Here is an interesting metaphor for “progressive churches” which are constantly being fueled by new cultural trends. Stephen McAlpine calls them Hanoi Jane churches. “Hanoi Jane churches would rather die than stand for any gospel convictions. And die they will. History has borne that out. Why do they do this? Simple: to worship at the chimeric ideal/idol of relevance. You can almost hear the nervy twinge: We can have a seat at the table when the secular framework wins. We can still have a voice. It won’t sound that different to the world’s voice, but at least we will still be able to parade around in increasingly formal ecclesiastical structures, with increasingly shallow theology, and increasingly empty buildings.
Such Christian groups call themselves “progressives”, never fully grasping, from what I can see, the obvious fact that they are getting progressively smaller, progressively older, and progressively ignored. Like the domesticated moggy sitting on the lap of the culture, all that is left to them is a scratching post, the occasional purr and a bowl of milk if they’re good little kitties.
They sound innocuous, right? Actually they are just as treacherous and dangerous as Hanoi Jane. When American troops were captured by the Viet-Cong, Jane Fonda walked past lines of these shattered men. Many of them handed her scribbled notes, desperately asking for help or giving her information. What did she do with those notes? She gave them to their captors who dealt with those men as they saw fit.
So too, the progressives are keen to point out the sins of those churches who have failed to shift with the ethical times: failed to keep “relevant”. The progressives are shrill to point out the perceived flaws of their more conservative brothers and sisters, and slow to defend them in the face of increasing secular pressure. So they do a lot of shouty stuff that shows themselves in a good light to the culture. Stuff like ‘Ooh-er Look over here! Look what these guys (replace “guys” with non-gender specific term of affection here) are up to! And Look how good we are compared to them!’ ”