It’s hard to improve on the Evans-Manning Award-winning comment of Beyng, on the Boycott thread:
1) Boycotts almost never work. Period. Nor do the assorted “marches,” “protests,” and “demonstrations” that the politically active undertake to make themselves feel as if they are “making a difference.” They’re not.
2) When endorsed by a diverse religious body such as the PCUSA, such boycotts are likely to produce unnecessary internal dissension over an issue that is, quite frankly, subsidiary at best to the purpose of the PCUSA. Churches tend to succumb to enough painful divisions as it is. Why add extra ingredients to the stew?
3) Speaking as a lifetime mainline Protestant who has watched mainline denominational hierarchies steer themselves into an institutional iceberg of irrelevancy–i.e., their problem isn’t simply that “millennials” aren’t interested in formal worship–I can assure you that mainline denominations like the UMC, PCUSA, and TEC are frittering away their heritage and their future by bogging themselves down in feel-good tripe like these paltry “social justice” questions on a regular basis. Am I critical of Israel? Absolutely. But these church bodies have demonstrated in innumerable cases that they are willing to compromise on, even discard, and otherwise disregard actual questions of doctrinal orthodoxy. Meanwhile, they spend time, money, and internal political capital to ensure that they take the “correct” stand on a reductive collection of “trendy,” almost-always-progressive political questions.
Was Christ born of a virgin? Eh, who cares. What exactly is the meaning of the Trinity? Too complicated. What is the role of Scripture in Christian faith and praxis? Meh, probably not as significant as our ancestors claimed. Wait, TEH JOOS PERSECUTE PALESTINIANS? Shut down everything and take a polarizing stance that will be both ineffectual and alienating to many of our dwindling cohort of members! Meanwhile, where are these church busybodies on questions that actually pertain to their own immediate communities? What about the log of our own deeply corrupt culture when compared with the speck that is Israel’s misdeeds?
The United Methodist Church in which I grew up eagerly announced a boycott of Taco Bell (yes, really) because it didn’t pay its Mexican tomato-pickers “fair” wages. Meanwhile, the church was hemorrhaging members, usually to more evangelical or orthodox congregations, and they had nary a word to say about the actual moral problems facing their own, embodied, living, breathing members (divorce, fornication, pornography, greed, gluttony, etc.). Recently, those same pinheads (i.e., Methodist bishops) insisted that they proclaim their opposition to SUVs, since they emit marginally more greenhouse gases–upon which several African bishops reminded their SWPL colleagues that a) such pronouncements are entirely irrelevant to most Christians in most of the world and b) the bishops were wasting time on pet social causes that they could have used hashing out important theological questions, of which there are quite a few in the modern church. Perhaps, as is so often the case with the SWPL set, it’s an attempt to outsource our moral indignation so we don’t have to consider that actual moral and religious problems afflicting our own communities: taking a stand against divorce would be too difficult and might upset some people we actually know, so let’s just spout some self-righteous nonsense about burritos from Taco Bell or about the flaws of those Jews.
In short, when I see things like this, I can’t help but remind the PCUSA and its mainline friends not to let the door smack their posteriors on their way out to complete heterodoxy and irrelevancy, tragic as that might be.
And while I’m at it, you know how evangelical and “fundamentalist” churches are so often critiqued for politicizing themselves in favor of conservative candidates and causes?
Try attending a mainline Protestant convention or conference sometime. They more than make up for whatever certain conservative congregations are doing for Republicans.
Beyng is right about that. According to social scientists Robert Putnam (Harvard) and David Campbell (Notre Dame), in their book “American Grace,” progressive congregations tended to be more political than conservative ones. From the American Grace blog:
In our surveys of congregants we found it quite rare that churchgoers heard “social or political sermons” monthly or more often and actually found that very liberal churchgoers were more often to hear these social/political messages than very conservative churchgoers. [46% of very liberal churchgoers heard these social or political sermons monthly or more versus only 28% for very conservative churchgoers.] Moreover, most churchgoers reported that their church had never gotten involved in voter registration or handing out voter guides, although this too was more common for very liberal churchgoers (with 37% having experienced this at their church) than among very conservative churchgoers (for whom only 28% of which had seen this happen at their church). In general, we found across many different political measures that the most political churches were the most liberal ones (especially African-American churches), not conservative evangelical churches.
But to the media, it looks like the conservative churches are more politically active, no doubt because political activism within liberal churches looks normative. Same dynamic that Bolce & De Maio of Baruch College noticed a decade or so ago with regard to mainstream media coverage of the secular left’s influence over the Democratic Party. The media accurately covered the Religious Right’s growing influence over the GOP, but missed entirely the Secular Left’s parallel rise among the Democrats. The scholars theorized that it has to do with the ideological uniformity within newsrooms, and how they didn’t see outside their own normativity.