The late Cardinal George of Chicago once said, “Liberal Christianity is a failed experiment.” The only people who do not know this are liberals. True enough, every church has a liberal faction or a progressive wing. These folks are the ones who purport to care for people more than doctrine and who are willing to do whatever it takes to make sure the church survives and even flourishes. At the same time, however, the people they care for are left without grounded hope and real truth and the church that survives looks little like the church of old and is an echo of the culture, though slow and behind the curve.
Liberal Christianity is always late. It is late to jump on social trend and late to adopt fads of music, psychology, and culture. It is tardy to the party but it does not see it. When folk music finally entered the church, it was on the way out of musical fashion. Contemporary worship is contemporary only in the minds of the boomers who live in the past. Cool is lukewarm and the shine has worn of the chic for those who try to keep up with pace of change. Everyone outside the church knows this and finds it all not a little amusing -- except those who keep putting the nickels in the praise bands and singing the same tired old refrains.
Liberal Christianity is neither new nor fresh but old and tired. It does not innovate but tries to sustain a moment in time which has faded from view in the landscape of everyone else. It lives in the past and confuses this past with the future -- not the ancient past of Scripture or the early church but the recent past of memory. The way we did it when we were young. . . It is not simply theological but liturgical, not simply about the faith but about politics. It loves freedom but eschews those who refuse to march to its dated tune. Its freedom is the worst possible bondage.
Liberal Christian exists primarily to protest against what it does not like. It does not exist as a positive force but as a negative voice. Liberal Christianity is like the child that never grew up and never grew past the complaints against parents and the raw deal of childhood. Liberal Christianity is angry -- angry with those who insist that doctrine matters, that truth is historical, that words mean what they say, that reason is not the filter for God's voice, and that we have something to learn from those who went before us. Liberal Christianity has trouble seeing itself objectively and takes itself too seriously.
Liberal Christianity is not an ideology or even a philosophy but a methodology. It is adaptive. It deals with sin by removing behaviors from the category. It deals with death by making the most of this life. It deals with truth by substituting feelings. It deals with fact by focusing on relationship. It adapts itself to the world around it. It adopts the sexual ethic of the moment (usually a protest against the past). It adopts the cause of the moment (such as climate change). It is individual and makes the individual not only the center of Christianity but the measure of truth. It loves relevance but fails to see that it is irrelevant to the past that went before and the future unfolding right now.
Liberal Christianity loves individualism but underneath it is insecure and is a mob mentality. Liberal Christianity envisions itself as the radical outside but it is so very much an insider. You are free to be an individual so long as your individuality fits with the mold of the group. It complains against those who insist upon walking in lock step with the ancient and catholic faith but it insists upon the same rigid and unbending uniformity. Liberal Christianity is in this way not liberal at all but the most wooden and stiff version of the faith.
Liberal Christianity lives in the moment. That means it is focused not on the world to come but this world. It cares more about the environment than about heaven, more about improving social conditions than freeing sinners from their sins, and more about blaming those who are wrong than finding real remedies for the real wrongs people endure. Liberal Christianity would rather have the government doing social work than the church running hospitals, orphanages, nursing homes, and the like. Liberal Christianity loves the public school system and is inherently critical of parochial schools as indoctrination centers. Liberal Christianity loves diversity but mostly the diversity it promotes and not the real diversity where the Word and Truth meet to set us free from the bondage of sin and its death.
In the end, liberal Christianity is neither liberal nor Christian. It is a betrayal of the true liberality of love that flows from the Christ and His cross and it is a distorted Christianity that bears little resemblance to the fathers of the faith and offers little hope for a real future.