A platitude factory, a place of weekly (and quick) emotional therapy, a platform where clichés are passed on so as to provide the needed emotional “spiritual boost.” Entertaining. Fun. Emotionally-driven. Personality-driven.
I have just described the conservative evangelical pulpit, not to mention the current model of pastoral ministry itself.
We need to mature out of this. We can start by becoming much more contemplative, more reasonably settled (dare I say, intellectual?). American conservative evangelicals, of the popular strand at least, need to engage tradition more, as well as the voices from the past (Augustine, Aquinas, et al). We need the Creeds–but only if we want to survive. I wonder if our traditionless tradition can bring us out of it? I doubt it. It cannot do it.
Ours, after all, is a tradition that would rather have the platitudes over the patristics, immediate therapy over informed theology. Ours is a tradition of silencing tradition. It is a liturgy of banishment, a doing away of tried and true orthodoxy, of right thinking, of settled worship. We love too much the flashy charisma, the lust of large crowds; we are too easily captivated (enslaved?) to excitement and exciting personalities; ours is an ecstasy birthed out of a love for immediate pleasure and gratification. All such worldly infatuations are too powerful. There is little room, then, for right thinking. And yet, we have gone further: We have banished thinking itself. It is not allowed. This is our fundamental creed: to be Creed-less.
And yet, we will not survive if this remains so. As Pearcey says, “A religion that avoids the intellectual task and retreats to the therapeutic realm of personal relationships and feelings will not survive in today’s spiritual battlefield.”
I think it might be time to recapture true, Christian liturgy, to recapture a settled worship, one that is not content with quick fixes or lustful fixations or entertainment. It is time, I believe, to examine our prejudices, our Vorurteile. There are better ones out there.