Liberal Grace

Friday, December 22, 2006

Liberals needed to save Christianity (Part I)

It's not so strange that American conservative Christians would find a kinship with Nigerians.

The news about the two Episcopal churches who split from the larger denomination had an interesting footnote that might have left you scratching your head.

The churches didn't just leave -- the joined the Nigerian conference.

Two large and influential Episcopal parishes in Virginia voted overwhelmingly yesterday to leave the Episcopal Church and to affiliate with the Anglican archbishop of Nigeria, a conservative leader in a churchwide fight over homosexuality.
Most of the breakaway churches in Virginia are joining the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, an offshoot of the Nigerian church led by the archbishop of Nigeria, Peter J. Akinola.
Episcopal Parishes in Virginia Vote to Secede

Nigeria? Why, of all places, Nigeria?

I have my own theory, based on my very extensive immersion in conservative Christian culture.

The American conservative church* is so post-modern that they relate better with pre-modern cultures than they do with the modern west.

Their rejection of evolution is just one component in their general rejection of the Enlightenment and the scientific world view.

Make no mistake, conservative Christians are not stupid or uneducated; instead they've created an alternative world view that distinctly diverges from modern western society. It's quite remarkable and not very well understood, even though millions of Americans live in that other world.

There is a natural alliance between American conservative Christians and Christians in cultures that missed the Enlightenment.

For example, many conservative Christians believe that the spirit world is suppressed by the scientific world view and, more specifically, that demons work more subtly in rationalistic cultures and more openly in pre-modern cultures which believe in demons.

This world view has created an active tourist industry of "prayer walkers" who travel to less-developed countries to encounter "strongholds of darkness" and battle demons. It's a post-modern version of the pre-modern monastic tradition where prayer-warrior monks would battle the demons believed to dwell in the wilderness.

Attitudes towards mental illness, physical healing, luck, women's rights inspiration, territory, family structure and more are quite similar between post-modern American Christians and pre-modern Third World Christians.

And, of course, their shared hostility for homosexuals.

Nigerian church slams gay bishop
The African opposition is led by the Church of Nigeria whose Primate, Archbishop Peter Akinola, sees the appointment as a "satanic attack on the Church of God".
This is not a position shared strongly in the liberalised Western churches.

So, it's not as strange as it seems that a break-away American conservative church would ally itself with the Nigerian church.

*I'm aware that I'm generalizing when speak of "conservative Christians" but what I say is generally true. Of course, there are exceptions, variations and degrees. Feel free to put "many" or "most" in front of any of my generalizations.

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