If Not The Wire or The Crown, How About Wild Wild Country?

The Netflix series on the Rajneeshee group that took over a small town in the high Oregon desert is fascinating on many levels. One of those is whether contemporary Oregonians would be as opposed today to a fringe religious group lead my a man of color as they were in the 1980s.

To Sojourners‘ credit, you can count on them to side with the underdog:

Encoded in the U.S. Bill of Rights is the belief that while governments must be secular, communities are free to practice any faith they wish to uphold. But in Antelope, freedom of religion came on a condition of familiarity — people only accepted what they knew, while everything and everyone else was seen as a threat.

And I wonder, would bigotry have ever played the lead if Osho’s teachings were Christian in nature? Would any of this have played out the way it did if Rajneeshees weren’t viewed as being “the other?”

Strangely the site of Rajneeshpuram is now a Christian Young Life camp where kids arrive each summer to learn about Jesus Christ.

“After the Rajneeshees left … a billionaire developer from Montana … bought the ranch and ended up gifting the thing to Young Life. They call them camps. It’s more like a resort to me … it’s kind of like a cult, too,” John Silvertooth, the then mayor of Antelope, says.

“They’re not perfect. But they’re much better neighbors than the Rajneeshees.”

But Ma Anand Sheela remains unapologetic to this day.

“I would like to say, ‘People of Oregon… think yourselves lucky that this opera came your way,’” she says.

Imagine saving some of that empathy for Liberty University and not viewing Jerry Falwell, Jr. as a threat.

I can’t.

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What is Special about Neo-Calvinism?

One of the things you hear from neo-Calvinist critics of 2k is that a view that strongly distinguishes between the church and civil magistrate, or between Christ’s redemptive and creational offices, or between religion and culture (as 2k does) winds up limiting faith or piety to one day out of seven. Or it denies the Lordship of Christ over all areas of life. The breakthrough of neo-Calvinism, apparently, is to overcome the dualism of fundamentalism or pietism and show how Christianity pervades all things.

And yet, this insight is hardly the sole possession of neo-Calvinists. In fact, you see it come in all shapes and sizes from believers who want to see Christianity have a wider scope of influence. Even Michelle Obama,editors at Sojourners, and missional Christians agree with neo-Calvinists (thanks to John Fea):

Last week, the First Lady spoke to the quadrennial General Conference of the African American Methodist Episcopal Church. While the speech was a get-out-the-vote plug, it also shed an interesting light on both her personal faith and the theological tradition of the nation’s oldest independent, predominantly African-American congregations.

In reading the First Lady’s speech, I was intrigued to see a strong emphasis on some concepts I often associate with “missional” churches.

Within the church world, especially among those who are planting them, the term missional has become ubiquitous. It critiques existing church models that focus on creating programs, services, and marketing campaigns intended to draw people to the church instead of encouraging members to go out and serve—to be on “mission.”

Here’s a good example of the type of thing my pastor says all the time when he talks about being missional from the mouth of the First Lady:

“Our faith journey isn’t just about showing up on Sunday for a good sermon and good music and a good meal. It’s about what we do Monday through Saturday as well — especially in those quiet moments, when the spotlight’s not on us, and we’re making those daily choices about how to live our lives.”

One of the signs of a missional church is a de-emphasis on the Sunday-morning worship service put on by professionals. Instead of focusing on a 60-90 minute performance in which most people are passive attendees, increased time and attention are given to the active work believers are doing to further the mission of the church throughout the week. Some churches have abandoned what would be thought of as traditional services all together.

Mind you, Mrs. Obama and this writer at Sojourners don’t have the philosophical apparatus to support this view. Still, how fundamental an insight is neo-Calvinism’s cultural engagement when so many other Christians pursue cultural engagement in such similar language?

If Dr. K. is now receptive to taking a less antagonistic attitude toward 2k, if he believes that radical (as opposed to representative) neo-Calvinists need to hear important criticisms from 2kers, then perhaps he can point the way by showing where so many of the 24/7 Christians go wrong. I have a suggestion: start with Scripture and the confessions of the Reformed churches; second, leave the activism to believers’ consciences and vocations; and finally, resist all efforts to turn cultural engagement into a program or even a paradigm.