Since the inception of the Christian church, after Jesus had ascended into heaven and His apostles began spreading His message beyond Judea and Samaria, preachers and pastors have set up new congregations in neighborhoods and areas where people need to hear the message of Christianity. In our modern parlance we call it “church planting,” but the idea is as old as Christianity itself.
In recent years, church planting has also involved partnering with public schools to provide temporary space on Sundays for churches until they can afford to build a building. The church where I work has partnered with a high school in our community to help launch our first multisite venture.
Now the Left has discovered the tactic, and they’re apoplectic. This week Alternet published an article relating how churches are attempting to reach out to left-leaning cities like Boston and Portland by establishing church plants in schools. The piece starts out straightforwardly enough:
Church planting is happening across the country, and it is organized on a national scale. Its presence in Boston is evidence of its efficiency even in the toughest markets. It has been enabled by pivotal shifts in the interpretation of constitutional law. And it is driven by a subtle yet profound transformation in evangelical culture in America—a transformation in both the religion itself and in its organizations forms.
But look past the first few paragraphs, and the article strikes an ominous tone.
While embracing many of the tools of modernity such as social media, rock bands, and hip graphics, they have become more aggressive in their outreach, taking hard-right positions on culture-war issues such as same-sex marriage, reproductive freedom, and prayer in public schools.
What are the core beliefs of the national religious groups planting churches in Boston and beyond? Many describe themselves as “nondenominational” or “interdenominational.” To the uninitiated, that may sound moderate, even interfaith, but evangelicals of a generally conservative type overwhelmingly dominate the leadership of this new field.
In many instances, church leadership promotes a Christian Nationalist version of American history that denies the Enlightenment roots of American democracy. The concept of “male headship,” found in the theological position papers of many of the religious organizations and sometimes referred to as a “complementarian” understanding of gender, underwrites a view of gender as Biblically based and hierarchical.
Most churches aren’t trying to set up new bastions of conservatism in these communities — they’re merely trying to save souls. But this breathless freaking out on the part of sites like Alternet demonstrate that, for all their carping about the decline of Christianity, the Left is scared of Judeo-Christian influences in “their” cities.