The Tale Of Two Christianities.

Today there were two articles each with a different approach to practicing the Christian faith.  Each would make sense to some group of people.   To me, they seem as different as night and day.

The first was an introduction to a book on the history of the Catholic faith.  Much of it could also apply, I believe, to many Protestant denominations.  The message was faith is all about sin.  Humans so so sinful, the world would be a hopeless place were it not for Christianity:

“Rooted in universal human nature, sin is a constant in man’s affairs, although its character and intensity vary in time and place.  Those who deny that tendency toward evil in basic to human nature cannot make sense of history, which becomes merely endless, incomprehensible tragedy……Men are trapped in a history they cannot control…”

This bizarre view of humans is not the only version of the faith.  There is a more optimistic one.

It is often called the “emerging church” and meets in rented spaces not used by businesses on Sunday mornings.  These would be movie theaters and bars.

The emerging church does not dwell on sin and its sister, hell, but on the acceptance of people as they are.   Starting such churches, “church planting”, has come to be seen by young pastors as more exciting than entry level positions in established churches.

To focus on sin, or to ignore sin, that’s what the future is all about.

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36 Responses

  1. Formerly Fargo Bob

    Hi Jon! While the second type of Christianity you describe is certainly more desirable than the first, it’s not particularly intellectually honest. It’s a rather whitewashed view of the Bible as a whole and of the Jesus figure. It just demonstrates once again how humans have created their gods and their religions to suit their own particular needs.

    1. F. F. Bob 1:54 Great to have you post, Bob. It took a few minutes to get it up on the board here because I have to click approval for first time posts.

      Tonight you can be pleased with your decision to move Southwest, it’s COLD here.

      I think people in the emerging church movement think their version of the faith is a more accurate reflection of Christianity’s roots than the old fire and brimstone. There seems so much room for interpretation everyone can think they have it figured out.

      1. Formerly Fargo Bob

        Jon, I’ve long used the metaphor of Christianity being a 1500-piece jigsaw puzzle. It’s possible to combine any 500 pieces into the picture you want, but you leave 1000 pieces in the box. The only change I see is that more people are choosing different pieces to make their picture.

        1. F. F. Bob 2:35 re: puzzle metaphor
          Great metaphor–especially leaving the 1000 pieces in the box. To me, that would be lots of material in the Bible we can just not bring up.

          1. Henry Did you find anything else out about David? I sent you an email. I looked at newspapers in Sidney and Melbourn but could not navigate the sites very well.

          2. Henry

            I sent two emails to you last night. One had two phone numbers that may be possibilities. You may want to check your spam filter if you did not receive.

        2. Margaret Walsh

          What a great metaphor!! I don’t have to look any further than my family to see the variety of puzzles individuals have built……

  2. I have always wondered why people would sign up for a religion which basic precept is that humans are awful, especially when the historical view shows that the religions themselves have been guilty of some of the most awful things, like burning “witches” at the stake. The emerging churches must scare the heck out of the established ones…

  3. buzz marick

    when organized Religion throws garbage out to feed the Flocks instead of Manna you will witness abandonment on a large scale.God will not be mocked.

  4. Stanta

    Did you see the turnover of the emerging church? 40% oh my! I beg to differing calling that a strong movement. I also wonder from the article where you get the idea that they never talk of sin.

    Creating community is not just practiced in the emerging church month I will be working as a leader and a speaker at a Catholic retreat that welcomes people who think that they will never be good enough for God or cannot be forgiven. Most have been damaged in some way by drug or alcohol abuse, criminal activity, or violence.

    On the retreat that are loved unconditionally, taught that Gods Grace will cleanse them of sin, and to go and sin no more. They are also taught that that will probably NOT happen but they will need to pick themselves up, with the help of the faith community, and start again. No one expects them to be perfect.

    We always tell them that we are just a starting point. They can get more help from us but our time with them as a community is short and a permanent regular church is required for growth.

    Thank you for posting the Catholic article, while pointing out problems it reminds us that nothing is ever brand new and if we look to our history we can solve problems. I especially liked the part, paraphrasing here, that what is amazing is that even with the tendancy for man to screw everything up, it still survives dispite our efforts. What a miracle.

