The sexual revolution and theological liberalism are a package deal
Barton J. Gingerich | For the evangelical left, the “left” tends to eclipse the “evangelical”
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Sojourners has joined the pro-trans bandwagon. For those unaware, Sojourners, or “Sojo,” is an organization representing the evangelical left (or whatever is left of the evangelical left). In an earlier time, this meant a commitment to evangelical sexual ethics coupled with a devotion to an expansive welfare safety net, functional pacifism, opposition to racism, and other social justice concerns. The publication itself emerged out of an intentional community started by a group of politically liberal students from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. In the 1960s, the evangelical left embraced the civil rights movement and criticized the Vietnam War while holding to a claim of Christian orthodoxy. This made for a lot of uneasy alliances with other progressives in the United States and often led to clashes with what is known as the Religious Right, which Sojourners perceived as a deeply compromised movement thanks to its cooperation with other American conservatives.
As progressivism has continued to radicalize on issues regarding life, marriage, and sexuality, Sojourners has been swept away from its original claim of orthodox theological moorings to embrace the powerful gender-bending ideologies of our day. For example, Jim Wallis, its former president and editor-in-chief, flipped on the redefinition of marriage, conceding on the issue of homosexuality nearly a decade ago. Now, his successor, Adam Russell Taylor, has embraced transgenderism. Or at least he opposes those fighting the transgender movement, writing, “It’s particularly important to speak out and act given recent actions by state legislatures and governors to marginalize, silence, and erase the very identities of transgender and other LGBTQ people, including children.” He insisted, “How we care for and protect transgender and gender-nonconforming people poses an ongoing test of how we live out the bold, inclusive love of Jesus.” As the Institute on Religion and Democracy’s Jeff Walton noted, “That love in his view doesn’t include opposing chemical castration of minors and radical, body-altering surgeries, what Taylor and transgender activists benignly term ‘individualized, age-appropriate gender-affirming care.’”
This recent development confirms a suspicion that many have had regarding Sojourners and its supporters: When it comes to the evangelical left, the “left” eclipses the “evangelical.” The commitment to progressive ideology eventually crowds out and dismisses what Scripture clearly and authoritatively proclaims concerning morality, particularly concerning sex and life issues. Traditional Christian ethics have become a cause for offense to left-leaning evangelicals, and so they abandon the ancient, Biblical moral principles of Christianity for popular clichés and permissiveness.
Why does a lean toward political progressivism eventually give way to moral or doctrinal infidelity? Obviously, there needs to be room for Christian liberty and differences of opinion on matters of mere prudence. After all, there is not one set Christian position on immigration law or tax policy. Yet, this moral shift at Sojo involves foundational moral truths.
How could an organization and its supporters drift so far from Christian fidelity? For one thing, mission drift is a temptation in all organizations. It certainly occurred in mainline churches and groups like the YMCA. People and institutions become unmoored from their doctrinal roots and drift into heresy.
For another, progressivism as an ideology is genetically at odds with the Christian tradition. As Russell Kirk once observed, “Ideology is inverted religion, denying the Christian doctrine of salvation through grace in death, and substituting collective salvation here on earth through violent revolution.” Radical ideologies almost always result from a utopian “unconstrained vision,” to borrow a term from Thomas Sowell. Ideologues set about on a collective project of establishing heaven on earth. That which is old and inherited must be cast out. That includes the notion that boys are unchangeably male and girls unchangeably female. Biblical Christianity soon becomes a limiter and outright obstacle to these ambitious projects. And so those that claim to be Christian come to embrace their real religion, which is generally a variant of bog-standard, morally permissible progressivism. Political liberalism morphs into full-blown theological liberalism.
It’s a simple truth. If the commitment to Christian orthodoxy is weak and the commitment to certain political outlooks is strong, it’s not long before the one subsumes the other. That is exactly what happened with so many historic church bodies in the West. Fidelity to the fundamentals of the Christian faith was minimized, suppressed, and eventually exiled through faculty firings, lawsuits, and other forms of nasty church politics. Soon, political sloganeering and progressive moralizing dominated the pulpit. Now, those with a more enthusiastic, evangelical ethos and background are following the same trail blazed more than a century ago by the mainline Protestants. The god of this faith is a jealous one. Eventually, it demands complete and utter surrender. Tragically—if predictably—Sojourners is a case in point.
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