Denominationalism

There is one thing that I have had a hard time understanding this side of evangelicalism, and that is denominational favoritism. Now, if was simply the idea that someone really likes a particular brand of church, that would be fine. However, the prevailing attitude that I sense is that brand x church is the ONLY church who has their act together. They are the ONLY church who has their doctrines correct. If you are not part of their brand, you are inferior.

They approach it as God playing the shell game. He has several hundred walnut shells on the table but under one–and only one–is the correct church. Our mission is to seek out and find that one faithful church in the midst of imposters.

Some have gone so far, if you read between the lines of what they are saying, that you cannot be a Christian if you are not part of their denomination.

Right now I have good friends who believe that; the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), Catholic Chruch, Wisconsin Synd Lutheran Church, Eastern Orthodox, Mennonite Church or the Southern Baptist Church is the ONLY correct church.

I think about this and, as I always do, try to figure out what is the psychological force behind this thinking. I think it is a lack of understanding of the brokenness of humanity and seeking a higher feeling of self-worth, knowing that you are one of the few who are smart enough or moral enough to have discovered the one true church. Broken humans cannot produce perfect church organizations. This is not to be a bummer, as is all is hopeless. It is liberating. We don’t have to look to a particular church as our one savior. We can enjoy a variety of traditions without guilt, keeping one eye open for mischief within that brand.

I’m also not saying that theological truth is relative. It is not. But each person in these particular groups above thinks that they have a corner on theological certainty. This is not possible. We should seek theological purity, but we never arrive.

So what is the problem with this ecclesiological branding? The problem is, I have noticed with these friends:

  1. When they live in places where their church brand doesn’t exist, they half-heartedly join other “inferior” brands and stand as a perpetual critic from the inside.
  2. They don’t support important ecumenical projects in the community so they can avoid mixing with those outside the “right church.”
  3. They, while not admitting it, look down their noses at people outside of their brand. They may not notice it, but those on the other end of that long nose get it.

I am often accused of being anti-denominational (or like I said above, seeing theology as relative). I am not. I favor the true, simple gospel and I adore all life that God has created.

Related to this, I will close with a quote from my book, Butterflies in the Belfry, Serpents in the Cellar, about this issue:

Even champion thoroughbreds require constant shoveling or their stalls will fill with shit. We are ALL wrong on some points but that should not stop us from meeting. However, this plasticity should never be an excuse for trivializing important theological doctrines or attempting to revise the corrupt history of our particular church movement to make us feel better. We often worry that we—or worse, our friends—might be wrong on some important theological point. However, what really should keep us awake at night, is the fear of becoming certain about a view that is absolutely wrong. As long as we know there is a chance we might be in fault . . . we are safe.

Mike

Another Hard Week in America . . . and the World

There is really nothing left to say. There have been many great blogs, articles and etc. written this week about the horrible shootings and I can’t add to that. Of course, and sadly, there as been some really ugly things and some really out-of-touch statements.

I am left thinking, what do I do?  How do I repent? I think of my heritage, growing up in the south. I was raised racist. I’m sorry about that. I am shocked that even now  when I spend time with my old (strong Christian) friends, who still live in the south, they say some horribly racist things and don’t even realize it.

But I know that I am not clean yet. I want to find out where I am still racist and purge that part of me. That’s all that I left to say. Forgive me and help me to see how I can make this better. How can I help the hurt of the black community and the police?

Mike

Why I support Isis

Now that I have entered my name on every watch group in the world (by that title to this post) I will quickly give the disclaimer that, of course, I don’t support Isis. Someone recently asked me what would be the group’s proper name in Arabic. My Arabic is rusty these days, so I had to search and work to find the vilest name that I could come up with, in Arabic. It was simply, people whose brains are made of dog shit.

So, I really don’t need to say much to point out how evil and disgusting Isis really is. To be part of that group, you would have to be classified as a sociopath to start with, but that is just the mental health description. The moral explanation is beyond any words that I can conjure up while sitting in this humble coffee shop in the afternoon.

However, I do support Muslim people with my whole heart. Why? Because they are humans, created in God’s image. Because they are created in God’s image, they are deserving of love and respect and that settles it. I feel the same way towards Jews, homosexuals, transgenders, Hindus and any other group that just happens to be human before they became under that secondary label.

I am deeply concerned these days, not about the terrorists coming for us (which has been the same saber rattling within Christendom since Mohammed took Mecca in 630 AD), but about the attitude I am seeing among my Christian friends. Virtually all my evangelical friends are on the same page. I am the misfit or outcast. Their mantra is, “Islam is evil, it is against God . . .  they are all evil and murderous. We must kill them all because we are the shining lights of morality for the world.”

 

For years, I pondered how on earth could have decent German people allow their country to become so morally corrupt that they could allow Nazism. How could they look the other way when the outcast; Jews, disabled, homosexuals and the like be executed because of their label? I have even met some of these people (I know one now) who lived in Nazi Germany and probably supported their government, at least at the beginning.

I think I now know. It is insidious. It creeps out through the cracks of frustration (over terrorism in the present case) and congeals on this side as camouflaged hate. It is camouflaged by the patriots as standing up for freedom and the American Way (which I think Superman coined). It is veiled by Christians as being on God’s side. But hate is hate. Hate is the fuel of Isis and if we become like them, we are no better than they are.

I think what shocks me the most is that this attitude is one of solidarity among my Christian friends. I am grateful that I go to a church where the dominant attitude is not this way.

How do I explain Isis? Is it a Muslim feature?  I would need a book to explain that clearly but I will just summarize here in closing. If you take a country, say “Zenderland” and subject it to domination by other, far away countries and subject it to injustices (like all countries experience at one time in history or another) you will create a general ill-feeling among the Zenderlanders. As that discontent and anger grows, there will the minority spin-off nut-job groups who allow their anger to go to seed as raw hate. This is human nature. If they want, they can look into their personal philosophies to find the supporting foundation for that anger, to make it metaphysically bigger than themselves. Study the Christian Thirty-Years-War and you will see how we did the same rationalizations, using Christian theology. Yes, there are things within Islam that you can use to support a violent Jihad, even though most Islamic scholars would disagree with that attitude.

This is the mess that we are in. When I even suggest that we, good-ole white skinned, Christian Americans have done injustices to other people groups in our past and we have made some huge political mistakes (like invading Iraq), this really pisses people off. How dare I say that we have anything to do with the horrible evils that we wittiness on TV? My Christian friends get the most pissed at me, and that is where I hear the question, “Why do you support Isis? I thought you were a Christian.”

But is it not a foundational Christian principle, which Jesus himself taught, that we should first look at the log in our own eye?  Of course, what Isis does is pure evil, but does this let us off the hook from taking any moral responsibility?

I am confused. I scratch my head and wonder how could we be so blind. The huge problem of the world is not a shortage of hate and we need to generate more hate to fix it.

Mike

Butterflies in the Belfry, Serpents in the Cellar is Underway

For over ten years I have worked on my manuscript. Today is a milestone day when I submit for the final stages of publishing.

I have published two other books, both publish on demand (self-published). I had a dream where a real publisher would want a book that I had written. Never did I imagine that I would have to turn down two such real publishers, which I did this time. The book will be available in about two months. I have decided to publish under my own publishing brand of Naked Christian Press. I have chosen this route for several reasons, the main one is to give it the priority that I think it deserves. While, I am not in this (only in my other dreams) to earn a living but to get an important message out, especially for those post-evangelicals.

A few years ago I had an early rough draft of the book on my website Christian Monist.  The final manuscript is radically different from the first draft. It is half as long and only a few of the original stories remain.

%d bloggers like this: