My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.


Deconstructing Hartman

or, In Defense of the Mainstream.

Yesterday, for some unknown reason, I actually had enough time to sit and read through the whole newspaper. Which, I guess, is good in that it was a relaxed Sunday at home with the family. Bad in that the only paper in town on Sundays is the Post.

In the Commentary section was a column by some guy named Barrie Hartman (I can't find a link to this column). I've never read him before, but I did yesterday--the title "The Blurring of Christianity" got my attention. Unfortunate, that.

The lead in to the meat of the issue goes thusly: Has the right wing of the Republican Part not only hifacked the American flag and patriotism but Jesus Christ as well?

If so, how did it happen? And why aren't mainstream Christians screaming bloody murder?

So, let's start with a definition. Webster's defines "mainstream" as "prevailing current or direction of activity or influence." First off, to decry the prevailing direction of Christianity as "out of the mainstream" is, itself, oxymoronic. Secondly, the use of the word "mainstream" has turned into an exercise in sophistry.

Hartman quotes emails which he purports to support his claim on the mainstream. . . .beneath . . .the exterior facade, there lurks homophobia, steadfast loyalty to the war, and an inability to adjust to any view not consistent with Biblical revelations. Or The way the war was presented by our president made it look like it was the Christians vs. the Democrats. How about I am increasingly discouraged by the attitude that seems to be nurtured within the church that makes it acceptable to exclude persons. Then there's It's been said that the Christian church must change or it will die. And my favorite, from a non-Christian, I hold my two grandmothers up as my ideal of Christianity, and have said several times recently that they would be turning over in their graves if they could hear what is passing for Christianity today.

First of all, homophobia. And, oh yeah, 71-29. In what world is a 71% majority, the margin which passed the Gay Marriage Ban in Missouri, "out of the mainstream?" And that's all voters, not just Christians. If Hartman would like to make a case that that tiny sliver of 29% is the "mainstream," I've got some clover growing in the front yard I'd like to sell him as "turf."

Second, the war. This weekend's Newsweek poll shows 55-38 support for the war in Iraq. Now, whether or not you're on one side or the other of the war, it is awfully difficult to make a case that 55% is NOT THE MAINSTREAM!!

Third, the exclusion. Yes, it is true that Christ welcomed all, forgave all, and died for all. But I am constantly brought back to the line "Go now, and sin no more [John 8:11]." Further, "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him" [Luke 17:3]. Repentance requires a sincere effort to change behavior. Christians have a responsibility to bring more into the fold, but to also make every effort to keep the fold true to the teachings of the Bible. If none other than Jesus counselled "rebuke," perhaps Hartman and his other "mainstreamers" would do well to listen.

"Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division." [Luke 12:49] I suppose Hartman would prefer a brand of Christianity that pronounces no right and wrong, and no judgements, but that is not Christianity.

What Hartman is really hoping to do with this article, I feel, is to re-define what "mainstream" really is. As is very common to the liberals of today, when they can't win an argument on the merits, they try to redefine the terminology. Thus abortion becomes "choice", discernment and differentiation become "judgementalism," and disagreement becomes "anger and hatred." Such sophistry is a clear indication of a weak philosophy.

And a quibble: Hartman cites a "large and thoughtful response" to his first article on the subject from Aug. 1; later, "here's a sampling from more than 70 e-mails plus letter I received." I get about 70 e-mails a month from the same spammers--I don't classify 70 as "large" for a columnist in a major city newspaper.

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