Machen (who died this day in 1937 in Bismarck, North Dakota) wondered what a Christian was supposed to do when pastors were so politicized and churches were so transformational:
Weary with the conflicts of the world, one goes into the Church to seek refreshment for the soul. And what does one find? Alas, too often, one finds only the turmoil of the world. The preacher comes forward, not out of a secret place of meditation and power, not with the authority of God’s Word permeating his message, not with human wisdom pushed far into the background by the glory of the Cross, but with human opinions about the social problems of the hour or easy solutions of the vast problem of sin. Such is the sermon. And then perhaps the service is closed by one of those hymns breathing out the angry passions of 1861, which are to be found in the back part of the hymnals. Thus the warfare of the world has entered even into the house of God, and sad indeed is the heart of the man who has come seeking peace.
Is there no refuge from strife? Is there no place of refreshing where a man can prepare for the battle of life? Is there no place where two or three can gather in Jesus’ name, to forget for the moment all those things that divide nation from nation and race from race, to forget human pride, to forget the passions of war, to forget the puzzling problems of industrial strife, and to unite in overflowing gratitude at the foot of the Cross? If there be such a place, then that is the house of God and that the gate of heaven. And from under the threshold of that house will go forth a river that will revive the weary world. (Christianity and Liberalism, 180-81)
Within a year, another bad boy of Baltimore was wondering along the same lines:
. . . try to imagine a man full of a yearning for the consolations of that poetry. He is tired of the cannibalistic combat that life is; he longs for peace, comfort, consolation. He goes to church. A few hymns are sung, and there arises in the pulpit a gentleman told off to preach. This gentleman, it quickly appears, is not currently merchanting peace. The Beatitudes are not his text. He turns to the Old Testament. There he finds a text to his taste. And leaping from it as from a springboard, he gives over an hour to damning his fellow-men. He wants them to be sent to jail, to be deported, to be hanged. He demands that the business be dispatched forthwith. He denounces mercy as a weakness and forgiveness as base.
Our Christian friend, with a yell of despair, rushes from the basilica and seeks another. There he hears the pastor call upon the agents of Prohibition to shoot bootleggers. He seeks a thrid. The pastor denounces girls who kiss their beaux as harlots, and demands that they be taken by the Polizei and cast into jail. He seeks a fourth. The pastor praises a Federal judge for refusing a jury trial to a victim of the Anti-Saloon League. He turns to a fifth. The rev. rector calls upon God to singe and palsy the pope. A sixth. The shepherd urges his sheep to watch their neighbors, and report every suspicious whiff. A seventh. The Bolsheviki are on the grill. . .
But by this time another atheist is on his way to the public library, at 18 knots an hour to read Darwin, Huxley, Spencer and Nietzsche . . . or maybe Tolstoi. The Christians are being driven out of the churches. Their places are being filled by hunters and trappers, i.e., by brutes. A few old-fashioned pastors survive, but they diminish. (H. L. Mencken, “Preachers of the Word, Baltimore Evening Sun, September 29, 1924)