"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?--Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Saturday, August 01, 2015

I'm only sorry I'm not surprised

New and improved!  Now with more self-awareness!

And I have to say yes, we are; going to fail to respond, that is.

Because I see absolutely no impetus, now or on the horizon, to make us change our ways.  It has a lot to do with sociology not trumping theology; and theology not really being all that important after all, except as a topic of esoteric discussion.

And no, I'm not even surprised that Catholics and evangelicals look very much the same on this issue.

We are, quite simply, prisoners of our past.  We are what we were formed to be; and nothing will mar our mood.

Onward, thru the fog.

UPDATE:  I should have learned from the Ta-Nehisi Coates "quote" I posted earlier. I could say the link to this article was not working when I read the post at Religion Dispatches, but the truth is I never looked.  I gotta quit taking other people's words for things, because the impression I got (and gave) from the post was that white Protestants had a particular problem.

And nothing is as simple as that:

In a multiethnic church in Columbus, Ohio, white members addressed their minister by his first name. Black members viewed that as disrespectful, believing he should be addressed as “Pastor.” Conflict also broke out over disciplining children during worship services. Black parents tended to discipline their children when they were being disruptive, while white parents tended to let their kids move around.

Another multiethnic church, one located in Los Angeles whose core members were mainly Filipino Americans, faced similar discord. The whites and the blacks in the congregation were frustrated that they could not forge the deep friendships shared by Filipino American members. Conversely, some Filipino American members didn’t want to change their worship style to the hymns or gospel music that the black and white congregants preferred.

One church in Chicago selected both a white and a black pastor. They clashed over preaching styles until the church shut down.
It's funny how I recognize some of this.  In my first church, fresh out of seminary, I was criticized (well, for a lot of things, as it turned out) for not rebuking the children and forcing them to call me "Pastor."  Truth be told, I didn't care much for the title (I don't like titles.  Call it false humility, or real humility, or what have you.).  I didn't tell people to call me by my first name (and I don't remember what the kids were calling me), but some elderly members of the congregation were upset I didn't insist the children show me the respect of using a title.

Not that insisting on a title would have saved my role in that congregation; but I digress.

I've also preached in a  black church:  once.  It was a pulpit exchange among UCC churches, and it was exhilarating.   But they wouldn't have liked my pulpit style in the long run, and while I enjoy "black" preaching, I'm still more a "smells and bells" kinda guy (which keeps me out of most Protestant churches, but that's another matter.)

I also didn't mind children being noisy (or rather, not still as bumps on a log) in worship.  Older worshippers and even the parents of children didn't always agree with me.  These things can easily lead to the friction that causes members to leave, or pastors to be handed their walking papers.  And don't get me started on changing the hymns or worship style of congregations to suit the congregants; or, for that matter, the pastor (who does make choices to suit her/his preferences).

So, do we welcome people to our churches?  At this point I have to rely on the RD article, since I don't have a subscription to CT.  But it's safe to say that, if we don't, we aren't really alone in that.  Catholics tend to think hierarchically:  the church is a bit less "theirs" than a Protestant church is (I'm mindful of how dangerous that generalization is.  I have a 20th century story of an Anglican church pastor besieged by parishioners concerned with the "proper" decoration of the worship space for Christmas.  I lived that comic story, and the Anglican church is not only hierarchical, it's official.  So....).  Let's leave aside the distinction and note that most congregants think of the church as "theirs."  And most people want a worship experience that is fulfilling, if not familiar (familiar is often fulfilling; it's why I prefer the familiarity of liturgy to the "familiarity" of the standard Protestant 3-hymns/3 prayers/sermon and pass-the-plate style of worship).  But that experience is ultimately a personal one, and you want to share it with people who are persons like you.

Persons, that is, who want to worship the way you do.  As I said, it has a lot to do with sociology; and that applies to all of us.  The problem is, still, getting our theology to override our sociology.  If we put hospitality at the heart of our gospel; well, what would that look like?


Blogger The Thought Criminal said...

Being able to listen to full sermons, lectures, etc. on Youtubes has been a revelation in different sermon styles to me. I'm often struck by the intelligence of them, often unexpected liberalism and radicalism. Far from the current stereotype of intellectual deficiency in Christianity, most of what I'm hearing is far deeper and more aware of philosophical complexities than what you'll get from atheist scientist ideologues or philosophical atheist ideologues. That one I listened two, a debate between John Lennox and Churchfeld was pretty shocking in so far as Churchfeld seemed to be ignorant of the epidemiological complications of his own subject matter.

It's telling that most mainstream clergy have had some training in rhetoric, logic and philosophy whereas a lot of the sci-guys haven't, it being deemed beneath the high priesthood of science to learn about such things. It is a reversal of stereotypes where it is the sci guys who are the hierarchs of unquestionable faith and the religious who are open to poking at the foundations of their thinking to look for problems. It reminds me of the lesson I learned by dissing Penn Jillette's incredibly stupid movie, The Aristocrats. The kewl kids were horrified that I'd diss that great work of ert by the intellectually inert Jillert (got into a thing, there). They reminded me of nothing so much as the stereotypical blue stockings looking for dirty books in a 1950s-early 60s movie. It got me banned like they used to ban books in Boston, only it was banned at E-ton.

7:51 PM  
Blogger Rmj said...

Scientists do not learn to challenge their most basic assumptions.
Pastors do. At least one-third of seminary is challenging whatever you think is true and can be trusted. Who else gets that kind of training as preparation for their profession?

9:19 PM  

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