While preparing for an upcoming sermon series that deals with the cultural polarization that has infected our churches, I reread Harry Emerson Fosdick’s famous sermon, “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?” I found the following sentences as applicable today, in our current controversies, as they were in the 1920’s.
Here in the Christian churches are these two groups of people and the question which the Fundamentalists raise is this – shall one of them throw the other out? Has intolerance any contribution to make to this situation? Will it persuade anybody of anything? Is not the Christian Church large enough to hold within her hospitable fellowship people who differ on points like this and agree to differ until the fuller truth be manifested? The Fundamentalists say not. They say the liberals must go. Well, if the fundamentalists should succeed, then out of the Christian Church would go some of the best Christian life and consecration of this generation – multitudes of men and women, devout and reverent Christians, who need the church and whom the church needs.
Within my own denomination, all inclinations are that we are becoming incapable of staying at the table with those with whom we disagree. We are talking, but at one another and past one another, not to one another. We have fallen into camps that are little more than a sad mime of cable news. As Adam Hamilton asks in Seeing Gray, “Are Jerry Falwell and John Shelby Spong our only options?”