Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A History Lesson, Evangelism, And Nobility

Father Stephen considers the history of American Christianity and it's resulting drive- evangelism:
The result was a new imperative for the Christian: evangelism. The proclamation of the gospel now meant the proclamation of a message geared towards a specific experience with a specific result. The audience included both the churched and the unchurched. The social movements associated with these revivals were interpreted as manifestations of the Spirit. Revivalism, in a wide variety of forms became the hallmark of modern Christianity. The variety of “renewal” programs across Protestant denominations is almost legion. The mega-church is specifically designed by modern revival technology and media-savvy. The Roman Catholic Church has a history of revival within its own modern history. The charismatic movement within Catholicism as well as Cursillo and other efforts (regardless of their Catholic origin) make use of revival-inspired technique.
Father Stephen is an Orthodox priest, and I am in the midst of the Catholic Charismatic movement he describes and he seems to believe, as I do, that modern Christian evangelism does more harm than good:
A Christianity that is largely without doctrine and sacrament is a Christianity of slogan and extravaganza. A “Churchless” Christianity is simply, a heresy. It is a strange reading of the New Testament with conclusions as novel as they are effective. It is also destructive of the long term health of the Christian faith. Many who grow tired of its slogans and extravaganza do not turn elsewhere – they turn nowhere. The fastest growing religious group in America is the unchurched.
There is something else that Christians have lost, a thing that would be strange for American Christianity to embrace, but nonetheless is something all the ecumenically minded could do in the meantime: nobility.

I don't know if anyone still reads my blog, but if you've ever happened to hear the words 'city building' you might be interested to know this is something aristocratic families did.  Romulus  and Remus, who supposedly founded Rome were of noble birth.  In the Shamanah, the epic poetry of Iran, several royal personages are credited with building various cities.  I'm sure you could find an example or two in the Old Testament as well.  So this is not just a personal call to nobility, but a return to a certain kind of public behavior- public behavior now jealously guarded by certain ideologues who use public works to destroy souls.

I think what happens now is that we, Christians of all stripes, live in a secular world which provides us with an illusion of instant on power.  So, for a Christian passionate about spreading the word, it is extremely tempting to think that all he has to do is plug in to the raw power the secular world provides and use it to mint shiny new Christians.  This doesn't work because the very power the secular world provides is inimical to the objective.

If faith comes by hearing, why the decrease in those who have faith?

The most logical answer is that what is being said and heard is not that which St. Paul was referring to when he wrote those words.

Anyway, this is one of the reasons Christian nobility needs to return- we've got to have our own stuff, and our own ways of doing things.  You keep shoving your children onto the altar of higher education, you are going to keep having suboptimal outcomes, especially since they aren't doing a very good job of teaching them anything anymore.  Rely on the current governance and one day you'll find they've made you a criminal.  You already are, you know; they just enforce selectively and as long as you continue to be productive for them, they'll be indulgent towards you.  But they don't have any reason to help you make more of you because you squawk awkwardly sometimes when they pass laws you have moral quibbles about.  A compromised Christian is better in their eyes than one with backbone, but these unchurched are no doubt remarkably passive and believe whatever the television tells them.

So, instead of leading with 'a personal relationship with Jesus' and how much Jesus loves you, how about acknowledging the struggle.  Perhaps even saying, "I want you to struggle."
We have to struggle, in the first place because that is just life, and in the second because that is the only way we can reach up, out of the muck, and maybe gain the right to be called fully human.  Yes, that's right, we have to move upward from our lowly places to even earn the right to be called fully human, so considering that this whole Christian gig is supposed to have us end up being like Him, its pretty daunting.  That's a lot of work.  Lazarus had to come out of the tomb.

Anyway, if you've got all the way down here without clicking on the link and reading Father Stephen's piece, go back up there and do some clicking.  It's a good history lesson.

No comments: