May 31st, 2010
09:50 AM ET
An American preacher rails against the popular caricature of believers as backwards and narrow-minded, decries the popular culture’s hostility toward religion and implores Christians to stop being so politically correct in the workplace and to start loudly expressing their faith-based opinions. Sounds like a typical evangelical Protestant minister, cribbing lines from Focus on the Family.
Another American preacher decries imminent government cuts to programs for the poor, urging Christian churches to mobilize politically to protect society’s most vulnerable. Sounds like a typical mainline Protestant minister, cribbing lines from Jim Wallis.
Christian conservatives feel besieged by the secular culture, liberal Christians want more social justice. Everyone knows that.
So it came as a surprise to hear both sentiments expressed Sunday morning in the same Protestant sermon – not by an American minister but by a Brit, preaching in one of England’s most illustrious Anglican churches.
The church was Cambridge University's King’s College Chapel, completed by Henry VIII in the early 1500s and, to this day, boasting the world’s largest fan-vaulted ceiling. I stopped into the church, pictured above circa 1880, because I’m in town on a fellowship.
The sermon came from the Very Rev. Vivienne Faull, the first woman chaplain at Cambridge University, who called for Christians to begin proclaiming their religious convictions amid an increasingly secular culture, beginning at the workplace:
In the U.S., you’d expect such lines to be followed by a call to speak out against gay marriage or against the government’s attack on religion in the public square.
But the closing lines to Rev. Faull’s sermon asked Christians to make sure looming national budget cuts don’t make the poor even more vulnerable:
Faull told me afterward that her Church of England was prepared to protest certain national cuts because it has a “bias toward protecting the poor.”
Of course, the Church of England got lots of attention last week when its head, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams – who also leads the worldwide Anglican Communion – slapped the American church over its continuing consecration of gay bishops.
But Faull’s sermon is a reminder that Protestantism doesn’t have to fit neatly into a conservative or liberal political box – and that the political split between conservative evangelicals and progressive mainliners in the U.S. is perhaps more an American phenomenon than a Christian one.
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team and frequent posts from religion scholar and author Stephen Prothero.