Friday, December 15, 2006

Collectively Bearing the Sins of the World

The CFR and the Social Gospel: Part 3

“We may legitimately expect that the collective mind of the nation will be equal to the intellectual and administrative tasks involved, especially under the stress of critical social conditions, if the moral qualities required are in sufficient power. What our people lack is neither material resources nor technical skills – these we have in abundance – but a dedication to the common good, a courage and an unselfishness greater than are now manifest in American life. The tasks are beyond us and their accomplishment will be indefinitely delayed or frustrated, unless there be a nationwide spiritual awakening which has social gains. Our supreme social need is spiritual awakening. In our extremity arising out of harrowing social conditions throughout the world, we therefore turn anew to Christ; for the faith of great endeavour, for an overwhelming disclosure of God in the life of humanity, for the dedication of innumerable individuals to the creation of a more Christian social order, and for the assurance that what needs to be done, with God’s help can be done.”
[The Social Creed of 1932, Federal Council of Churches, Federal Council Bulletin 16, No. 1 (January 1933), New York, 9. Emphases added. Cited in Building the Kingdom of God on Earth, Martin Erdmann (Wipf & Stock, 2005), p. 182]

“We believe that we see the goal and we believe that men can get hold of that power to move on to that goal. That goal is the Kingdom of God on earth. The Kingdom of God is a new order standing at the door of the lower order. The higher order, founded on love, justice, goodwill, brotherhood and redemption, stands confronting this lower order founded on selfishness, exploitation, unbrotherliness, with its resultant clash and conclusions… it [the higher order] will finally replace this lower order, for it is God’s order. We shall present Christ as the open door to that era. We shall unfold the possibilities of that era both within the individual and the collective will."
[E. Stanley Jones, Federal Council of Churches, Federal Council Bulletin 19, No. 8 (October 1936), New York, 5. Emphases added. Cited in Erdmann, ibid, p. 183)

The leaders of the original Social Gospel movement realized that several things were important to pull off the “building the kingdom of God on earth” scam. They recognized that they needed to create a sense of corporate guilt – a collective sense of responsibility for the ills of mankind. This often had a strong emotive component designed to tug at heart strings. They also borrowed from the politico-socio-psycho techniques of collectivism, substituting a group conscience for individual conviction. As much as it was important to turn on the heart, it was also equally necessary to turn off the brain. Serious thinking was substituted by slogans, formulas and social action. Raising penetrating questions about the nature of this collective guilt and/or the proposed solutions was viewed with suspicion – it was seen as a hallmark of selfishness and separateness. Redemption was accomplished by fixing the sins of Society.

Writing about Walter Rauschenbusch, considered by many to be the father of the Social Gospel movement, one historian remarked:

“In writing his last book [A Theology for The Social Gospel in 1917, ed.] Professor Rauschenbusch made a final effort to commit Christians to the social gospel.… Yet the social gospel… was not…secure…. Rauschenbusch, however, was no more of an optimist than he was a millenarian; nor was he even remotely a pessimist. Rather he was a man of sufficient faith to have hope – faith in the religious power of man, hope for his social redemption. What was needed, he declared, was a theology which would advance beyond the old doctrine of the sin of Adam’s fall and of individual men to encourage a recognition of and repentance for the sins of society.” [emphasis added]

CFR leader John Foster Dulles argued in his book War, Peace and Change (1939) that there was a need to overcome man’s basic human selfishness. His proposed solution was sociological, not theological. He suggested an ethical transformation that could take place on the small-group level that would emphasize interrelatedness and interdependence. He believed this process would eventually destroy isolationism and extreme nationalism and create an international mindset. According to historian and theologian Dr. Erdmann, who chronicled the role of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in setting up the original Social Gospel movement, John Foster Dulles had observed how easily humans could be psychologically manipulated by groups into receptivity to new ethical solutions:

“In only a small segment of our lives are our acts dictated by reason. In the main we act unthinkingly under the impulses of emotional and physical desires or in accordance with tradition or the customs of the social group of which we happen to form a part.” (War, Peace and Change, p. 52, cited in Erdmann, Building the Kingdom of God on Earth, p. 202 [emphasis added])

How to Enhance Collective Blame

The current AIDS push by Rick Warren, through the vehicle of his Global P.E.A.C.E. Plan is an example of the New Social Gospel. It includes the same ingredients as the original Social Gospel movement – corporate blame, collective guilt, communal responsibility and redemption via social action. And it is built upon an updated, more sophisticated edifice of small group dynamics. What follows are some key examples of how this process works:

1. TAKE THE TEST: To break down natural barriers of inhibitions, everyone is being asked to take an HIV/AIDS test. In fact, it may be a “rite of passage” – a requirement before any volunteer work can begin. This is a cognitive dissonance-producing, “guilty until proven innocent” exercise which may trouble faithful and pure Christians. But one of its purposes is so that everyone can personally experience the collective shame and guilt.

