Faith is a source of strength when one’s mind is set right, one’s goals are sound and one has healthy intentions. When such things are not in play, faith often leads to religiosity. And religiosity is a very poor substitute for spirituality.
So, a couple days back in “Journeying Toward God,” I said I’d have some follow-up points on Christians and non-Christians and where I notice they can really get off track. Well, first, the Christian folk.
I see in too many Chrisitians the kind of legalism that Jesus railed against when he was arguing with priests and scribes back in the day.
It’s not that Jesus didn’t believe in the law. He did. It’s not that he didn’t follow the law. He did (and was one of the precious few people in existence who ever did). But as he point out on more than one occasion, the spirit of the law was the critical thing, and not the literal letter of the law.
What good is a sabbath day where you don’t work, but you’ll let someone suffer because to help them is to “work?” What good is paying tithes if you go through your day with no kindness or mercy? What good is praying if you do it in public just so people can know you’re really doing it, when you might not even be feeling it?
I see a lot of Christians around me, whether literally or on TV and in books who are all too willing to spout the Word of God and tell us why we must follow it, but who don’t get the larger points of salvation, mercy, love and the rest.
I have, for example, slammed the Duggar family many a time for their beliefs as part of the quiverful movement. They focus on the relatively few Bible passages that talk about the blessings of a large family, and make like that means we should just keep spitting kids out as fast as we can. But that’s not what the Bible tells us. In Bible times, for one thing, people didn’t live very long on average compared to today. They worked the land or sea in many cases, and needed children to carry out the family work. In some cases, God wanted the Hebrews to have many children so that there would be plenty of Hebrews to carry out His plans and his works and set the path and eventual stage for Jesus.
We don’t live in a world where having tons of kids is good idea for most people (at least speaking from someone in an industrialized nation). In fact, it would be a back-breaking financial burden for 90% of families to simply just keep spitting out kids. And yet there are people like the Duggars who will hold it up as doctrine that we should be doing this because that’s what the Bible says.
Children are still a blessing, and we should have them for many reasons. But within reason.
Chrisitian will rail against homosexual marriage in society, when the only thing they should care about is whether their church is actually marrying gays and lesbians. On a societal basis, it isn’t any business of the Christians whether the government and the people as a whole want to let homosexuals marry. I don’t think it should be something that churches are forced or expected to do, given the biblical prohibitions. And yet Christians will lose their damned minds over this issue and start thumping the Bible in front of everyone to say it’s a societal evil that should be prevented or purged. But the Bible wasn’t written to build a society. God wanted it to provide a spiritual path.
I could go on with other examples. Prosperity ministries. Speaking in tongues. Killing abortion providers.
The journey to be in synch with God from a Christian perspective relies on an understanding of the Bible. But that understanding is not gained by compiling a list of do’s and do not’s. It is gained by understanding why we need to seek God and by recognizing the larger scheme of thing. It’s about opening our hearts to heaven and at the same time to those around us.
If we do those things, we will act in line with biblical precepts much of the time.
If we’re just following a rulebook, we’ll get off track every time, just like the priests and scribes Jesus criticized.
I try to avoid looking too much at the video evidence of how many people, particularly among the poor and working class in various places (especially rural ones), really think that Obama is:
- A Muslim
- Will somehow try to do harm to whites if he gains the Oval Office
- A terrorist or terrorist sympathizer
- Against the middle class and working class
- Etc. etc. etc.
Because, if I look at this stuff too much, I get angry. Not on behalf of Barack Obama but just because I’m tired of sheeple. I’ve used that term before around here; I assume it’s obvious, but in case it ain’t: Sheeple = Sheep + People. In other words, people who can’t seem to think for themselves and just let the big shots tell them what to think.
Obama has done his share of flip-flopping and bending the truth a bit. But no more than his competitor has. Yet somehow people get it into their heads that he’s evil. The man shows more insight, thought, composure, tact and class than McCain, and thus he must be “hiding something.” As if being angry, spiteful and erratic (as McCain has been) somehow should engender our trust and show that a guy is a real stand-up feller.
Look, I come from working class stock. Despite having two degrees, I think and act mostly like a working class guy. My beers may be a little fancier, but it’s still beer I choose over wine most of the time. I can still appreciate a good fart joke in a movie. I’d rather have a comfy couch to watch TV in than to have a fancy looking one that I can’t put my feet up on. So, I’m not slamming the working class and rural folks who say this stupid shit about Obama because they’re working class and rural and in some cases poor.
I’m slamming them because they don’t bother to think.
