertions of political and legal power, what white Christian Americans perceive they have lost. But these short-term victories will come at an exorbitant price. Like Esau, who exchanged his inheritance for a pot of stew, white evangelicals have traded their distinctive values for fleeting political power. Twenty years from now, there is little chance that 2016 will be celebrated as the revival of White Christian America, no matter how many Christian right leaders are installed in positions of power over the next four years. Rather, this election will mostly likely be remembered as the one in which white evangelicals traded away their integrity and influence in a gambit to resurrect their past.โ€
    ~ Robert P. Jones

  26. Em says:

    #s 23 amen & 24 Amen again
    I have often wondered if President Trump were as polished as his predecessor, the folks who travel in more polite society wouldn’t see him as heroic…. Will history find him one of our great Presidents? They will if he and his appointees extricate our nation from the circumstances we are now facing. Circumstances he hasn’t created. He’ll be quite a man if he gets us home safe.
    Pray earnestly for him to succeed as it will be disastrous for the country, if he fails. It is madness to do otherwise, no matter what your view of the man – IMNSHO

    At the very least, consider the wisdom of Pastor BD’s posts.

  27. Em says:

    #25 – IMO the question isn’t one of turning back the clock to the good old days – just looking around, it is clear that what is labeled “white supremacy” is passed due to many factors. The accusation may apply to many Anglos, but it is distracting us all to focus there
    How sad when we think only white folk can carry the cross … and how sad when we don’t – IMO again. ?

  28. filbertz says:

    fireworks in a dark sky…heavenly. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I will decorate my patch of the night sky with a load of mortars…unless local law enforcement busts me first. ๐Ÿ™‚

    It will be the first fireworks without my trusty sidekick Trigger, who we had to put down last week. Mixed feelings for sure.

  29. Em says:

    hope those mortars are enjoyed by all safely tonight… the ferocious pitbull that we had to say goodbye to hated gunshots and firecrackers… I used to enjoy the show from my deck when I was a city girl… My son in law set the juniper hedge on fire, that was exciting… So stay safe and don’t set any unintended fires. ?

  30. WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

    MLD, as I wrote earlier, we’re on the same page about that. I suspect you’re not a regular reader of the blog WtH so you might not have seen the spot where I wrote that what made 9/11/2001 scary was that it wasn’t a conventional act of war but a case of weaponizing our civilian transit infrastructure against us. The odds that this would be done again on such a large scale isn’t as high as the likelihood that other parts of the civilian infrastructure will get weaponized in a comparable way.

    In Hitchens’ case he used the “as if” argument, that when you embrace something “as if” it were of religious significance it’s as bad as if you espoused an actual religion. So the Hitchens case study is still applicable as far as I’m concerned. He did eventually change his mind but it was a few years after it had become clear how far off the rails several aspects of Gulf War 2 and other ventures had gone.

    BD, DA, my impression has been that the white mainline sold itself out to mainstream political power in the previous century in much the same way the evangelical/conservative wing has been described as having done so. While there’s a lot in the Jones article I could agree with it seems that people forget that white supremacist impulses were not always “right” and that they were part of not just the mainstream but showed up even on what would be known now as the progressive or left. The white mainline can find Trump appalling and his support base appalling in part because they represent a position of institutional power access that the mainlines used to have during the Cold War.

    It’s also hard to forget Frank(y) Schaeffer singing the praises of the salvation Obama would bring the United States. It’s galling to see people who profess to be any kind of Christian at any level treating a president as a messiah, whether it’s a Jeffries with Trump or a Schaeffer with Obama. That was too much to expect of Obama, who displayed pretty quickly how rapidly he could be streamlined into the status quo. He managed to appeal to progressives who thought he’d do more but he’s been an interesting case study in how the liberal and the left are really different on a number of core issues. People who are on the right often forget this or choose to believe that anyone who didn’t vote for Trump is basically a Marxist. That’s pretty obviously not true but for the sorts of people who voted for Trump sticking to elements of Cold War propaganda seems to be the norm … sort of like how people who write for left publications regard anyone in office they didn’t vote for as fascists.

  31. Scooter Jones says:

    filbertz, glad to hear it ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’m on my way to Weed for a pick up in the morning. Stopped at the Pilot there in Central Pt to take in the display at the fairgrounds. No such luck. I am now parked in Yreka with a full on view of the county fairgrounds. I must be in a good spot, I’m now surrounded the locals .

  32. Duane Arnold says:

    #30 WH

    A thoughtful post. I think it is incumbent upon us not to have blinders on concerning the left or the right. It is interesting to note that in the 20th century, totalitarianism arose out of movements that were originally on the left (Italy, Germany, Russia). I, for one, do not believe in, nor wish for, a candidate to carry Christian aspirations. I desire good government in terms of fairness, justice and compassion. I fear totalitarian instincts in government. In other words, I am wholly pre-Constantinian in my approach.

