Thursday, February 27, 2014

More Songs about Buildings and Food

Rick makes this argument in a much more eloquent way than it is usually made, and part of the issue in this argument is the one of the "generation gap" (a term that is probably an anachronism by now).

So, yes, the main objection is to gay marriage. But behind that, I think (I'm admittedly an outsider here), is a great deal of anxiety about confessional identity, about the ease with which denominational authorities can ignore the standards that define what it is that ordinary congregants thought they had assented to in joining the particular church. The fact that breakaway Episcopalians emphasize the Articles, and that breakaway Presbyterians emphasize the Confessions, tends to confirm for me this view of things.
But part of the reality of the church is that the church is the people, and again, which people are the ones to whom the organization must be most sensitive?

In a survey released Wednesday, nearly one-third of Millennials who left the faith they grow up with told Public Religion Research Institute that it was "negative teachings" or "negative treatment" related to gays and lesbians that played an significant role in them leaving organized religion.

Specifically, 17 percent of Millennials, or adults between 18 and 33-years-old, said negativity around LGBT issues in religion was "somewhat important" to their departure, while 14 percent said it was a "very important" factor. A majority of Americans, 58 percent, also said that religious groups are "alienating young adults by being too judgmental on gay and lesbian issues." Among Millennials, that percentage jumped to 70.

"While many churches and people in the pews have been moving away from their opposition to LGBT rights over the last decade, this new research provides further evidence that negative teachings on this issue have hurt churches’ ability to attract and retain young people,” PRRI CEO Robert P. Jones said in a statement.
One question this raises is:  who are the ordinary congregants?

I can still remember fire 'n' brimstone sermons from my youth (few from the Frozen Chosen I sat with, but even those wouldn't have thawed us out).  Churches finally had to give those up, even though many were convinced they were confessional and the core of their beliefs. (Back to the question of soteriology and it's role in Christianity, but I digress....).  Nobody wanted to hear that anymore, and partly as a result of that we got the Gospel of Prosperity as peddled by Joel Osteen.  We also, however, got churches that got out of the judgment business ("Judge not, lest ye be judged," my KJV saturated memory still recalls).

Now a new generation is urging us to get out of the sex business.  Because that's part of what this is all about.  The other part, obscured but very present in the documents at the FPC website, is the question not of sola scriptura, but of sotierology.  Is Christ the sole source of salvation, or not?  That was identified as a driving issue in the documents produced by FPC in its year long discernment process.  This issue even had a name:  universalism.  Like "inerrancy of scripture," it is a term with a very specific meaning, meant to draw a bright line between "us" and "them."

There are two responses to that question which raise the hackles of many:  a) no; b) why is salvation the core concern of Christianity?

I would argue that the emphasis of Pope Francis I on poverty and care for the least among us shifts the emphasis of the church from spiritual salvation to temporal salvation; and that, to many, is the problem.  Recall the statement of the FPC church elder:

Before Sunday’s vote, church elder Eric Thomas heaped more direct criticism on PCUSA, accusing it of promoting “false teaching” and being “too often focused on social justice.”
That's not just a complaint of modern evangelicals.  It's been leveled against the Pope himself by American Catholics.  Part of the reason for the criticism is the shift in focus from what we believe (in my heart I know I'm right!) to what we do (since I know I'm right, everything I do is right!).

Does this connect with the question of gay rights?  Stick with me, I'll get there.  First we have to address the core concern of Christians:  is it salvation?  self-fulfillment?  righteousness?  Or caring for the least among us?  Is it, in other words, to offer salvation to all?  Or to be a servant to all? (whether these are mutually exclusive will be addressed; eventually).  But rather than address them and leave you buried in another avalanche of bloggage and verbiage, let me stop there for the moment with the question:

What is, or should be, the core concern of Christians?


  1. When the leaders of The Church in Jerusalem were having major disagreements with Paul, and a good deal of skepticism and suspicion, understandable considering what he'd been up to while he was Saul, weren't their instructions to him to remember the poor? Maybe that was their central doctrine that stood and bound them together even as they didn't exactly see eye to eye on other things.

  2. What is, or should be, the core concern of Christians?

    Is it all right if I quote the Scriptures? :-)

    He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
    but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?
    (Micah 6:8)

    He [Jesus] said to him, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22: 37-40)

    In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets. (Matthew 7:12)

    For me, the only way to begin to live the teachings I quoted is "in Christ". Some days, the only way I get out of bed in the morning is "in Christ" - Christ working in me. For me, that is salvation, which I need every single day.