  5. William

    I agree with your premise; however you have gotten the two types backwards.

    It is these small, independent “emerging church” venues that backwards, and while the media focuses on the (bad) church leadership of some of the traditional denominations, some of our best and most progressive theology is being developed at Catholic and Protestant monasteries, seminaries, and churches.

    For example, these emerging church venues do not have a denomination; so they are not accountable to anything. If someone in an affiliated “emerging church” elsewhere says something embarrassing, they can brush it off as “we’re independent.” However a traditional church can have 95% good messages, and yet if we hear that 5% bad message we can whitewash the whole denomination as bad. This is unfair.

    Most of these emerging churches do have affiliations; usually they are pentecostal or baptist. They also are usually biblical literalists, and while they might preach “happy thoughts” from the street window, if you actually examine their theology they are the ones who are more “fire and brimstone.”

    For example, do they feel that the man is the head of the household? Should the women serve the men? Most of the street front church venues hold this position.

    Are they asking honest and difficult questions about human sexuality? Not only are protestants examining this in great depth, but so are Roman Catholics. They think, pray, discuss. For the emerging churches, there is no discussion. They are biblical literalists. End of story.

    Finally, I find it disheartening that a Freethinker identifies with the emerging church as their friend and the traditional church as their enemy. You couldn’t be farther from the truth. Plenty of Roman Catholics and Protestants will tell you that atheists are going to heaven, as “He came to take away your sins, not your mind.” No biblical literalist will tell you that.

    1. William 11:44 Thank you for your excellent first time post. I hope you will post often.

      We have different ideas as to what is meant by the emerging chruch. My impression is you see the term, emerging chruch, as applied to any church not affiliated with a denomination. I see it as a set of churches which have a certain kind of theology, but, are usually not affilitated with a denomination. This theology is, perhaps, not strictly followed but would include little emphasis on hell and/or punishment for sin and not literalism. The group I’m talking about accepts homosexuality as not condemned in the Bible.

      I’d like to be clear that my interest in the emerging church is simply an “academic” one, though I’m certainly not an academic in religion. I see the emerging church as just a new version of what has gone on in Christianity since day one, adjusting to changes in society’s norms. It is a “friend” of Freethinkers only in that it seems more accepting of nonconforming views. And, that is probably not consistant.

      Also, the tradional denominations are not friends, I try not to think of any groups as an “enemy”, of Freethinkers only when they push religion into government. Much of the financial base to place lobbiests in DC to push anti abortion and anti gay marriage legistlation comes from denominations. At least that is my impression. The Catholics and Southern Baptists, for example, flood money into politics for such purposes.

      One again, welcome to the discussion page.

  6. Wanna B Sure

    Just did a review of “emergant church”. Much more diverse than what Jon claims, yet many common denominators. Trinitarianis being one. As is the case of all the “isms” of unbelief, Jon would have a much harder time to debate, (if you could call it that) with them, and in the end, I see the “emergants” a bigger challenge to Freethinkers than his now popular attack points, ie. Catholics and Baptists. Being “non-creedal, non liturgical, non-denominational” does not mean there are no paralells within the Emergents.”Statments of Faith” becomes their Creed, and any group cannot exist without some form of statement, just for example. Regarding Jon’s angst of involvement in government, it looks like much if not more is present, only in a different form, and would be much harder to nail down. If Jon lives long enough, he just may wish for the “good old days”when he could beat up the Catholics and Baptists in a shotgun effect to promote his cause of Freethought. Those in the “emergent” category appear to be activests, and if Jon starts attacking them, I feel confident that that activism will be coming at him from many sides, and not necessarily in a friendly manner. Some of this is apparent on other blog sites where emergents are questioned. The sharp tools do come out. Much like a swarm of bees, they will organize for their common good, as all diverse groups have in the past. Jon’s prefferences may come back to haunt him, because he will not be able to resist attacking them also. The thing with them is there is no unifying restraint. Good luck Jon.

