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10 Responses to “Slow Death”

  1. Gerard says:


    I appreciate your command of historical context for church history.

    I wonder if part of human nature is that we are hard-wired to have unity between our government and our god(s).

    I am not familiar with a “historic Christian faith” where it wasn’t molested by some unholy union between church and state. Could you clarify the example you intend for this generation to return to?

  2. Mike Metzger says:

    Hi Gerard:

    God hard-wired us in creation, so we’re not hard-wired for union with gods (nor is the government). We are fallen, however, so our hard-wiring often short-circuits. When this happens, all sorts of bad bed partners result.

    There are many epochs in history when the faith was not politicized. I’d recommend a recent one: The original Clapham circle (c.1790-1833), made up of many fine evangelical Anglicans who never were politicized.

  3. Tim Smick says:

    Interesting and timely piece. Thanks, Mike. One of my real concerns about Millenials and Gen Xers is that the heightened ugliness of politic in general in the world today will hinder any sane person from this younger generation from paying the emotional/psychological cost to run for office. At a time when we need our men and women of character to fill these seats, partisanship will require any candidate to endure a rather uncivil discourse of accusations. My fear is the only person who will aspire to this political role will be those driven by an egocentric need for attention. Let’s pray that God’s call for political leadership is clearly heard from those with virtuous characters. I pray that Clapham is blessed in the future to play a decisive role in mentoring this leadership without stooping to the bullying partisanship played by the religious right a couple of decades ago.

  4. hl says:

    Tim Smick, I share your concerns. We need to help our young Christian friends to know that we will support those who are more aligned with their historic faith in Christ than with specific party allegiances.

    Mr. Metzer, thank you for your cogent comments on this history. I have just begun reading The Disruption of Evangelism by Geoffrey R. Treloar, and your comments really fit well with this history.

  5. Mike Metzger says:


    Thank you for bringing “The Disruption of Evangelism” to our attention. I look forward to reading it. Mike

  6. John Helmberger says:

    Antidote to politicization of the gospel: gospel-infused citizenship.

    “Only exercise citizenship worthy of the gospel of Christ.” (Philippians 1:27)

    (Don’t rely on a typical English translation of that verse. Check the Greek language Paul used.)

  7. Randy Kilgore says:

    Mike, this is not only one of your finest pieces, it’s among some of the best writing I’ve read in all venues. Your ability to pull at a thread in the tapestry of faith’s human story–and to stay connected to that thread tenaciously as you march through linear history, gives this piece the power to inform while offering ideas to transform. Thank you for investing so carefully in Slow Death. May I suggest another strand running parallel to yours that served as a catalyst to the changes you so ably note? In the 1880’s, German and French scholars, using Darwin, began to posit doubt about the authenticity AND authority of Scripture, untethering the general population from a certainty they had in Scripture to that point, even when they didn’t practice or live by it. The comfort of a “final authority” on matters of ultimate right or wrong was ripped from the fabric of Western culture at a terrible moment…the run-up to World War I. The theologians of that era despaired in the face of the rampant layers of death, and faith became religion, further enabling the dark sides of the thread you’ve shown us. To oversimplify greatly, religion then abandoned systematic knowledge of God in favor of anecdotal knowledge, making feeling a greater partner in individual religion over knowledge of God. This has progressively dumbed-down faith conversations on all sides, making them about issues rather than truth. “Right and wrong” replaced “knowing God”, hardening the faith-to-religion transition. Religious fatigue and technology then combine to make “long reads” leading back to knowing God almost too large a hill for the average person to climb without help. May God grant Clapham continued clarity and resources to be one of the helpers.

  8. Glenn McMahan says:

    Excellent essay, Mike. I also recommend the 1939 book by T.S. Eliot titled Christianity and Culture. Here are a few short quotes from the book.

    “To identify any particular form of government with Christianity is a dangerous error: for it confounds the permanent with the transitory, the absolute with the contingent” (p. 45).

    “. . . a certain tension between Church and State is desirable. When Church and State fall out completely, it is ill with the commonwealth; and when Church and State get along too well together, there is something wrong with the Church” (p. 71).

    “The Church cannot be, in any political sense, either conservative, or liberal, or revolutionary. Conservatism is too often conservation of the wrong things: liberalism a relaxation of discipline; revolution a denial of permanent things” (p. 76).

  9. Mike Metzger says:

    Thank you, Glenn, and everyone else who offered their comments. It’s fun to throw out an idea every week and discover how it benefits from better minds than mine!

  10. Laurel says:

    “Politicization turns politics into an idol. It doesn’t yield flourishing. It’s an illusion that’s suffering a slow death. May it rest in peace.”

    A hearty amen. Tim Smick, I too share your concern for who might be willing to enter the public fray to serve.

    Thank you Mike, for an excellent and helpful piece.

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