Sociology And The Church.

While the mega church preacher, Rob Bell, is little known compared to icon, Billy Graham, Bell is more important.  He is someone who understands the shifting society and finds his own faith in tune with it.

Let’s start with imagery.  Both the outside and inside of a church are designed to create some emotional response to the viewer.  The ceremonies are designed for the same end.

To young people today, these mean little.  They react and identify, instead, with what they see on this screen.  Rob Bell appears here with many different kinds of presentations.  He understands well the tensions of the new generation and how to address them on a screen instead of in a church.

The older generation who love the church steeples and looking at the cross inside the church and like talking of sin and avoiding hell.  The new generation is concerned about being good people.  This means accepting the diversity that makes up the family of human beings.

To address the anxieties of contemporary thinking, Bell doesn’t use cross or talk of hell much.  He understands the sociology of today’s society makes these concepts not relevant.

The abstract concept of spirituality is meaningful.  That someone temporarily died for arbitrary definitions of sin is not.

The artistry of church architecture and ceremony is being replaced by a digital artistry.  This change is picked up by some, like Bell, but missed by others, the hierarchy of much of protestantism and nearly all of Catholicism.

19 Responses

  1. Ed

    Why would an atheist spend time disecting the Christian faith? It’s interesting an atheist such as yourself is an expert in how the churches miss the mark with the younger generation? If you have such profound insight as to what is important to the younger generation, why not use your blog to promote atheism? Don’t worry about Christians and use your blog to ridicule them. Promote something. Don’t be intolerant,unaccepting and tear down others by asserting their faith is “irrelevant.” Can’t you be accepting of others? What makes you think that you can determine what is relevant in others’ faith? Why not try yourself being “good people?”

    1. Ed 5:48 Thanks for commenting. Your comments are welcome here anytime.

      Your criticism is one made often about my blog. When I discuss the lack of interest in the faith by young people, I’m reporting factual information. In my view, when new versions of the faith replace the old, it is not a negative development. Some might see it helpful that I write about it because it helps focus on reality by acknowledging that change is occurring.

      However, there are those who get angry and respond with “shoot the messenger” comments. I appreciate all who comment.

  2. Michael Ross

    “The older generation who love the church steeples and looking at the cross inside the church and like talking of sin and avoiding hell. The new generation is concerned about being good people. This means accepting the diversity that makes up the family of human beings.” There is an element of truth to what you are saying but I believe you are over stereotyping generations. Speaking of sociology I took a Soc class from your wife in the ’70s. A very nice lady. Is she an avowed atheist also? Just curious.

    1. Michael 6:00 I appreciate you comment about the class you took from Elaine. I don’t think she wants to be known as as “avowed atheist”.

      In fact, as I have pointed out, I myself can only say there is no evidence of a magical being. Though I don’t know what, precisely the term “avowed atheist” means, it seems like it would be one who denies any possibiltiy of the magical being–that is not me.

      1. Michael Ross

        ? ?[uh-vou] Show IPA

        verb (used with object)
        to declare frankly or openly; own; acknowledge; confess; admit: He avowed himself an opponent of all alliances.

        If that doesn’t discribe you in terms of atheism I don’t know what does. If you are saying there is a possibility of a “magical being” then I believe you would be an agnostic. That’s good to hear. You are stll seeking, I hope. “Seek and you will find” Jesus said. He, Henry, Stan, WBS, and myself will keep working on you.

        1. Michael 5;21 Thanks for the definition. I’ve said before there are not yet scientific answers for some things, such as formation of the universe. There may be some day. In the meantime, we don’t know. One of many possibitlities is a magical being. I doubt this, but it is still one of the many.

          I’m happy to have a god plus all of you believers, here, working on converting me. Providing some evidence other than the Bible would be most helpful.

          1. Michael Ross

            “The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
            And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
            Day to day pours forth speech,
            And night to night reveals knowledge.” (Psalm 19:1-2)
            Some stary night get out of town, at the lake maybe, look up and listen. He is speaking to you.

        2. entech

          Michael, interesting selection of synonyms, a couple more than I found were ‘cross ones heart’ and ‘swear on the Bible’, neither seem applicable to your usage.
          Interestingly when used in a religious setting the word is practically in a monogamous marriage with atheist, we never hear of an “avowed Methodist” even though it would be just as valid, it almost always seems to take on a pejorative sense, a sense of compounding the wrongness of atheism. With this in mind would you accept “avowed creationists” as a description of yourself. I say creationist based on a lot of your internet referred sites.

          From the Free On Line Dictionary
          atheist n.
          One who disbelieves or denies the existence of God or gods.
          agnostic n.
          1. a. One who believes that it is impossible to know whether there is a God.
          b. One who is skeptical about the existence of God but does not profess true atheism.

          And of course Ignostic n. which states that the question and definition is not sufficiently defined to enable an answer.

