* Note I come from the Wesleyan tradition and this is written from a Wesleyan perspective*
I used to believe that it was possible to change a denomination from within. If you were committed to reform that was based on the theological tenants the denomination was founded on all you had to do was have patience and perseverance and things would slowly change. I’m still an idealist, but also a pessimist. (I know; it’s a weird combination; blame my Hungarian heritage on the pessimistic nature.) Yet, I’m beginning to lose faith that a denomination can change. If it has gone too far down the far down the road to becoming enmeshed in general evangelical culture it is probably too late. It’s not the fault of good leaders who are trying to change things. It’s the fault of church attenders, denominational pastoral training and general leadership training where it does not seem necessary to set oneself apart not only from world but also some of the more dangerous aspects of Christian culture.
Why did we allow in the early 2000s the Left Behind books to be allowed in our churches with their faulty end times philosophy or Focus on the Family’s Truth Project to be taught in Sunday when the man who teaches it has a doctorate in computer science, yet acts like an expert in all areas of study? As someone with a doctorate in communication studies, who also has a strong psychology background, the Truth Project’s blatantly false portrayal of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs kills me. Focus on the Family has no idea that it’s just a basic graph explaining how human beings understand their survival needs, not some satanic plot to put God at the bottom of everything we do or throw him out the picture. Note to Focus on the Family not everything is Satan out to get us.
No one sees the dangers of the Sherwood Brother films like Courageous or War Room. While there are good themes in the movies — Courageous emphasis on father figures and the War Room on prayer as being crucial to the Christian life— those messages can be found elsewhere. Few Christians understand the connections the Sherwood brothers have to Doug Phillips the disgraced leader of Vision Forum. Phillips also ran the San Antonio Christian film festival, which the Sherwood Brothers supported, attended, showed their films at and won awards at. Phillips had his entire ministry shut down because he spent years grooming his underage babysitter (while he was married) to be his mistress when she turned 18. This comes from a man who has told women to be submissive to men and that their place is in the home. Yet, in a twisted way by supporting the Sherwood Brothers who share Phillips beliefs on patriarchy we are supporting the continuation of the patriarchal film industry founded by Philips who no longer even has a public platform but helped give the Sherwood brothers their start and fame in the Christian community. Our churches take people by the carloads to see Sherwood films.
We don’t understand our theology anymore, and frankly no one really cares. I hear people say that theology doesn’t matter, but when you don’t know what you believe it leads you support individuals filled with hatred, individuals who educate you on subjects they are not qualified to teach, and movies by people who if you sat down and really talked to them about their beliefs most Wesleyans would be horrified. It’s a problem. We have allowed our denominations to evaporate into generic evangelicalism where the only thing that tells us apart is our history. Yet, no one listens to history or wants learns from it. So, we continue down a road where the majority of people attending a denomination can’t name the basic beliefs of that denomination. Still, we’re okay with that. I’m not okay with that. I don’t want my children growing up in churches like that, and I don’t want people who don’t take the time to understand why they joined a certain denomination teaching my children either. We have a problem in America. We have chosen to be ignorant because learning on any level is no longer cool— even when it comes to our faith.
*I will do a follow up post in the next month or so about how the San Antonio Christian film festival is now replaced by the Christian World View Film Festival sponsored a nonprofit Christian group called Media 101. The Kendrick Brothers now present here. It has been going on since The San Antonio film festival folded.