The IM Saturday Monks Brunch: January 4, 2020
It’s almost Epiphany, the end of the 12 Days of Christmas in the Western Christian world. Time to take the Christmas decorations down. Our friend Mike Bell thinks his neighbors might have left theirs up a bit too long.
Today, we will look back on 2019 here at Internet Monk, sharks and all, and do a bit of looking forward to the new year, which promises to be just as eventful, or likely even more so — given that it’s a presidential election year, an impeachment trial is imminent, and the U.S. just poked the Iranian bear, potentially setting the entire Middle East ablaze in conflict.
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MOST-DISCUSSED INTERNET MONK POSTS OF 2019
JANUARY: Evangelicals for King Donald, by Chaplain Mike (197 comments), and It’s 2019 – and I still shake my head at how the church still treats women, by Mike Bell (111 comments)
AUGUST: Our Moral Impulses — And Appreciating Our Neighbors’, by Chaplain Mike (160 comments), and Evangelical Anxiety about Culture, by Michael Spencer (110 comments)
DECEMBER: The “No” and the “Yes” of Jesus, by Chaplain Mike (57 comments), and “Lo, How a Rose” — Experiencing the Power of Beauty, by Michael Spencer (40 comments)
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IM Story of the Year 2019: Schisms in evangelicalism appear and widen
In the view of many Americans the word “evangelical” has become so intertwined with the Republican party and especially with unwavering support for President Trump that it has virtually lost all meaning as a description of Jesus-shaped faith and piety.
The band-aid was ripped off painfully once and for all recently by Mark Galli, who wrote an editorial at Christianity Today, a flagship publication of evangelicalism, called Trump Should Be Removed from Office.
Galli accused today’s evangelicals of hypocrisy, giving Donald Trump a free ride on his obvious and blatant moral and character issues after having insisted upon righteousness in the days of Bill Clinton.
[T]his president has dumbed down the idea of morality in his administration. He has hired and fired a number of people who are now convicted criminals. He himself has admitted to immoral actions in business and his relationships with women, about which he remains proud. His Twitter feed alone—with its habitual string of mischaracterizations, lies, and slanders—is a near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused.
Reactions to Galli from other evangelicals were swift and loud. Over 200 leaders wrote a letter slamming Galli’s opinion and claiming they were just “Bible-believing Christians and patriotic Americans who are simply grateful that our President has sought our advice as his administration has advanced policies that protect the unborn, promote religious freedom, reform our criminal justice system, contribute to strong working families through paid family leave, protect the freedom of conscience, prioritize parental rights, and ensure that our foreign policy aligns with our values while making our world safer, including through our support of the State of Israel.”
This led Timothy Dalrymple, the president of CT, to write a piece defending Galli, The Flag in the Whirlwind, and then Galli did an interview with the New York Times in which he lamented the “ethical naïveté” of many evangelicals. They appear, he said, to be ignorant of how grave and disturbing the president’s moral failures, character flaws, and public words and actions truly are. They have taken cues from him and have become his “disciples,” answering their critics by denigrating and dismissing them rather than engaging in serious conversation.
The ascendancy of Donald Trump and “Trumpism” has revealed a deep split at the heart of American evangelical faith and practice. Barring something I can’t forsee, it will only get worse in 2020.
And so it begins. See: Trump Launches “Evangelicals for Trump”
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On a serious note…Australia continues to burn
Australia is facing an apocalyptic crisis with this year’s bushfires. Our friend Susan and others have been giving regular reports to us. If you’ve been watching the news, the world is finally beginning to take notice.
This weekend looks to be a particularly bad one.
We will put regular updates on the IM Bulletin Board (sidebar right) under the heading “FOR YOUR DAILY PRAYERS.”
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What does the next decade hold for religion?
Religion News Service asked scholars, faith leaders, activists and other experts to reflect on the last 10 years in religion, as well what they expect to emerge for faith and practice in the 2020s.
