Alienate Your Conservative Congregation, Get Praised in the NY Times

July 31st, 2006 4:15 PM

On Sunday morning, no less, comes New York Times religion reporter Laurie Goodstein with a favorable front-page profile of a Minnesota pastor by the name of Greg Boyd who is proudly alienating his conservative membership: “Disowning Conservative Politics, Evangelical Pastor Rattles Flock.”

Predictably, the liberal Times readership loves the Times’ jab against the “Christian Right,” pushing it to No. 1 on the Times’ most-emailed list.

Goodstein begins:

“Like most pastors who lead thriving evangelical megachurches, the Rev. Gregory A. Boyd was asked frequently to give his blessing -- and the church’s -- to conservative political candidates and causes.

But Goodstein’s snotty renditions of the Christian requests are so slanted, they probably come off as annoying to even devout readers:

“The requests came from church members and visitors alike: Would he please announce a rally against gay marriage during services? Would he introduce a politician from the pulpit? Could members set up a table in the lobby promoting their anti-abortion work? Would the church distribute ‘voters’ guides’ that all but endorsed Republican candidates? And with the country at war, please couldn’t the church hang an American flag in the sanctuary?”

Don’t you love those petulant-sounding “pleases” Goodstein throws in to the mix, as well as the unchallenged assertion that Christian voter guides are GOP propaganda?

“After refusing each time, Mr. Boyd finally became fed up, he said. Before the last presidential election, he preached six sermons called ‘The Cross and the Sword’ in which he said the church should steer clear of politics, give up moralizing on sexual issues, stop claiming the United States as a “Christian nation” and stop glorifying American military campaigns.

“‘When the church wins the culture wars, it inevitably loses,’ Mr. Boyd preached. ‘When it conquers the world, it becomes the world. When you put your trust in the sword, you lose the cross.’

“Mr. Boyd says he is no liberal. He is opposed to abortion and thinks homosexuality is not God’s ideal. The response from his congregation at Woodland Hills Church here in suburban St. Paul -- packed mostly with politically and theologically conservative, middle-class evangelicals -- was passionate. Some members walked out of a sermon and never returned. By the time the dust had settled, Woodland Hills, which Mr. Boyd founded in 1992, had lost about 1,000 of its 5,000 members.”

(Actually, Boyd recommends abortion be outlawed in the second and third trimesters but left legal during the first trimester, a philosphy only slightly stricter than the trimester system decreed in the infamous Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade.)

A photograph caption of praying congregants reads:

“Most members of Woodland Hills Church near St. Paul stayed after the Rev. Gregory A. Boyd urged an end to sexual moralizing and military glorification and said America should not be proclaimed a ‘Christian nation.’”

Goodstein continues:

“Mr. Boyd said he never intended his sermons to be taken as merely a critique of the Republican Party or the religious right. He refuses to share his party affiliation, or whether he has one, for that reason. He said there were Christians on both the left and the right who had turned politics and patriotism into ‘idolatry.’

“He said he first became alarmed while visiting another megachurch’s worship service on a Fourth of July years ago. The service finished with the chorus singing ‘God Bless America’ and a video of fighter jets flying over a hill silhouetted with crosses.”

More Boyd:

 “America wasn’t founded as a theocracy,’ he said. “America was founded by people trying to escape theocracies. Never in history have we had a Christian theocracy where it wasn’t bloody and barbaric. That’s why our Constitution wisely put in a separation of church and state.

“‘I am sorry to tell you,’ he continued, ‘that America is not the light of the world and the hope of the world. The light of the world and the hope of the world is Jesus Christ.’”

Sounds like a religious leader the Times and its readership can support.

For more New York Times bias, visit TimesWatch.