Modern Evangelicalism: An MAO Inhibitor?


A pharmacological cornucopia!I rarely watch more than two hours of TV a month, so I’m no expert on ads or what’s happening in the TV scene. No matter how little TV you may consume, it’s darned near impossible not to encounter a plethora of Big Pharma ads hawking this prescription drug or that. See enough of those ads and its clear that every single drug on the market comes contraindicated whenever the prospective user’s downing MAO inhibitors, a type of antidepressant that comes with some serious side effects and warnings.

MAO is monoamine oxidase, an enzyme in the body critical for proper neurological functioning, hence the use of MAO inhibiting drugs for treating nervous system diseases. Are you yawning yet? Ready for the tangential slide?

Okay, here it comes…

The Godblogosphere’s been bloated with enough posts on “returning to Rome” to gag the Pope and all his Cardinals. A few noted Evangelical leaders jumped the Reformation Ship and the handwringing, fingerpointing, and accusations flew. In other words, typical Evangelical Sturm und Drang.

Amid the voluminous posting on this leap from Evangelicalism into the Roman Catholic Church (heck, one post I read even had Elisabeth Elliot pining for the papacy), plenty of volcanic theological discourse erupted, but I heard very little about MAO—the other MAO, that is.

The MAO I speak of is Mystery, Awe, and Otherness. You know, the stuff modern Evangelicals jettisoned on their way to a bookshelf full of systematic theologies, dusty pages of do’s and dont’s, and three-points-and-a-conclusion sermons. In their rush to be real and down to earth, Evangelicals found a way to make God dull. In short, modern Evangelicalism has become a theological MAO inhibitor.

I can’t help but think that most of these “un-converts” who fled to Rome did so in part because of the radical vivisection Evangelicalism got away with concerning the Body of Christ. I happen to believe that God placed in each one of us a yearning for mystery, awe, and otherness. That desire drives us to God as the source for all meaning, even if that meaning can never be fully grasped. This isn’t postmodernism’s vacuous “There can be no absolute truth” stupidity, but a genuine recognition that God is wholly other and therefore contains an element of mystery that generates awe in those who encounter Him.

How so? Remember when you basked in the throes of the first ache of passionate love? The object of your affection seemed like some strange creature from another planet that you’d walk across burning coals to know, even if that knowledge was little more than a favorite book he or she loved. Remember that first kiss? The electricity! That mystery, awe, and otherness found in the kiss of your beloved! (Song of Solomon explodes with mystery, awe, and otherness, doesn’t it?)

Now imagine kissing your sister. (Or your brother, as the case may be.) Where’d all that passion go? Now imagine Evangelicalism turning every day supposedly devoted to passion into just another day of kissing your sister. Now who can blame anyone for bolting that dry familiarity for a place that still kindles mystery, awe, and otherness?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m solidly in the Reformation camp. I see the RCC as a dead-end and always have. I feel sorry for anyone so seduced by a need for mystery, awe, and otherness that they’ll abandon truth for it.

Yet I still understand why they do it.

So plenty of Evangelicals go slack-jawed at these bolters who make for the Seven Hills. They’ll go on and on with analyses—psychological, theological, and otherwise—in their attempts to understand why they couldn’t keep ’em down on the Reformation farm. But sadly, they’ll never ask “What did we do wrong?” See, that question begs an answer and the answer gets a bit too close to the heart of the problem. Evangelicals today are loathe to put the words we and wrong in the same sentence, so they affix blame anywhere they can so long as that anywhere doesn’t involve looking in a mirror.

In the end, it does little more than make me tired. The false either/or propositions about what we should do and believe. The tired arguments against emotion. The constant sniping about mystery. If Evangelicals want to drive it all out, then they shouldn’t be surprised that people go elsewhere looking to fill that God-given need for mystery, awe, and otherness. Folks will go to the RCC, to the Orthodox, to whatever source fills that vital need. They’ll look for a way to stop taking the MAO inhibitors the self-appointed “doctors” of the Evangelical Church prescribed.

And someday Evangelicals will scratch their heads and wonder where all their adherents went.