Tonight, I read a blog post by Tony Jones titled Honest Scholarship May Not Be Possible At A Christian School. In it, he wrote:
Let me ask — and be honest — Do you think that a scholar at a confessional school truly has the freedom to come to whatever conclusions her/his scholarship leads to?
I don’t. Not if they don’t want to be fired. And I can affirm this by the emails I’ve received from evangelical college professors who affirm gay relations and rights based on their own academic work, but are unable to publicly state that because they’d be fired.
After reading Tony’s blog post, I thought about the issues of theological censorship that are so prevalent in both Christian academia and our churches. I thought about how censorship leads to ignorance, and how ignorance is a necessary ingredient in the cycle of oppression. I let those thoughts linger… and then fester… and then I nearly became angry until I realized something very important:
If people are oppressed because of a lack of life-giving and sound Christian theology, it is not the fault of the “institution”. We speak of institutions as though they work independently of human influence– However, institutions have no power. The power lies in the hands of those who work within the institutions. That includes you and me.
Tonight, I am reflecting on the degree to which we– religious leaders, parishioners, academics, and others who wear the name “Christian”– are complicit in the ills of our institutions. Many of us (including myself) complain about the bottle neck of information as it relates to the academy and the church, but what are we really doing to fix it? Is there a point when we are called to acknowledge that we have become the very entities against whom Jesus fought most often– The Scribes and Pharisees: Wielders of the Law, worshipers of tradition, and counterproductive agents of religious oppression in the Kingdom of God?
At what point does it become our responsibility to say: “Screw the consequences. God requires that I tell the truth and set you free, even if I become unpopular in the process”?
I don’t believe change happens organically. It happens when ordinary people stand up and say unpopular things to powerful people. That’s a choice. This applies to our religious institutions in a powerful way. There has to come a time when those of us who can effect change decide that we are not afraid of what the “institution” can do to us any more.
I guess the question is: Will we take up our mantle and lead the call for radical change within the institutions of Christianity, or will we wait for the next generation to lead the charge? Is it our time, and if it is– What is our responsibility?