It’s the same thing that has turned me off of most brick-and-mortar churches and many of the people who attend them. Just like the Obama-haters, they are often sheeple. Heaven forbid they should study a Bible or question anything a pastor says. Just like the ignorant folks who call for Obama’s head on a bayonet can’t be bothered to read anything that points out McCain’s or Palin’s lies or flaws, can’t be bothered to compare platforms of the candidates side-by-side, and who instead, like good sheeple, just believe whatever Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, their local police chief or nasty hateful bloggers tell them.
Like good sheeple, they go where they are told until the time comes to fleece them or slit their throats and offer them up as burnt offerings to the hungry economic gods.
Yeah, sure, the easy answer would be to say, “Both.” But is isn’t a single fish, now is it? The individual fishes in formation present the image of a fish, but image isn’t always reality.
Looking like a fish doesn’t make it a fish. Certainly, it would smell like a fish and feel like a fish, too, with all those individual fishes—but that still doesn’t make it a fish.
So, too, a bunch of people who are Christians together in one place doesn’t make a church. A congregation, perhaps, but not a church. Doesn’t matter how much it looks like a church, smells like a church, sounds like a church or feels like a church. Because the things that make a church a church are not the people nor appearances, but something altogether of another realm.
Faith. Spirituality. Devotion.
Jesus told us:
Wherever two or more gather in my name there I am in their midst.
Christianity contains “Christ” but it is not Jesus’ name. Jesus’ name was not “Christianity” and it wasn’t even “Christ.” Christ is a title, not a name. People who gather in buildings because of Christianity aren’t necessarily making up a church. Because unless Jesus is at the heart of it, it’s just a get-together.
Hi, there. A conversation with Mrs. Eager has once again brought my thoughts here to my husband’s blog, combined with an incident on Sunday in which a guy shot up a Unitarian-Universalist church in Knoxville, Tennessee, killing two people and injuring seven last I heard.
First, Mrs. Eager. We’re talking on the phone and I’m even more convinced that we have virtually nothing in common except both being born again. And she reveals to me that her and Mr. Eager are, well…eager…to move them and their two girls out of the Northeastern U.S and into the Bible Belt. They have their eyes in particular on Tennessee (yeah, you can connect my mental dots already, I’m sure) because they want to be in a place where “traditional values” are held more dearly.
Mrs. Eager expressed her concern that things are too “liberal” out here in many of the churches. Now, there are many liberally minded churches in our part of the world. I agree. But having done some church-hopping with darling hubby as we tried to find a church home, I have been to a great many places where not only was the doctrine quite conservative but people looked at my black ass quite strangely. Many a church out here has been nixed for our family based on people not receiving our mixed race family warmly and, in some cases, with a distinct “why are you here and could you please leave” mentality.
So, I don’t really get why you would pick up and move hundreds and hundreds of miles simply for religious reasons, with the end goal being to be around a lot of other people just like you. There is no job or better career options waiting out in the Bible Belt. Mr. Eager is a plumber, and pretty much anywhere in this country, that’s a job that will keep you busy and money coming in at a comfortable level. They have family out here. Yet they are seriously considering moving simply so that it will be easier for them to find plenty of conservative Christian churches to choose from.
That scares me a little. It seems like the decision of someone who’s caught up in religion, but not very caught up in being Christ-like.
And when you add the Tennessee shooting to spice this up, I think: A man went and tried to murder a bunch of people in a U.U. church because he hated the liberal movement in general (especially inclusiveness of gays) and, I suppose, hating even more so those pesky liberal Christians or liberal semi-Christians (since U.U. churches seem more like spiritual social clubs to me than actual churches, since they are religiously inclusive as well, trying to be one-stop spiritual shopping it seems). So, doesn’t that show that the Bible Belt also produces very unsavory people, despite all those traditional values?
I know this is just one person. I know that Mrs. Eager and Mr. Eager are not seeking to hook up with people who kill other people over liberal vs. conservative views.
But why do they want to surround themselves with people they assume will be like-thinking? Jesus didn’t do that. So many churches, particularly those with a more conservative slant, want to go out all over the world and convert people; lead them to Christ. Yet how many of them put that same effort closer to home? Instead, people hole up in churches where everyone is like them and they hear what makes them feel comfortable. They socialize with those people. They avoid those who would say things they don’t want to hear.
Yet Jesus socialized with the active sinners. He hung out with—and preached to—gamblers, prostitutes, thieves, adulterers and more. He went where people needed to hear the good news of God’s grace and coming kingdom on Earth.
If Mrs. Eager and her family head out to the Bible Belt, I wonder: Will they be reaching anyone? Will they be effective Christians? I doubt it. They will be comfortably ensconced in a warm cocoon of “Churchianity.”
