Recently there was some online controversy over Boston University’s Marsh Chapel draping its altar tables in a rainbow flag and “RESIST” banner. The university is United Methodist affiliated and its seminary, Boston School of Theology, is one of the denomination’s official 13 seminaries, receiving over $1 million annually from the church. A picture and video of the “Transgender Remembrance Day” service were tweeted by the seminary.
I retweeted the photo of the rainbow draped altar proclaiming RESIST, which may refer to resistance against United Methodism’s traditional teachings on sex. Or it may refer to resisting Trump. Maybe it’s both.
Some responded to the tweet by comparing it to churches hosting American flags. Others likened it to Religious Right support for Trump. Dallas Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress was cited for his close alliance with Trump and his annual flag-bedecked July 4 worship service.
My response via Twitter was that national flags of any country can be appropriate in a sanctuary if at the side, as quiet reminders of where God has placed us and our civic duties as Christians. National flags shouldn’t drape the altar table of be the center of worship.
I also can’t conceive any reason to incorporate political banners or symbols into the center of worship, whose focus always should be God. Even causes solidly rooted in Christian teaching, such as pro-life or civil rights, must not displace God’s centrality in worship, which should never become a political rally.
Catholic faith was central to Polish support in the 1980s for the Solidarity trade union movement against the Soviet imposed Communist regime. But I don’t recall Solidarity banners draping Polish Catholic altars. If ever they did, such enthusiasm was misplaced and inappropriate. The church best supports justice for all when it remains faithful to its calling to be the church, proclaiming the Gospel, administering the sacraments, and pointing to the eternal Kingdom.
Political themes and social justice advocacy appear common at Boston School of Theology and at most liberal Protestant seminaries, suffusing their teaching and worship. For them, direct political activism is central to building God’s Kingdom. Salvation for many of them is societal and chiefly of this world, not personal and eternal. So political liberation from injustice is primary. For them, to ignore or minimize the struggle against injustice is to become complicit with oppression, which is a form of blasphemy.
There’s really no political equivalent at any conservative seminary of which I’m aware. Even where faculty and students maybe overwhelmingly on the political right, I’ve not seen or heard political equivalents of Boston’s rainbow draped altar. Theological traditionalists typically stress personal salvation and personal holiness in their worship. Theological liberals complain that traditionalists are distracted from the REAL issues. But for traditionalists, salvation and holiness are the REAL issues, and authentic societal justice requires churches proclaiming eternal verities.
Liberal theology and political witness is hyper egalitarian and increasingly hyper individualistic. Equality and rights for all, rooted in the Gospel, have morphed into self-actualization for all, in which each individual claims unique reality and identity that others must affirm. Christian egalitarianism has degenerated to self-empowerment divorced from Christian anthropology. So Boston School of Theology celebrates self-created genders in route to the complete atomization of the Self, which is intrinsically corrosive to standards of universal justice for all.
Last week the president of the Unitarian Universalist Association visited Boston School of Theology. She spoke at worship in Marsh Chapel and met with Unitarian students. So apparently the Trinity and Christ’s deity are not central at this United Methodist seminary.
A Christian seminary can only be faithful to its calling if rooted in the Trinity and Christology, which includes biblical anthropology. A faithful and effective seminary does indeed RESIST the spirits of injustice in this world, not by political proclamation, but by sound Gospel proclamation.Google+