Mushy Christianity

One of the greatest of recent seductions by that wily devil Screwtape – perfectly fitted to the times – is to puff a tiny sugar crystal of Christianity into sweetish airy cotton candy. “IN-clusiveness!” he will insist. “Christianity is about nothing if not IN-clusiveness.”

That is how Screwtape sweet-talks you into affirming that some abomination (divorce, abortion, euthanasia, adultery, gay marriage) is, actually, included within the broad reach of Christian love. It would be positively un-Christian to think ill of that “abomination.” You should be ashamed you ever thought it was wrong. Are you a bigot or something?

“Strange!” I would have thought, “Christianity is about EX-clusion.” On the last day the Judge shall divide the world into sheep and goats, you over on the left, you over on the right. A few of you will be chosen to enter with me into Paradise. The rest will descend, as you have chosen, into everlasting punishment. I have come not to bring peace, but the sword. He who is not with me is against me. God sent His light into the darkness, and the darkness received it not. The gate is narrow, and the way is strait. Only a tiny remnant will be saved. There was much weeping, and tears, and gnashing of teeth.

You can look it up.

Take half an hour, skim through the gospels of Matthew and Mark. (Even more “un-Christian” are some of the Epistles of St. Paul.)

Screwtape has it all wrong. The moment you encounter someone stressing how IN-clusive Christianity is, walk away from him quickly, for the truth is not in him.

Conspicuously was this true of the infamous Newsweek article putting homosexual liaisons in paradise, and picturing marriage (in the Christian view) as a kind of hell. This article appeared at Christmastime – Christmastime! And it was later defended by the usually clear-eyed editor of Newsweek, John Meacham. That is the shrewdest sign of how skillful Screwtape is. He picks none but the best.

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But another case: Much that passes today for “environmentalism” is exceedingly vulnerable to sudden and unexpected factual disproof. Old-fashioned preachments of hellfire and brimstone (in certain types of Christian churches in generations past) seem to have become a template for today’s dire depictions of the way the world will end all too soon.

If twenty years from now, however, world climate seems to have become dramatically colder year after year (temperatures have been flat or slightly cooler since 1997), and if more discoveries are made about the effect of activities within the sun, which affect ice ages and warming ages on Earth, current panic may seem to have been exceedingly naive. Our children and grandchildren may look back at our gullibility with embarrassment. Or maybe not. The point is, to become careful and empirical and fact-oriented, not cause-oriented.

For myself (no scientist), I calculate that global cooling is more likely than global warming.

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Mushy Christianity also results in obscurantist thinking about abortion. Some people think it is more “tolerant,” “broadminded”— more inclusive – to accept abortion as a new social reality. In fact, until 1973, nearly all jurisdictions in the United States regarded abortion as a gross violation of natural rights. Alas, what our new abortion regime has done is narrow the circle of life and liberty. This is liberal? This is Christian?

President Lincoln not only opposed slavery but also opposed the rights of states to have a “choice” in whether to permit slavery or not. His purpose in opposing both slavery and “choice” was to expand the circle of life and liberty. (No one can choose to put himself in slavery; no one can choose to abort himself; therefore, no one has the right to enslave or to abort anyone else.)

The dismantling of the institution of slavery was, indeed, a liberal purpose, and a Christian one.

Again, on January 23, our new president reinstated the culture of death in American overseas programs and foreign aid. American tax money will again be used to pay for abortions overseas. “What is the solution,” I have often heard people overseas ask, “that the richest country on earth brings to the poorest peoples on this planet? Surely a wealthy and caring United States has something better to offer than to pay women of the neediest nations to kill their own children.”

And to do so during the very months when the children are most defenseless, in their mother’s womb. Many here and abroad find this strategy disgusting.

Moreover, this crude procedure deprives poor peoples (colored peoples mostly) of the full talents and beauties these not-yet-born human individuals are poised to contribute to the world. Children are the greatest natural resource any nation inherits. Human capital is the greatest and most irreplaceable of all forms of capital. It is the chief cause of the wealth of nations.

Each of the discarded little boys and (mostly) girls possesses an utterly individual DNA. No other is quite like any one of them. Abortion deprives Earth of their creative gifts.

Christianity came into the world to relieve us from, not add to, these and many other forms of human mush.

Michael Novak (1933-2017) was George Frederick Jewett Scholar in Religion, Philosophy, and Public Policy from the American Enterprise Institute, is an author, philosopher, and theologian. He was also a trustee and a visiting professor at Ave Maria University.