OK, so I have been contemplating the scope of my life thus far, and wondering about something. Since coming to faith sometime back in 1998, and beginning to walk in that faith sometime in 2001ish, I have been pretty deeply enmeshed in the Christian culture that surrounds me here in North Texas. What strikes me, however, is how nominal many people's Christianity is. Now don't get me wrong, I am not exactly criticizing or judging. But, as a student of Christian history, I know that there have been times in the life of the Church when doctrinal disputes were a big deal. When proponents of one theological interpretation or another came up with catchy slogans to promote their perspective, slogans that were on the lips of normal people going about their daily lives. There were times when people killed and died for what they perceived to be truth. When people dug up the bodies of heretics, then burned, and scattered the ashes and bone fragments. And again, don't get me wrong, it is not like I am pining for a good old-fashioned modern-day Spanish Inquisition, either.
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One of my close friends is of the opinion that what the Church in America needs is some genuine persecution in order to get us back on track. I don't know if that is right, but it is an intriguing idea. They wound up recently quitting the theology program at seminary. They are experimenting with an emergent church right now, but knowing them, and having been down that road, I don't think this will be the end of their faith journey.
Another of my close friends with an seminary education in Christian education in who has been full-time ministering to children for as long as I have known them, has recently decided to leave their perceived calling, and take a secular job. Because they simply cannot see a way to reconcile what is expected of them by churches with Jesus' calling. It has become all about programs. And they just can't do it anymore.
I have been observing how the vast majority of church people I know are more ready to jump to their feet for patriotism than for any matter of faith. Truly, for many, there is a better understanding of and commitment to the sacred when it comes to the symbols and cultus of nationalism, than the sacred symbols and cultus of Christianity. When it comes time to take a principled spiritual stand, I have seen time and again that the church will not. It eats at me.
Anyway, to tie this together a little, I have been pondering why it is that the majority of Christian people have such a different perception of faith, church and ministry. For a long while, I had assumed it was because the Church has so failed to educate people for so long, that it was a matter of people simply not knowing better. But even as I have embarked on my own journey of self-education and training, I have found it virtually impossible to bring those around me along. For the most part, they are happy where they are. I mean, people are respectful of me. But that was never the point. I don't want respect, I want to challenge people to think and learn and grow and ponder the deep things of God. I want people to care.
I recently came across this article about a book written in 2005. I halfway think it was from a comment on /., actually. I can't recall ever discussing it on X., but here are some of the choicer quotes from the reviewer, Scott Korb:
They [American teenagers] are not running away. They are not rebelling. They may not actually know, or be able to articulate, what they believe, but almost every one of them -- ninety-seven per cent -- believes in God. The vast majority of them -- like the vast majority of us -- are Christians. Very few are what might be called spiritual seekers; hardly any of them know what it means to say (or be) "spiritual but not religious." When prompted, nearly all of them speak positively about religion, yet with each other they hardly ever talk -- much less argue -- about it at all. They are conventional [...]
The authors conclude that American Christianity is "either degenerating into a pathetic version of itself or...is actively being colonized and displaced by a quite different religious faith." When asked to articulate their faith, not one of their interviewees mentioned self-discipline, working for social justice, justification or sanctification, and 112 of them described the purpose of religion in terms of "personally feeling, being, getting, or being made happy" (using the "specific phrase to 'feel happy' well more that 2,000 times"). [...]
The instrumentalist parasite of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is killing off the "historically key ideas in America’s main religious tradition, Christianity": "repentance, love of neighbor, social justice, unmerited grace, self-discipline, humility, the cost of discipleship, dying to self, the sovereignty of God, personal holiness, the struggles of sanctification, glorifying God in suffering, hunger for righteousness." And this is lamentable.
Maybe it's just me. But this article just hit me between the eyes, putting into words what has been rattling around in my head for years. But see, the really scary thing is, this isn't just teenagers...