Tuesday, January 31, 2006

What next? 

I've recently discovered the work of a great Russian priest and theologian named Aleksandr Men', who was murdered in 1990. He was thoroughly orthodox, brilliant, a huge national success. His parents--like many, many others in Russia in the early 20th century--were Jewish intellectuals who converted to Christianity. He was a priest for his whole adult life. He toiled for decades when the Russian church was controlled by Stalinist hacks. He became a national sensation when he started to talk on television to the whole country in the late '80's, when religion became a public topic again. Anyway, reactionary forces--monarchist/fascist/anti-semitic--quickly chose Men' as the enemy ("Western-influenced," "over-intellectual," "too ecumenical"). He was murdered with an axe in 1990 and no one has ever found out who did it.

Obviously the situation there was and is totally different than in America today. But reading this interview (given 4 days before his death) made me think about what is eventually in store for us. At some point, we are going to have to attack the poison at its roots. The poison is in the toxic television and mega-churches.

People are going to have to go after them--loudly, publicly, powerfully. And they will have to go after them in a way that actually threatens the power-brokers by appealing to the masses. The people in those anti-Christian mega-churches want meaning, and some (some) will respond to a real, positive, counter-evangelical challenge to the authority of the false preachers and snake-oil salesman. That will lead to even more reaction, suspicion of "ecumenical" influences, and a resurgence of hatred against the intellectuals and lay theologians who stand for thinking (a new kind of "anti-semitism," which may well involve some Jews joining forces with the Christo-fascists and attacking other "self-hating" Jews).

My point--perhaps to be a bit grandiose--is that the real enemies of the Christo-fascists are going to be people who appropriate their language, who speak the language of spirit and meaning as it was meant to be spoken, and who condemn U.S. evangelism, in the name of the true Christ, as idolatry. When that happens, when people finally start to call a spade a spade--there will be murderous violence in America. I just don't see how it's avoidable.

Postscript: Just to be clear--the attack on the Christo-fascists by secular and skeptical liberals will never touch them, never reach the people who have been taken in. But when real Christians stand up, as Bonhoeffer had to do in 1933 when the German Lutheran Church accepted the Nazi racial laws, when real Christians stand up and say publicly: "That is no longer the Church of Christ! That is not the Gospel! Come here! Come here and listen to the true Gospel!"--when real Christians make this claim and invitation--and they will have to eventually--the problem will have been faced and named, and the response will be violence.


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