Here is a brief sample. I encourage you to read the entire article.
Monitor the growing connections between nationalism and religion
Khyati Joshi: I’m keeping an eye on these growing bonds of nationalism and religion in America, as well as in India. In both large, officially secular democracies, a rising tide of thought and official action links national identity with the majority religion.
The nones will become a majority
Ryan Burge: I wanted to predict what American religion would look like in 2030 by extending the current trend lines of the seven major religious traditions in the United States. More specifically, I was interested in how long it would take for the religiously unaffiliated, who have seen major gains over the past decade, to be clearly the largest group in the United States. The answer that was derived from my projection model is 2029. This is the point when the model says that if the so-called nones grow at the slowest rate, they will still be larger than any other group, regardless of the margin of error.
Demographic changes will appear at the polls
Robert P. Jones: If the 2010s was the decade of transformation, the 2020s will be the decade of reckoning with change. Because white Christians vote at higher rates than other Americans, the ripple effects of these tectonic changes in the general population haven’t yet reached the ballot box. While 2008 was the last presidential election year when white Christians were still a majority among the general population, white Christians will likely remain the majority of voters in 2020. But in 2024, demographic waves will crash onto our political shores.
This new reality will impact partisan politics, particularly the calculus of future Republican presidential candidates. Currently, the GOP base is about 70% white and Christian. The more tightly President Donald Trump ties the party to this shrinking and graying base, the longer the road to victory will be in 2024 for the Republican nominee, who by necessity must create a broader, younger and more racially diverse coalition.
Jews will face a difficult 2020 and beyond
Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin: [L]et me tell you what I see in the stars for world Jewry in the coming year. The picture is not pretty. This past year has seen the rapid acceleration of anti-Semitic incidents — both in Europe and in the United States. The social contract, complete with an immune system that guarded against the excesses of hate, has vanished.
No, this is not Berlin, 1938. And yet, it is disturbing and disorienting. European Jews are “accustomed” to this; it has been part of their narrative for the past thousand years. For American Jews, this is something for which nothing in their history or experience has prepared them. More disconcerting: With the exception of certain major cities, synagogue affiliation rates are dropping. Fewer young people are getting a quality Jewish education. With a shrinking sense of religious community — less communal Velcro — young Jews, and others, will be less prepared to meet the external challenges they will face.
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A PERSONAL WORD FROM CHAPLAIN MIKE
It’s hard to fathom, but this year marks my tenth year as lead writer for Internet Monk. And April 10th greets us as the tenth anniversary of Michael Spencer’s death.
I find it hard to put into words what this blog has meant to me, but it has become an integral part of my life, my inner being, my spirituality, my faith and practice.
Thanks to so many people, most especially Michael and Denise, for giving me this opportunity. But also, to Jeff Dunn, Damaris, Mike Bell, Lisa, Joe the Plumber, Mike the Geologist, Pastor Dan, Randy Thompson, Ted the Lobsterman (please tell me when they need a minister on the Cranberry Islands again!), Michael Buckley (our artist), Adam Palmer, Adam McHugh, and others who have contributed by writing, reading, commenting, supporting, befriending, and challenging me — heartfelt gratitude for all you’ve done to enrich my life and this website.
2020 may — may — find me stepping back a bit from writing as often. I’m still trying to work out a plan for the year. But I guarantee you this: we will always try to keep things interesting, to keep things Jesus-shaped, to keep things honest, and to keep things conversational.
Our goal is to continue the vision I stated in a 2015 site update: to be a post-evangelical, ecumenical, pastoral, and contemplative site, devoted to maintaining a legacy of Jesus-shaped Christianity.
You won’t always like what you read here. But I hope you’ll always find something nourishing and challenging.
We could always use financial support — I promise we won’t ask often, but we do need to keep feeding the gerbils that keep this site turning. You can use the “Donate” button at the top.
Ten years. Who’d a-thunk it?
Best to you for 2020 and beyond. May God bless us, every one.