Christianity and….

C.S. Lewis had his devil Screwtape tell his nephew, Wormwood:

The real trouble about the set your patient is living in is that it is merely Christian. They all have individual interests, of course, but the bond remains mere Christianity. What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in the state of mind I call “Christianity And.” You know—Christianity and the Crisis, Christianity and the New Psychology, Christianity and the New Order, Christianity and Faith Healing, Christianity and Psychical Research, Christianity and Vegetarianism, Christianity and Spelling Reform. If they must be Christians, let them at least be Christians with a difference. Substitute for the faith itself some Fashion with a Christian colouring. Work on their horror of the Same Old Thing. [Screwtape Letters, 135]

One risks this whenever the Gospel becomes not an end in itself, but a means to some other goal: usually a temporal, or political, or otherwise worldly aim.
Neal A. Maxwell had the same ideas in mind, I suspect, when he cautioned:

Still others find it easier to bend their knees than their minds. Exciting exploration is preferred to plodding implementation; speculation seems more fun than consecration, and so is trying to soften the hard doctrines instead of submitting to them. Worse still, by not obeying, these few members lack real knowing. (See John 7:17.) Lacking real knowing, they cannot defend their faith and may become critics instead of defenders….

It can be, we note, those most ostensibly committed to the life of the mind and the exploration that goes along with it who will not take the Gospel as it is, but instead are ever trying to remake it. Such an attempt suggests that we do not truly understand it. And, our lack is not in the mind–where we may well be able to articulate its intellectual underpinnings–but, in our lives. If we do not obey and consecrate, we will not really know. Some things can only be learned in the doing, and consecration comes only when we are truly willing to abandon everything, especially that which is both valuable and dear.

And, not really knowing, we will then be either unable or unwilling to defend those aspects of the Gospel that so run counter to the spirit of the age. We will back and endlessly discuss Christianity and Spelling Reform, but will thereby avoid implementing the hard doctrines. It is always the hard doctrines that want modifying, and those who will not bow to them will browbeat any who do as unsophisticated, unreflective, and probably harmful.

The doctrines’ hardness comes both from how difficult it is for the natural man or women to accept them, but also from how unyielding they are to modification without the whole edifice disintegrating. And, unsurprisingly, that is what happens–and another critic is born, all the while protesting his or her love for Christianity, as often as not.

Loves it so much, in fact, that he or she cannot abide not improving it with marriage to their true, or first, love: Spelling Reform, or any of a thousand other worthy, but lesser, causes and priorities.

Then, says Elder Maxwell,

A few of the latter end up in the self-reinforcing and self-congratulating Hyde Park corner of the Church, which they provincially mistake for the whole of the Church, as if London’s real Hyde Park corner were Parliament, Whitehall, Buckingham Palace, and all of England combined!

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