    1. Wanna 2:33 re emergant church

      I agree it is an imprecise and moving target. I have a couple of books that define it as I do, but these do not speak for all parts of it for all time. And, you might be right the future versions of established denominations will be more tolerant–they have always changed.

      The only thing grounded in fact is the Catholic Church spends gazillions on politics. So do variations of the Protestant denominations. But, individuals pay money separate from denominations to free standing religious groups to push religion into politics/government so I concede it’s not just the denominations.

      1. Wanna B Sure

        Jon; Your “…you might be right the future versions of established denominations will be more tolerant-” I don’t believe I said that. And then there is the question of what is; “tolerant”, and in what regard and context.

      2. Wanna B Sure

        “Tolerant could mean; “Well son, it’s your 18th birthday. Here is a couple hundred dollars. Go out and find yourself a nice whore . Happy birthday.

      3. Wanna B Sure

        Jon; You may have hemmeroids. You may have to tolerate them, but you certainly do not have to approve, accept , or encourage them. Tolerate is a loaded word.

  7. Stanta

    I had a friend attending a mega nondenominational hutch and being one of the few practicing Christians, not cultural, he asked me to check out the website. Looked at the mission statement, listened to a couple podcasts, every thing looked good. Finally the clincher, the minister said ” if you are here today thinking that since we are not affiliated with a larger group that sex outside of marriage is not a sin I have news for you. You ain’t getting any.

    This from a church with a computerized light show and 8 piece rock and roll band, coffe shop etc……..

    Every thing he said was referenced biblically, he expected you to read along and take notes, they had evening Bible study several times a week and multiple services over the weekend.

    I told him, it isn’t Catholic but it will get him where he needs to go.

    Jon, I find it interesting that you can make sweeping arguments from just some Internet articles, hope you didn’t let your students do that. Until you go to a specific church and sit in it’s services for a few weeks you ain’t got poop for experience.

    1. Henry

      Stan: “You ain’t getting any……it isn’t Catholic but it will get him where he needs to go.”

      True. I experienced a theologically liberal church in town here for a bit that attracts a lot of political conservatives. The liberal church can get the job done. Quite honestly, I became bored for the very short time I was there. The rah-rah rock band enthusiasm wore off quickly.

      As a side note, unfortunately, these settings can look like the rest of society. The sin and problems come along with. The members (all denominations) need a lot of forgiveness. Church is for the sinner. When I was at the liberal church they were working on the problem they were having with heterosexual sin occuring within the congregation. I didn’t hear them pick on homosexuals during this time, so they didn’t quite treat the homosexuals fairly.

  8. Ed

    Jon you wrote….” I see it as a set of churches which have a certain kind of theology, but, are usually not affilitated with a denomination. This theology is, perhaps, not strictly followed but would include little emphasis on hell and/or punishment for sin and not literalism. The group I’m talking about accepts homosexuality as not condemned in the Bible.”

    This really summarizes your opinion on the new vs old church. The old church still recognizes sin and the need for forgiveness. Not all believe one goes to hell for swearing, but it is important to regonize people are sinful and yet all can be forgiven. They belive in a certain set of moral values that do not change with society and norms. For example, the old church will always view child pornography as abnormal, dysfunctional and sinful. With the new church movement, it is inevitable over time that it will be accepted “as long as nobody is hurt.”

    Your preference for the new church can simply be linked to one common theme for you……their acceptance of homosexuality.

    1. Ed 4:44 re: child pronography, gaging chruches for acceptance of homosexuality.

      I would agree most moral issues should be decided on whether or not someone gets hurt and whether it is the weaker party involved. But, precisely for this reason, I can’t see how child pron could ever be considered a victim free activity. As we saw in the last election campaign, there are plenty, perhaps millions, of people who identify themselves as Christians who believe women are only victims when there is “legitimate rape”. So, please don’t label nonbelievers as a source of moral weakness.

      You are correct that I use acceptance of homosexualtiy as an index for whether a church is using prejudice and politics to further its cause. A few decades back I would have used interracial marriage. Whatever is the social taboo of the times is what religion thrives on.

