One exchange noted by reviewer Rod Dreher offers to me one of the most poignant demonstrations of why liberal Christians just don't get it and in the process are, as Dreher puts it, committing slow suicide.
Our Chloe decides to set up a Bible study for a group of Bellevue patients who are in from Rikers Island, the notorious city prison. She plays a video segment from the Bill Moyers series Genesis. The inmates see Bible scholars agreeing that Genesis gives us plenty of questions, but few answers. Her students don’t get it.How many people will be lost forever through good intentions and intellectual arrogance. Read the whole review and weep for our age.
“They’re supposed to be experts, right?” says Tyrone. “So then why are they giving us all this stuff about not having any answers? I mean, it doesn’t take a Ph.D. not to have answers! And if they don’t have any answers, then who does?”
Others chime in with contempt for the equivocating liberal scholars Breyer so admires. Finally, a Muslim convert speaks up. “See, this is what I’m telling you, man. The Koran is the place to go for answers! . . . I became a Muslim because the Koran has the most truth in it. You don’t argue about what it means. You read it, and you know what to do. The Prophet got the word directly from God.”
“Is that right?” asks Tyrone. “Is that how it is? The Koran has more answers than the Bible?” Undeterred, and unable to grasp the significance of the moment, Breyer sets out to teach these poor sinners that the Bible doesn’t have to be taken literally. There are lots of gray areas, she tells them, and they should feel empowered by the fact that they can interpret Scripture any way they like. The inmates are unmoved.
“They want answers, not questions,” Breyer writes. “[T]he more contradictions I point out in the Bible, the more the inmates decide there is no point in wasting their time with a religion that lacks answers.”
Smart cookies, those crooks, who intuitively grasp the worthlessness of Breyer’s baptized sophistries to their broken lives. Their critique is utterly lost on this earnest young woman, who does not know, or perhaps simply does not have the courage or conviction to say to these men, that Jesus is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”
She reminds me of the faithless pastor in Ingmar Bergman’s Winter Light, who, when asked by a parishioner terrified of nuclear war for a reason to hope, had none to give him. The anguished parishioner commits suicide. The only consolation any of us might take from the education of Chloe Breyer is that her kind of Christianity is committing slow suicide—except that it is taking who knows how many souls down with it.
The Close natters on for a couple more chapters, but that is where it ended for me—appropriately, because though Breyer misses the point, her experience with the prisoners reveals where liberal Christianity ultimately ends up: not only impotent and ignored, but also in its irrelevance handing people over to false gospels and false gods. The poor, for whom Christ suffered and died, cannot afford the fashionable falsehoods proclaimed by the world’s Chloe Breyers.