As you Lovers certainly know, this podcast is focused on the apparent crumbling of what we have called for the last few hundred years, The Church. Congregations are shrinking, the influence of churches is ebbing, and churches are being shut down. The church that I’m a part of is going through that process now. And many of the people who one might have expected to be the next generation of a thriving church are finished with organized religions (the NONES) or the Spiritual but Not Religious folks. There is a reason why this is happening. It’s not Jesus or the Gospel itself. It’s the hypocrisy of the comfortable church that is turning people off. They are looking for ways to become the presence of the Gospel in a meaningful way in a world that is more of a mess than it’s been for a long time.
So we, as Christians, as people of faith, have a job to do and it’s not to save the church. As Brian McLaren said on this podcast a few months ago (episode 095). “We have to decide whether we want to save the church, or join God in saving the world.” This episode of Love in a Dangerous Time is about the job that Christians have of “joining God in saving the world.”
Dr. Nancy MacLean is a well-know and well respected historian. She is the William H. Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy at Duke University. This summer she came out with a rather earth shaking book called Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America. It has been described by Publishers Weekly as “a thoroughly researched and gripping narrative… [and] a feat of American intellectual and political history.” Booklist called it “perhaps the best explanation to date of the roots of the political divide that threatens to irrevocably alter American government.” And it’s scarier than anything you ever written by Stephen King. And Democracy in Chains was a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award for nonfiction.
The book discusses the life and thought of one of the Libertarian movement’s leading thinkers, James McGill Buchanan, and the infamous right-wing financiers, Charles Koch (yes, he’s one of the Koch brothers) and their efforts to accomplish many of the apparent goals of Trumps cabinet members. Their projects have included trying to end public education, stop all measures to control global warming, eliminate labor unions, suppress voting, make medical care unavailable to the poor, and eliminate Social Security and Medicare. Now their group is proposing (and very close to getting) a constitutional convention to replace the US Constitution.
For those of us who read the Bible, and see Jesus as our teacher, this is a terrifying prospect. This discussion with Dr. MacLean sheds much light on the values and ethics (or the lack there-of) we’re confronting as we do our Gospel work in this area.
To bring his brilliance and creativity to the discussion I’ve invited Rev. Stephen H. Phelps to join me. Steve is a Presbyterian minister here in New York. For three years he was the interim Senior Pastor of The Riverside Church (till early 2014), a huge congregation with a long-time reputation as a center for Gospel-led Justice work. He also does a fair bit of writing in Tikkun Magazine, Huffington Post, TruthOut, and in his blog, Permanent Revolution, at http://www.stephenhphelps.com/
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