    Evangelicals in this last election have sown the wind and will reap the whirlwind. Meanwhile, much of the Church, by playing in their own limited sandboxes on the playground, are becoming irrelevant to the larger population. What is needed, in my opinion, is not a “revival”, but a restoration of normative Christian faith and practice reinforced by normative Christian catechesis. By and large, we have lost “the normal”.

  33. em... again says:

    reading # 32 and pondering (it’s hot and pondering is all i’m doing, that and pontificating)
    if normal means: “the usual, average, or typical state or condition” maybe losing it is good?

    at our house the TV has been tuned to the Tour de France and it occurs to me that the normal person could never ride that race… we tend to wobble and over-correct in tense situations – that is normal and makes us vulnerable…
    that is what nations do also, i believe… maybe the churches do also?

    time to pray for some not so normal God intervening miracles – we’re in troubled, seriously troubled waters now… the Church will always be God’s vessel, but today the waters we’re sailing in aren’t… we need focus

  34. Duane Arnold says:

    #33 em

    I wish the thread were a bit more active as I would like to ask people, “When was the last time you attended a normal church service?” That is, a structured service that could be followed, hymns that were known, a well crafted and delivered sermon, a respectful approach to the Lord’s Supper, the opportunities for adult, teen and children’s Christian education with prepared teachers (either before or after the service) and the chance for fellowship over coffee or tea. I’m sure there would be some who experience this, but it is becoming increasingly rare…

  35. em... again says:

    #34- it’s up to men (generic) like you and like Michael to stand, to stay firm and calm, to say what you’re saying (and standing for)… your description was a normal church of my youth – a rock firmly planted that one could anchor to…
    i don’t know how God will guide in this age we’re entering now… it truly seems to be one where everyone claims their doing what is right and right for the greater good of all, but they have no anchor that i see… just little cobbled-together rafts of opinions that follow the wind

  36. Babylon's Dread says:

    Ah Duane probably qualified me OUT of normal. But I did go to a Baptist service two weeks ago followed by Sunday School, which I missed.

  37. John 20:29 says:

    in my youth (11 years old) i had a girl friend whose family would invite me to church – it was a nice church with all the normal virtues Pastor Arnold described at #34 as i recall… the first time i’d heard the hymn, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” – a friend? i’d never thought of Jesus as a friend (mother fought my exposure to the Faith – didn’t think children should be steered into any adult’s faith)
    that was the church where i was invited to accept Christ with the admonition that, if i didn’t do so right then, God would turn His back on me and i’d never have another chance at redemption… i didn’t believe them… normal virtues, but skewed doctrine IMX

    BD – you are one of those men standing for the true and solid Faith… so IMV, you’re not “normal” ๐Ÿ™‚ … don’t quit

  38. Babylon's Dread says:

    @37 Thank you

  39. Duane Arnold says:

    #36 BD/John 20:29

    I think most of the people here are “normal” (at least, somewhat normal). My issue is with the many faith communities who have abandoned “normal” in the hope that they will attract “young people”, married couples, “seekers”, etc. Michael N. and I talk about it all the time… just let the church be the church. My friends in their 20s and 30s are looking for that sort of stability and belonging. While we’re worried about the bass player not showing up for the praise band, my younger friends want to sing hymns out of a hymnal with other people in church. They can attend much “clubs” with much better light shows and music on Friday nights…

  40. Jean says:


    Here’s an issue I see. Some people tire eventually of innovation, surprises, being manipulated emotionally by music and/or testimonies or fancy videos, highly produced discipleship content etc. They get to the point where they want something stable, something reliable, somewhere where they can go to find peace for their soul, not anxiety, tension, excitement, etc.

    They realize that the Bible has been studied in original languages by great scholars for 2,000 years. There’s no new insight or doctrine or interpretation. Any claim from a celebrity pastor that he or his church has found the true faith or has recovered the long lost true faith is total BS. I don’t think theology has discovered anything that wasn’t in the Church fathers that is legitimate.

    So, these people, who have though long and hard on these matters, eventually will gravitate to a church body which is creedal and sacramental and liturgical, and stands on the shoulders of the Church fathers.

    Not everyone will get tired of the evangelical treadmill spirituality, and I haven’t really found a way to convince anyone. It just happens to some people somehow.

    I went to Matins this morning, which is my regular Wednesday morning practice. I look forward to singing The Venite and The Te Deum every Matins. I look forward to memorizing the liturgy and humming or singing it when I’m alone or out and about. It’s not for everyone, but I want absolutely no innovation.

    Lord, I love the habitation of your house and the place where your glory dwells.

  41. Duane Arnold says:

    #40 Jean

    Yes and yes…

  42. Descended says:


    I haven’t gone liturgical yet, don’t see it in my future, but I can state without exaggeration that I am tired of the spiritual treadmill. I agree with your post, almost 90 percent. I’ve gotten to the point that I can’t stand the lights being lowered for worship (not just all worship, but specifically the pensive stuff in the minor chords). We already have stained glass windows that’s really good light!

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