Stanley Fish on Christian Worldliness
My interpretive community prefers to read this paragraph as a partial but excellent defense of Christian fundamentalism’s separation from the world (in the Rom 12:2, 1 John 2:15–17 sense). My interpretive community prefers to read this as a spot-on description of mainline Protestantism:
If we are worried about obsolescence and the loss of relevance, the surest way to court both is to become so attuned to the interests and investments of other enterprises … that we are finally indistinguishable from them. If there is nothing that sets us apart, if there is nothing distinctive about our task or the criteria for accomplishing it, if there is nothing that marks our work as ours and not everyone’s, there will be no particular reason to support us by giving us a room … of our own. We will be … a wholly owned (and disposable) subsidiary of something larger. Distinctiveness is a prerequisite both of our survival and our flourishing. Without it we haven’t got a prayer.
—Stanley Fish, Save the World on Your Own Time (Oxford, 2008), 100.
My interpretive community has to admit, however, that Stanley Fish actually wrote this about the university. But any organization has to maintain distinctiveness and value if it wishes to survive. We happen to know that the church will survive (Matt. 16:18). But individual churches may not. And for just the reason Fish mentions.