Blogger and researcher Jim Fletcher has worked in the book publishing industry for 15 years, and is now director of the apologetics group Prophecy Matters. His new book, "Truth Wins," provides important analysis of Rob Bell and his Emergent friends.More ↓Less ↑
I should have known it was a waste of time. I should have known it would be more productive to watch my entire Abbott & Costello library.
I’m talking about trying to get answers from what I call the new evangelical leadership, about a variety of things, including why they invite folks like Cornel West to speak at leadership gatherings.
Many changes are taking place in American evangelicalism; oddly enough, these seismic changes parallel what the change agents on the political left have in store for the rest of us.
One way the religionists are doing it is through the production/publication and dissemination of their ideas.
What has been called neo-evangelicalism (that which, generally speaking, lessens actual gospel teaching in favor of social issues – combating sex trafficking, for example) has “benefitted” from church-growth/purpose-driven marketing techniques. One of the results is that they market their worldview through books, DVDs, podcasts, etc.
What interests me most about this situation is that when I’ve tried to ask questions about, for example, the agenda of Catalyst, I’ve been stonewalled. Other ministries have stonewalled as well, but Catalyst is quite an interesting case because they are, well, catalysts for the new breed of evangelicalism.
Think of it this way: In 2011, Catalyst invited Dr. Cornel West to speak at Catalyst East. The radical professor spoke via video.
Now, Cornel West is a self-described “non-Marxist socialist.”
In it, you’ll read disturbing facts about West, like: “He is co-chair of the ‘Democratic Socialists of America,’ an organization that defines its position on the left as ‘anti-anti-Communist’ – that is, as an opponent of those who opposed communism.”
We also learn that West was “a celebrity sponsor of the 2012 ‘Global March to Jerusalem,’ an attack organized by Islamist Iran on the Jewish state.”
Further, in his 2010 memoir, “Brother West,” this change agent identifies black theologian James Cone as a “brother.”
This is the same Cone who has said: “What we need is the destruction of whiteness, which is the source of human misery in the world.”
Well, you get the point.
Question is, why did the Catalyst leadership invite Cornel West to speak to thousands of pastors and youth leaders?
That’s exactly what I attempted to ask Catalyst Executive Director Brad Lomenick. His assistant emailed me that Mr. Lomenick had to “graciously decline” my request to answer. When I asked again, I was told he “won’t be able” to respond. Point being, I can ask again, or I can go stand outside and stare at the sky; the effect is the same.
Catalyst and its publishing/marketing machine is mainstreaming radical thought in the American church. I could give you example after example, but here’s just one more for now: At the Catalyst East event in Atlanta, in October 2012, Portland Mayor Sam Adams – openly gay – presented a workshop. In the workshop, there was no discussion of the biblical view of homosexuality. Rather, we learned how Mr. Adams and Kevin Palau (of the Palau Association) build bridges between evangelicals and the city, for projects that improve the city.
Back to West.
One of the more fascinating elements of all this is that Cornel West’s anti-Israel stance fits nicely with Catalyst’s emphasis on the Palestinian narrative. I mention all this because rank-and-file, traditional evangelicals have no clue what is going on with these generational shifts. The result is that many will wake up one day – like, tomorrow – and discover that the American church no longer bears any resemblance at all to the one that in the past proclaimed “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” (Oops, I quoted from the KJV, high on the new evangelicals’ mockery list.)
There are so many prominent Christian pastors and ministry leaders associated with Catalyst (and the mother ship, Leadership Network) that one gets dizzy trying to keep it all straight. Andy Stanley, for example, was in on the ground floor of Catalyst (around 1999) and now co-hosts several “Catalyst One Day” events around the country, in which church growth techniques/product packages are sold to thousands of pastors who will never have more than 75 people in their congregations.
Yet this is the same Andy Stanley who, in April, 2012, delivered a message at his North Point Community Church entitled “When Gracie Met Truthie.” In this message, Stanley seemed to turn a blind eye to homosexual relationships, but in the days and weeks that followed, he refused to clarify just what he meant.
This is part of it: the ambiguity. The subsequent stonewalling.
Add to this mix a trend among the new evangelicals to jockey for photo ops with Barack and Michelle Obama (see Stanley, Erwin McManus, Scot McKnight, Cameron Strang), and one can see how different the religious landscape looks in America today.
Of course, my perspective here would be/has been mocked by these very change agents – What, us worry about liberalism? – but it’s easily documented.
The real question is – and this is one we needn’t bother Mr. Lomenick with – does this disturb those Bible-believing Christians that still exist within our churches?
The silence of these change agents, when confronted with questions, is definitely not golden. In actuality, it has sort of a tinny ring to it.