Lost in the Middle directly addresses the very large group of moderate Christians, especially in the United States. They typically do not say that they have both liberal and evangelical instincts because of the polarized environment in which being both liberal and evangelical seems impossible. In fact, they are routinely neglected in favor of the noisy extremes. But they are there, both within the churches, and hovering on its margins. Like people with family members on both sides of a civil war, these moderate Christians don’t feel comfortable taking sides, and can’t see how victory by either side could possibly be a good outcome.
Few resources exist to help moderates understand their faith and their counter-cultural dream of church unity across the liberal-evangelical divide. They find creative ways to nurture their spirituality when their church environment offers them one-sided rhetoric from the left or the right. Some leave churches altogether in search of a more faithful and integrated religious life. Most stay where they are, with their frustration and longing as constant reminders that something is wrong and that there must be a better way.
This book is for such moderate Christians, including church leaders who are in a position to help those who feel lost in the middle. It is a resource that will help them articulate their personal faith and their congregational identities. It offers a description of their situation that will evoke recognition: “Yes, at last, someone is talking to me!” It gives theological depth and dimension to being lost in the middle by disclosing the uniquely important opportunity that exists in that existential and social location for witnessing to the power of love to unite people across ideological and theological lines.
The book provides an analysis of the history and sociology of people with both liberal and evangelical instincts that will comfort and educate. It proposes theological and ethical principles that will help Christian moderates to articulate their faith more clearly. Overall, the book will inspire moderate Christians with both liberal and evangelical instincts to maintain Christian unity against the polarized opposites of secularized liberalism and conservative evangelicalism, and to work toward transforming their churches into beacons of loving unity in the face of seemingly intractable culture wars.
Moderate Christians, including pastors and lay church leadership, will also gain a persuasive and exciting insight into their faith and their calling. Informed church leaders can make a difference in congregations seeking to embody simultaneously the radical inclusiveness of liberalism and the fervent piety of evangelicalism. Being lost in the middle is confusing and frustrating. Properly understood, however, it is the ideal basis for going beyond bumper-sticker slogans to lifestyles of radical Christian discipleship, devoted study, and compassionate social engagement.
- Chapter 00: User’s Guide
- Chapter 01: Five Haunting Questions
- Chapter 02: Behind the Questions: Five Genuine Disagreements
- Chapter 03: Neglected Moderates
- Chapter 04: Culture Wars and Religion
- Chapter 05: Reasons for the Emergence of Liberal-Evangelical Christianity
- Chapter 06: Liberal-Conservative Split in Politics
- Chapter 07: Relations between Religion and Society
- Chapter 08: Morality and the Liberal-Conservative Conflict
- Chapter 09: Basic Sociological Principles
- Chapter 10: Core Message Pluralism
- Chapter 11: The Curious Social Strategy of Liberal-Evangelical Christianity
- Chapter 12: Early History
- Chapter 13: Modern History
- Chapter 14: Liberal Evangelicalism