An Irreligious Faith: How to Starve religion and Feed Life
Ain’t gonna happen! That’s my initial response to this month’s synchroblog topic, healing divisions in the church. People like believing they are right. Then they can look down the other poor souls who don’t measure up, and feel very righteous about it. That sums up a big part of church history. We all do it. Human nature and sinfulness will not change. So the divisiveness will continue.
But individual attitudes can change, and that can slowly build toward critical mass that changes entire groups.
In my ultra-conservative Bible/pastoral education, I was taught secondary separation. Primary separation involves keeping your distance from the things of the world, deemed to be sinful or questionable (by those in authority at the religious organization.) Secondary separation involves not associating with other Christians who see some points of doctrine a bit differently.
I am a believer in immersion. (It figures a former Baptist would say that.) I believe in immersion into society, almost all aspects of it. I believe in immersion into people’s lives, all kinds of people.
I also believe in avoiding sin, those things that are hurtful to us and others. Everyone has to figure these things out for themselves. Someone else’s “no-no” list will not work for you or me. That’s what grace and freedom in Christ are all about. One more thing. we won’t even be able to maintain adherence to our own behavioral guidelines. That’s what confession and forgiveness are all about.
I am a believer in lowest common denominator, as a basis for relationships. My Bible College training taught me the importance of having several tests (or common denominators) for fellowship. Is the person a believer? Does he believe in a historical, grammatical, literal way of understanding the Bible? Does he believe in the premillennial return of Christ? Is he clean cut looking? Etcetera, etcetera.
What happens when we reduce the required common denominators? What are the requirements for a friendship with someone? How about if you both are Christians, but attend churches of a very different stripe? How about if you are both parents, or you are both married, or you are both residents of the same town, or what if you are neighbors, or you both like the same band, or you both like to fish or play golf, or you both are struggling financially, or you both are sort of lonely, but don’t want to admit it? How about if you don’t have much in common that you know of, but you live next door to each other, and want to be good neighbors.
What if your neighbor is a secretive drug addict, a tax cheat, or mean to his wife or kids? What if someone is a drunk, homeless, or stinks? What if the only thing you can think of that you have in common is that are both human beings?
What if stopped thinking people have to conform to some mental checklist? What if we didn’t love them to change them? What is we just loved them?
What effect would have on church divisions? What effect would it have on our community, and our world? What effect would it have on us?
Here are the other authors’ contributions to this topic.