THE BLOG
03/04/2014 12:55 pm ET Updated May 04, 2014

I'm Calling a Mulligan on the American Church

A mulligan is not exactly a second chance, but the removal of the first instance without penalty. American Christianity is in the slumps. We are losing members because of our anti-gay stance, our anti-science stance, and our anti-sex stance not to mention our long history of abuses and current trend of supporting the worse sort of laws. Don't get me wrong; I do not believe the Church needs to bow to the standards of the age, but there is something about just how stupid we've been about holding to past superstitions and attempting to force these medieval mores upon a modern society. Plus, we have a really poor record of being Christ-like when it comes to the poor, minorities, women, and others we just do not like.

So, I want to call a mulligan on American Christianity. I want to go all the way back to the time Christians first attempted to settle the already settled land. The Church will now stand against diseased charity, against the beginning of the African-slave trade, against forced conversions. This will give us something of a moral authority when we preach that Grace is the heart of Christianity. It would be great to retain the moral authority against the changing tides of time by not having used Scripture to justify the attempted enslavement and genocide of an entire people.

I mean, people are using Scripture to harm people even today, just like they did to justify the slave trade, oppressing women, and wars. Maybe if we started off right, we wouldn't have formed this habit.

Perhaps if we could do it again, American Christians wouldn't create Fundamentalism when Darwinism finally reached our shores. A mulligan would prevent great minds from retreating into subjective literalism where their brains atrophied. Maybe if they thought through these things we wouldn't have modern-day advocates of a Christian Sharia law like those we see in Kansas, Arizona, and across the Deep South. Christians wouldn't propose "biology" books suggesting Isaiah wrote about pterosaurs. Rather, American Christians would take a cue from their European counterparts, such as Georges Lemaître, and explore science. Or, like John Polkinghorne, they may explore science and faith. Simply put, Bill Nye would be quoted in American Churches while Ken Ham chided as in need of Jesus.

Likewise, we'd demand our pastors and ministers to be trained at qualified institutions. We'd demand of ourselves the ability to provide some sort of reason in accounting for our faith. No more faith healers, plagiarists, or prosperity preachers.

I'd like to call a mulligan on the American Church and Civil Rights. By the 1960's, Mainline denominations were marching in protest against segregation laws, but even today many of those same denominations remain segregated. Had we started with the idea that all people, regardless  of color or economic class, were equally the children of God, we wouldn't have to have white denominations and black denominations. We wouldn't force the poorer to sit at the back of the Church and non-whites to meet someplace else. American Christians would have insisted that the promises enshrined in the Declaration of Independence were extended to all men, and women, because all were created equal before God. At no point would history lay at our feet the cause of injustice, unlike that which we remember today.

I'd call a mulligan on the rampant and radical individualism supported by a great swath of American Christians. We have forgotten the covenantal system of Scripture. We are not alone, but with God and the Church. We would focus on building and promoting communities, and not just our own. A mulligan would stop the rather false idea that we can pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. We would employ biblical election, a direct challenge to individualism, to support the idea we need raise the tide for all ships, to support the idea that we are all in this together - to suggest that if one falls, we all fall.

American patriotism would not be a tenet of Christianity. The American flag would not be in the sanctuary. We would not suggest you must be a Christian like us in order to be a real American. Rampant consumerism would never exist under our mulligan. Christianity and capitalism would not be confused. Rather than false promises of unending wealth provided to you by the First Bank of Heaven, Matthew 25 would be the creed of American Christians. Out with the flag and the bank and in with the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned. Of course, we'd have to get rid of easy beliefism, something that has given rise to both of these modern heresies.

Maybe we could call a mulligan on how we evangelize. So we have forced conversion on anyone at the start, but what would this mean today? Instead of using the fear of hell, the image of a wrathful God, and one of an American Jesus to bludgeon people into the Church walls, we would live to serve and by our love to others they would know us. When they know us, they would know our mulliganed American Church history. It is a history where we prevented slavery, fought for civil rights, and remained in loyal opposition to our Government, caring more for God than the favor of powerful individuals. Our history would be one where we would be quiet more often than we spoke, where we studied more than we preached, where we served more than we took. If they knew all of this history, then maybe they would know that we loved and by our loved they would know we are Christians.

A mulligan is impossible in the real world; so maybe we can just start treating people better and hope they forgive us.