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Stonestreet Puts the United Methodist Anti-ID Ban in the Context of Liberal Christianity and Its Crackup

David Klinghoffer

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Take action now: Contact United Methodist officials and urge them to overturn their ban on Discovery Institute.

We’ve stressed the way the United Methodist ban on intelligent design reveals a propensity for censorship, group think, and surrender to materialism on the part of that church and similar groups, religious and otherwise, that should know better. But in a BreakPoint commentary, John Stonestreet puts the matter in a different but related perspective: the crackup of liberal Christianity.

He begins by pointing out that claims of Christian demographic disaster are really about the mainline churches:

The big religion story of last year? Christianity is in decline in America. The sensational headlines were based on data from the Pew Research Center. But as Ed Stetzer of Lifeway Research observed in the USA Today, the folks writing the headlines must not have read the study.

It turns out that almost all of the reported decline took place not among evangelicals, but in mainline Protestant denominations, which have been in freefall spiritually and numerically for decades. And no wonder. The “Christianity” preached in many of them sounds more like the Huffington Post opinion pages than the Bible.

From my outsider’s perspective, that sounds about right. Stonestreet gives an assortment of illustrations, including the United Methodist minister who “call[s] on God to bless abortion clinics.” About the UMC’s move to block us as an exhibitor at their General Conference:

Faithful believers in the United Methodist Church might wonder why UMC leadership recently rejected an application from Discovery Institute to exhibit at their upcoming General Conference. Discovery, the think-tank at the heart of the Intelligent Design movement, appealed the decision, insisting that it isn’t a creationist front-group intent on teaching religion in schools. “[Intelligent Design],” Discovery said, “is a science- not a faith-based idea.” And though compatible with Christianity, it doesn’t rely on the Bible or even identify the “intelligent Designer.”

In response, United Methodist leaders reiterated the ban and refused to offer any further information, striking an odd discord with their denomination’s slogan: “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors.” Evidently the UMC is open to all ideas — except the idea that creation gives evidence of its Creator.

There’s a kind of derangement here — the Esau syndrome, I’d call it. You see the same thing in other contexts; politics, for example. Inheritors of a great tradition are so indifferent or even shamed by it that they will go to nearly any ends to secure validation from representatives of ideologies — in this case, materialism, secularism — that stand opposed to their heritage. Desperately seeking approval, in a heartbeat they’ll sell their birthright for that famous mess of pottage.

Image: Esau and the Mess of Pottage, by Jan Victors [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

David Klinghoffer

Senior Fellow and Editor, Evolution News
David Klinghoffer is a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute and the editor of Evolution News & Science Today, the daily voice of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture, reporting on intelligent design, evolution, and the intersection of science and culture. Klinghoffer is also the author of six books, a former senior editor and literary editor at National Review magazine, and has written for the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Seattle Times, Commentary, and other publications. Born in Santa Monica, California, he graduated from Brown University in 1987 with an A.B. magna cum laude in comparative literature and religious studies. David lives near Seattle, Washington, with his wife and children.

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