          So is an avowed atheist one who states: “I do not believe that a god exists” or one who states: “a god does not exist”.
          The definition is a little ambiguous, perhaps two definitions are need:
          Atheist_a “I do not believe in a god but do not deny the possibility”. and
          Atheist_b “Not only do I not believe I would say that there is no god”

          For Agnostic: b. makes no sense allowing the ambiguity of what is an atheist.
          for a. I would elaborate slightly and make it ” … whether or not there is a god”

          I gave up on trying to distinguish when Henry insisted on grouping me amongst “the atheist”, so I admit to Atheist_a, although I doubt that that is the sense most writers on this site use it. So difficult to get a straight out unambiguous definition.
          As for Agnostic, although this is the most common usage I am not happy with it and would describe myself in a slightly different way, I would say that anything which exists can be demonstrated to exist, this leaves open the possibility that with increasing knowledge and research techniques a definitive answer could be found.

          Of all the published writers against theism, there is only one that I know of that takes the atheist_b position and that is the physicist Victor Stenger in his book God, “the failed hypothesis”, the likes of Dawkins and Hitchens always said a categorical denial could not be justifiable in a scientific sense.

          I will watch all of you “avowed proselytisers” and if you convince Jon, I may have to follow.

          1. entech 8:01 “I will watch all of you ‘avowed proselytisers’ and if you convince Jon, I may have to follow.”

            What an opportunity we have opened for our faithful brethern here. When the evidence comes pouring in, our white flag goes up.

          2. Wanna B Sure

            Jon; Re: Your 8:01; Custer probably thought the same thing. By that time, it was too late to “surrender”.

          3. Wanna 6:50 “Custer probably thought the same thing. By that time it was too late to surrender.”

            Good one, Wanna. In our defense I’d only say, Custer probably knew someone would be shooting at him. So far as we know, we’re in the clear on that.

          4. entech

            Come on now Jon, you are like the drunk driving the wrong way down a one way street. When the policeman pulled him over and asked if he didn’t see the arrows he replied, “Arrows? officer I didn’t even see the Indians”.

  3. Wanna B Sure

    An interesting article in Huffpost Religion: “The new evangelical Agenda”. Jim Wallis 11-15-12/. The term “Evangelical” should be taken off the blackboard, and the original meaning of the word be learned. So much baggage has been attatched to it recently, that it has no clear meaning or value. To be an” Evangelical,” or to be evangelical, that is the question. Sword or salve.

    1. Wanna 1:36 “The new evangelical agenda.”

      I read that, too. I agree use of the term, “evangelical”, has spun out of control. So have so many terms in this debate. “Murder” comes to mind. Anyone who says he is pro choice is labeled a “murderer”. So, it is a doctor who performs abortions. Then, also the woman who chooses to have one.

      Yet, they have not been convicted of murder.

      1. Wanna B Sure

        And so I will continue to be “evangelical”, ( small e,) (in the original sense of the word), and the pro-abortion folks will continue to do what they do.

        Even the term “Pro Choice”is misleading, and abused. “Pro Choice”, can also mean to choose not to abort. There can be abuses on both sides, for instance in Ireland this week where a pregnant woman was denied an abortion even when the unborn ceased to have life, and she in turn died also. There needs to be more humanity involved in situations like this, and less political dogmatic.

  4. Stan

    Nothing beats face to face when a person is really hurting. I work with the extreme cases. Infidelity, abuse: physical, mental and emotional. No website will ever replace a warm heart and the ability to wipe the tears away. The physical church will never be replaced.

    If you want to be a cultural Christian, there are many places to call home, but to honor and obey takes dedication.

    1. Wanna B Sure

      The term “obey” has some ominous overtones. Agree may be a bit more appropriate. When we were either young, or new to the faith, there was much not understood. Many questions hadn’t even been asked, let alone answered. As one grows in the faith and understanding, agreement becomes easier. Through Catechesis as an ongoing practice prevents the need for “Obeying”, but promotes agreement. Emphasizing the why, not just the what. This is not a robotic type training, but explanation. While one may not agree with those in different faith traditions regarding specific teachings, understanding why and how they come to those conclusions and practices is helpfull. Some may be cultural, some may philosophical, some may be regional. Some of them may not be well thought out. Quite often those misunderstandings are based on mis/dis information, and knee-jerk reactions. Sometimes just really poor scholarship is part of the problem. Communication, not confrontation is the ideal, but one must be open to communication. It has been my observation that the ones most confrontational, and unwilling to discuss or learn are the ones least prepaired to defend their position, and to “obey” is a giant red flag and threat.

      1. Stan

        There were many things I may not of agreed with when I came to God, but I figured that if I took the time to think aboiut it and study, I would understand. In the mean time I followed what was required of me or accepted the consequences of my disagreement. I tried not to just blow it off as an unreasonable requirement.

        In almost every case so far I was right.

Comments are closed.