The Christian Century is Dead

In the March/April 2007 issue of The Wittenburg Door, I reported that the National Council of Churches had died on September 12th, 2005 in a beige colored conference room. While the specific cause of death was unknown, the NCCUSA had been in declining health for more than thirty years.

This progressive posse, which emerged as a promising pacifist figure during the 1950s, led the liberal Protestant churches through the civil-rights struggles of the 1960s, anti-Vietnam War movement of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, and the battles for women’s rights and gay rights in the ‘70s and ‘80s. However, they lost many of their foot soldiers during the Clinton era, when they went into hibernation inside a non-descript office building titled “the God Box” (because of all the religious organizations housed therein). While hunkered down in this Ivory Towered enclave, they began issuing proclamation after proclamation that were full of sound and fury but in the end, signified nothing. I concluded this obituary by noting that a proposed memorial service was cancelled due to lack of ecumenical enthusiasm and that fact that no one has yet noticed that the organization has folded, now two more years after its demise.

Perhaps the same swan song should be sung for the Christian Century, a magazine considered at one point to be the flagship of mainline Protestantism. But the magazine that used to feature such notable voices as Jane Addams, Reinhold Neibuhr, and Martin Luther King Jr. seems to have reduced itself to postmodern ponderings. For example, when they elevate a UK based artist collective, that operates at the fringes of the church, to a position of national prominence one has to wonder if their reporters have taken to relying on press releases as their primary means of obtaining information. (FYI-The term “emergent” is a US-specific term that has come to be identified with Emergent Village and isn’t employed when talking about global forms of church).

In particular, they struck out in the biblical ballgame when they refused to go to bat for The Family, religion and journalism scholar Jeff Sharlet’s riveting and illuminating exposé of a secret global Fundamentalist network.

Maybe passive progressives thought if they brought the Family’s actions to light that they would be blacklisted from the National Prayer Breakfast and other political pow-wows. More likely than not, they just lost their passion to be prophetic witnesses for radical change when they chose to sit on the partisan sidelines. Either way, game over.

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