If things are too liberal here—if people are getting away from the Word of God because they are trying to make it fit the world or edit it to be more palatable—doesn’t it make more sense to stay and let people see the light of Christ shining through you when you hold to the Word?
She would say, I am sure, that this is a move for the children’s sakes. But we cannot protect our children from the world; we can only teach them how to overcome it. And leaving for the Bible Belt? Well, that feels to me like they are just running away.
(If you want to read any of Mrs. Blue’s other infrequent posts around these parts, go here)
So I was thinking about the 4th of July holiday weekend. And I got to thinking: How many people really celebrate us breaking away from the British more than 200 years ago? Not many. It’s more about BBQs and beer and setting off explosive devices. And I thought about the Memorial Day and Veterans Day holiday weekends and realized that despite flags and parades and stuff, no one really is paying much attention to military folk who lost their lives or simply served (whether in combat or not).
Then I thought about the word holiday and how it derives originally from holy-day. And I thought: How many people really think about Jesus’s crucifixion and rising from the dead when they celebrate Easter? No. It’s about baskets and bunnies and colored eggs and candy. Christmas? Not about the birth of Jesus, that’s for sure. It’s about the gifts and Santa and stocking and mulled cider and all that jazz. Most people even when they go to services at church for easter or Christmas they really don’t think about Jesus much past the point they exit the church.
That got me to thinking about how people don’t really take church seriously either. Not that I think church is the be all and end all mind ya…I don’t…and people put too much stock in whether God really cares that we sit our butts in the pews. I don’t think he does. Church is supposed to be about more than going to a building. But I thought about the people who do go every week or nearly so, and how many of them fall into two camps. One is the “its a habit and/or I better go or God might hate me” crowd…which means their attendance is either wholly empty or just about fear. The other major camp is the “I need to be seen as being holy crowd” who are obviously there for the sake of their image or station in life or something else and not for the glory of God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit.
In other words, we’re a bunch of shiny plastic people. I’ve been guilty of it too sometimes but not anymore. I don’t care whether people see me in church or waht they think when I don’t show up. Not any more. And I’m not going to go there because I think God is keepign attendance. We aren’t told in the Bible to show up weekly to services. We are told to spread the good news. Jesus would rather have us out there on Sunday sharing his message to the world than he would for us to show up at a church. Yeah, there is value to going to church…but not when it’s just because ya feel ya have to do it.
No smiling and shucking and jiving when it comes to church. That’s wrong. I mean, if we aren’t there to have true spiritual fellowship and be fed spiritually through the word of God why the heck are we there? you think God cares to see a bunch of phonies clogging up the pews? He’d rather see them 3/4 empty and know that all the people there want to be and are getting something out of it.
Barbie and Ken dolls. What happens when you take off their clothes? No nipples, no private parts. Just smooth and shiny plastic. That’s what most of us have become emotionally and spiritually. We look forward to our long holiday weekends without remembering the reason why the day is celebrated. We celebrate religious holidays but serve up greed and superficial nonesense (I’m still guilty of that myself). We go to church but make it a surface-y thing with no depth and no detail…just like Barbie and Kens parts. Is that what we want to be? Is that what you want to be?
I’m trying to straddle this delicate line between feeling like I should post every day if possible…and really wanting to take weekends off. So I’m going to try to split the difference by having short posts on Saturday and/or Sunday and see if I can actually keep them short. Here goes…
Mrs. Blue recently pointed me to a blog called Truth for Dummies and I admit that I haven’t delved deeply into it yet, but what I see so far I do like, and it will quite likely end up in my blogroll at some point. But what caught my attention was when she mentioned the blog author had a post some time ago about “Churchianity.”
Now, there’s a term I like. So many Christians get tired of calling themselves Christians because they see so much judgmentalism, hypocrisy and over-aggressive evangelism among their brothers and sisters in Christ. But here’s the perfect term for so many of those folks, particularly the ones that really don’t do much for Jesus and God during the week. They practice Churchianity because they feel the core purpose of their born-again existence is to sit in a pew, sing hymns, listen to the pastor, socialize with the congregation and drag non-believers to the church or pressure them to come on their own.
Jesus told us to go out into the world and spread the good news. I’m not saying you shouldn’t go to church, but I am saying that if that’s the bulk of your Christian walk, you’re already making serious missteps. And if you don’t go to church, there are other legitimate ways to keep yourself in the Word and on track, and that’s just fine; God’s priority for you isn’t to be in a building with like-minded people but out there in the trenches inspiring the lost souls to seek Him through your words and actions.
Just say “No” to Churchianity.
EDIT: Actually, I see Spirit Bear has a number of posts that mention Churchianity but one in particular is standing out for me…A New Rant…and it plays into my post a couple days ago about Pushing Christ…