  9. Ed

    I agree as a society we have made strides in areas like racism….and there will hopefully continue to be strides. It still exists. But for some, there are no boundaries. Child pornography is as victim free as adult pornography to some? Nobody gets hurt? Why not? So this emerging church, in my opinion, will only move moral boundaries further to the left. Where we differ Jon….is where the boundaries will ultimately be drawn.

    Best wishes to you also in 2013. May you find peace.

    1. Ed 5:31 “But for some, there are no boundaries…emerging church…will only move moral boundaries further to the left..where will the boundaries will ultimately be drawn.”

      We share a concern about moral boundaries. I don’t think liberal people have less concern than conservative people. A question we might disagree on a little is what constitutes a moral value. To me, it is harming another person for no justifible reason. It happens often when the person in the strongest position takes advantage of the weak or weaker.

      I’ve never seen evidence that the Christian faith, or, its followers have a better sense of values in this than nonbelievers. People in jails are under represented, compared to the rest of the population, with atheists, over represented with people who declare themselves to be Chrisitan. Many branches of the Christian faith exclude women from some positions. I don’t have to tell you of churches who discriminate against hiring a gay pastor. I hope all branches of the faith, and all non believers, can work to overcome these weaknesses in our value system.

      A Happy New Year to you as well. All the best.

        1. Stan 7:25 “Claiming the high ground as usual.”
          I know this exasperates you–we’ve had other discussions. I realize there are degrees of devotion to the faith, reasons other than faith why someone might mark the box, “Christian”. I acknowledge all that.

          Nevertheless, you can count on me bringing this survey data up every time someone tosses out the old line implying nonbelievers have lower moral standards, or, have no way standard against which to measure moral values. Some Christians have their noses so high in the air with their superior moral values they get nose bleeds. Yet, their morals, so far as I can tell, are no better than anyone else’s.

          Every time is made here about inferior moral values of nonbelievers, without any evidence to support it, I’ll toss out the prisoner survey.

          1. Margaret Walsh

            Totally agree with Jon! I believe those who examine their personal thoughts and beliefs through introspection and take steps to improve, we’ll call it moral boundaries, can definitely do so with out christianity or any religion. Holding our behavior to high standards has a profound effect on those around us by teaching through example.

            I realize I am not operational defining moral behavior, higher standards,etc….but the group is smart enough to ‘get’ what I mean.

          2. Stanta

            If I was talking degrees of devotion I would probably be agreeing with you. But these guys just don’t KNOW and just don’t CARE.

            The data you have is flawed, why you cling to it is self evident.

            Yes, many have their “Come to Jesus” moment at sentencing but that is not religion, that is the con artist at work. Precisely one of the things we who have actually BEEN there are warned about. That is why it rarely affects a verdict or a sentence.

            They may also be why they self identify as Christians in the poll or at times of arrest. One hour out of the cell on Sunday and two hours of “bible study” on Tuesday are great incentives.

            I have information from their own lips. You have a flawed poll.

          3. Stan 12:55 “You have a flawed poll.”
            It is based on at least something. The notion atheists have no moral grounding is based on nothing.

            Frankly, I’d prefer not to bring up that data. But, when Christian posters make up stuff about atheists, it’s fun to toss in the prison data.

  10. Stanta

    “People in jails are under represented, compared to the rest of the population, with atheists, over represented with people who declare themselves to be Chrisitan.”

    Basic crap Jon, the people in prison who claim Christian know no more about Christianity then they do about economics. How much time have YOU spent in jails and prisons talking to them. It’s a box on a survey to check off and since grandma still goes to church they figure they must be Christians too. Most of them couldn’t define atheist or secular. The stories I have heard from some of them would curl your hair.

    You are no expert on the religious beliefs of prisoners, at least I have sat with them and asked questions.

    1. Wanna B Sure

      I had an aquaintance about ten years ago that worked in a prison. We talked about this very subject. He told me that many “get religion” before sentencing and after because it ,(in his words); “looks good on their resume.” It’s not for me to judge however, but it would skew the numbers a bit.

        1. Stanta

          had one change his plea from not guilty for murder 2 to guilty after a retreat. Hard to maintain your innocence after admitting your guilt to god.

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