“Rick Warren welcomes Obama, Brownback to Saddleback’s AIDS summit By Kelli Cottrell, 12/4/06

“Kay Warren explained the steps that churches and other organizations can take to crawl, walk and run in their ministry to HIV victims.

“A crawl step would be to send cards to HIV patients, she explained. A walk step would be to start an HIV/AIDS support group and a run step would be to have testing on your campus or go as a group together and take the test.

“’When the church is involved, we have hope,’ Kay Warren said. ‘We grieve for those who have died, but we have hope.’” [emphasis added]

2. EMPHASIZE COMPASSION: A kinder-gentler aura is produced by propping up sweet-sounding women like Kay Warren, or in the case of the recent White House Summit On Malaria, Laura Bush. Emphasizing compassion also acts as a decoy, helping to ensure that nobody asks the hard questions about money streams, power structures, partnerships, hidden agendas, etc. An interview with the Rick and Kay Warren from Family Life Today exemplifies this tactic:

“Seeing the AIDS Crisis Through God's Eyes,” 12/07/06

Kay: Oh, at the International AIDS Conference in Toronto this year, the closing session had a very dynamic speaker who went through and listed all the different takeaways of this five-day conference, and as he was listing them, people were standing up and cheering and shouting as their different ones that they really related to, and it was interesting to me – it caught my attention really early on, is he had these 15 things he was listing. So I started keeping score, if you will, on my piece of paper, an applause meter. I wanted to see what people were reacting to the most enthusiastically.

“And so issues about women and gender violence and how that was affecting the AIDS pandemic – people were standing up and cheering, and women having rights over their bodies, people standing up and cheering, and then the next one of the points was, "and children with HIV," and the applause kind of got to a medium level, and he talked about orphans that were left abandoned and alone, and there was silence in the room – silence.

Rick: Nobody clapped.

Kay: Nobody clapped. And then he moved on to other things, and the applause built again to this thunderous applause at the end where he again spoke about women.

“And my friend and I who were there, looked at each other. She broke into tears, and I sat there with my mouth open, stunned, and we just looked at each other and said, ‘They don't care. They don't care. How can they not care?

“It's shocking, it's stunning, when children and orphans are on your radar screen. They truly are the most vulnerable – the most vulnerable person on the planet – it is a girl child. Children, as a class, are the most vulnerable, and then you move it to girl children – they are the most vulnerable to abuse, to exploitation, and to HIV.

Dennis: And the thing that excites me about what you two are doing is – and we're doing the same thing – is you're calling the church to step up and do something that is so clear biblically.” [emphasis added]

3. CREATE A FALSE DICHOTOMY: In the quote below one can read that “mission-minded disciples” are becoming “world-class Christians.” Any opposition to this is portrayed as “selfishness.” This approach is virtually a re-hash of the Social Gospel tactics described in the quotes at the beginning of today’s post.

"Purpose Driven in Rwanda: Rick Warren’s sweeping plan to defeat poverty” by Timothy C. Morgan in Kigali, Rwanda 09/23/05

“Warren hopes to enlist 1 billion individuals through their congregations and small groups for mission projects. This mobilization of church and small-group members will walk them through three steps: personal PEACE, local PEACE, and global PEACE.…

“Once an individual church adopts the Purpose Driven model, there are many more moves to make. They describe those steps as moving around a baseball diamond. The goal is mission-minded disciples. Warren says, ‘You can't get the church to jump from total selfishness, where they want all the sermons about 'How do I avoid stress,' to caring about Angola.’

“’How do you get them to become a world-class Christian?’” [emphasis added]

4. EMPHASIZE THE COLLECTIVE: Peter Drucker, Rick Warren’s business-guru mentor, discussed his 3-legged stool concept of Society at a Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Non-Profit Management conference held in 2000. In Drucker’s model, “separateness” is the sin which must be repented of for the sake of community and partnerships.

WISDOM FROM PETER DRUCKER...his four greatest lessons and going beyond the walls,” EXPLORER...field notes for the emerging church, Leadership Network No. 23, 11/6/06

"Another thing I heard is a way to talk to church people. They still see themselves as a separate island, and so do the universities. Only now are they beginning to say, 'We are a part of the community.' We are all elements of society beyond the walls. We are doing the social job and everyone has a stake...the government and the individual. We need partnerships and they are a two way street.’

"The last thing was nothing new but also overwhelming. Despite the diversity of values and purpose, we have something in common. The nonprofit is not what we have in common, but that we lead with community and that is foundational to society. This is different from ten years ago and accepted not only on the nonprofit side but the profit side as well."

5. RESTRUCTURE THE CHURCH: The early Social Gospel proponents had strong ties with Communism and Socialism and they emphasized restructuring Society into a collective model (see previous post). The New Social Gospel proponents also borrow from the communist cell model, revamping it into modern small groups. But the purposes remain the same. The following article is very illuminating on this topic.

The Cellular Church: Letter From Saddleback: How Rick Warren built his ministry,” by Malcolm Gladwell, New Yorker, 9/12/05

“Churches, like any large voluntary organization, have at their core a contradiction. In order to attract newcomers, they must have low barriers to entry. They must be unintimidating, friendly, and compatible with the culture they are a part of. In order to retain their membership, however, they need to have an identity distinct from that culture. They need to give their followers a sense of community—and community, exclusivity, a distinct identity are all, inevitably, casualties of growth. As an economist would say, the bigger an organization becomes, the greater a free-rider problem it has. If I go to a church with five hundred members, in a magnificent cathedral, with spectacular services and music, why should I volunteer or donate any substantial share of my money? What kind of peer pressure is there in a congregation that large? If the barriers to entry become too low—and the ties among members become increasingly tenuous—then a church as it grows bigger becomes weaker.

“One solution to the problem is simply not to grow, and, historically, churches have sacrificed size for community. But there is another approach: to create a church out of a network of lots of little church cells—exclusive, tightly knit groups of six or seven who meet in one another's homes during the week to worship and pray. The small group as an instrument of community is initially how Communism spread, and in the postwar years Alcoholics Anonymous and its twelve-step progeny perfected the small-group technique. The small group did not have a designated leader who stood at the front of the room. Members sat in a circle. The focus was on discussion and interaction—not one person teaching and the others listening—and the remarkable thing about these groups was their power. An alcoholic could lose his job and his family, he could be hospitalized, he could be warned by half a dozen doctors—and go on drinking. But put him in a room of his peers once a week—make him share the burdens of others and have his burdens shared by others—and he could do something that once seemed impossible.

“When churches—in particular, the megachurches that became the engine of the evangelical movement, in the nineteen-seventies and eighties—began to adopt the cellular model, they found out the same thing. The small group was an extraordinary vehicle of commitment. It was personal and flexible. It cost nothing. It was convenient, and every worshipper was able to find a small group that precisely matched his or her interests. Today, at least forty million Americans are in a religiously based small group, and the growing ranks of small-group membership have caused a profound shift in the nature of the American religious experience.…

“In the past twenty years, as the enthusiasm for publicly supported welfare has waned, churches have quietly and steadily stepped in to fill the gaps. And who are the churchgoers donating all that time and money? People in small groups. Membership in a small group is a better predictor of whether people volunteer or give money than how often they attend church, whether they pray, whether they've had a deep religious experience, or whether they were raised in a Christian home. Social action is not a consequence of belief, in other words. I don't give because I believe in religious charity. I give because I belong to a social structure that enforces an ethic of giving. ‘Small groups are networks,’ the Princeton sociologist Robert Wuthnow, who has studied the phenomenon closely, says. ‘They create bonds among people. Expose people to needs, provide opportunities for volunteering, and put people in harm's way of being asked to volunteer. That's not to say that being there for worship is not important. But, even in earlier research, I was finding that if people say all the right things about being a believer but aren't involved in some kind of physical social setting that generates interaction, they are just not as likely to volunteer.’ [emphasis added]

The Truth:

The Social Gospel always seeks to replace the biblical Gospel message. It de-emphasizes God’s Word. And, as has been shown in the past three posts, the Social Gospel has an insidious agenda that runs contrary to biblical Christianity.

When you oppose the Social Gospel you will be attacked with the “false dichotomy” tactic for supposedly lacking compassion or charity. You will be told that you are selfish.

But true Christian acts of charity and compassion are always accompanied by the saving Gospel message. And the Gospel message is a proclamation of liberty from sin and guilt. It gives light to those in spiritual darkness.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.” (Luke 4:18)