Sunday, July 09, 2006

Sunday Bloody Sunday

Another article that is not mine...

I'm fortunate to belong to a faith community that embodies much of what it means to live a meaningful Christian journey in a community of grace. Hence, congregating with my other friends for a corporate gathering on a Sunday morning isn't such a butt-dragging affair. But picture the following scenario...

It's a Sunday morning. Again. The family members reluctantly tear themselves out of their beds for the weekly ritual that they call the "church service." It's such a chore to entertain the performance of a ritual that might have lost its meaning. And yet, one feels almost wrong for even admitting that going to "church" has become little more than a purposeless religious trudge. Which funny bloke actually stipulated that "church" had to happen on a Sunday anyway?

So to "church" we go. The singing. The sermon. The intercession. The impersonally superficial fellowship. The people adorned with beautiful attires that represent their need for superficial pleasantries and impressionistic facades.

Let's face it; the average thinking Christian doesn't feel that he needs to get excited over a series of singing accompanied by a band of overpriced instruments producing over-rated music. He doesn't need to listen to a monotonous sermon preached by a pastor who's trying to do his "Anthony Robbins" stunt. The least he needs is a weekly lecture on what to do with his life that he already knows he should do. He also doesn't need to exchange handshakes with twenty other people whom he doesn't care about for the rest of the week. If he does it, it's simply a gesture to appease his religious conscience. After all, most people (within and without the church) can't move beyond the need to perform.

"How negative", you may say. I know more than a few of my pastor-friends (including myself) who have stood at the pulpit often enough to know that what I'm describing are sentiments unspoken by many well-meaning Christians who're trying to do the best they can with the lives that they have. They feel this in varying degrees in various contexts, but are unable to express these sentiments for fear of grieving God. They love God very sincerely, you see.

In the recent past decades, a new way of doing church emerged. It was deemed a "relevant" and "engaging" way which sought to repackage the way church is done. Unfortunately, beneath this package lies an unchanged core. It therefore pandered to the creation of superficial anticipation through excitable music and inspirational talks, often dispensed with exaggerated thundering volumes to reflect the atmosphere of "anointing" that assures them that "God was here."

Even so, if we're honest with ourselves, I suspect that we will find ourselves acknowledging our need for something deeper. Such superficial experiences can bring us only so far. Our church services, no matter how excitable they may be superficially, are dry and wanting. Even when the atmosphere seems exciting, it's often more than not engineered by human hands. It's almost as if we can tell exactly how the Holy Spirit is going to work today, because he does exactly the same thing all the time, every week, at every service, to the same people.

The faith of our Fathers is one that is rich with a sense of authentic anticipation because it preserves its sense of the mysteries of God. It is one that engages the human senses in a way that excites one from within, beyond the superficially engineered sensationality created by human devices.

I have no model answer, and it's likely going to take a while before we - God's people - come up with something concrete. But we need to begin recovering that "other" reality again. Now.


christian lies said...

I spoke to the minister of my local curch of scotland today outside his evening service.

When I mentioned Bu$h & Bliar were bombers and christians, he said "They are not christians"

I replied that they claimed just as he did, to be christians.

... and added he was as guilty of them by supporting a religeon which had commited genocide a zillion time in the name of whatshis name.......

Dave said...

How did he respond to that?

christian lies said...

We sort of parted then. He had a service to conduct and I expect to count the money the church had made at Saturdays Fete.

Shieldsy said...

It'd be interesting to know how CL knows Bush & Blair are Christians and how the minister knows they're not. Find it amusing how CL doesn't seem to grasp that by his definition he too is a Christian murderer guilty of the blood of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans. Still, I guess that just adds to the general farcical entertainment value of his posts.

Anyway, back to more interesting things ... the article.

I think it's easy to blame ministers/pastors/leaders. Isn't the sad fact that most Christians 'go to church' with completely the wrong attitiude? They don't go with the mindset of "I'm going to Give and Serve". Instead we go to receive and be served ... I know I do more often than not. Which all results in the ministers/pastors/leaders having to put on a 'show'. It seems to me that the churches that have grasped that they are 'putting on a show' for 'consumers of religion' are the ones that seem to flourish!

dinsy said...

I think CL is justified in assuming that someone who claims to be a christian is indeed a christian. Not being one himself, he can't be expected to judge them by their fruits, as he doesn't necessarily know what fruit a christian can be expected to bear. He is paying them the courtesy of assuming they mean what they say.

I don't see how anyone can construe that by his logic, CL is a "Christian murderer guilty of the blood of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans." Amongst the anti-christian rhetoric, some of which I agree with, he occasionally has something constructive to say.

I find it rather sad that when someone like CL points out atrocities committed by people claiming the name of Christ, the general response is simply to say "oh, well of course they weren't real christians", as though this makes it all OK.

By the way, after the last presidential election, one of the elders at the church I attended before Tapestry was fully in support of Bush and thought it was wonderful that the american people had returned to office a man who stood up for christian family values. So some church leaders do indeed think Bush is a christian. And this was after he had started the Iraq war and caused untold carnage thereby.

Shieldsy said...

You miss the point Dinsy. I don't know if you've missed his countless other ranting comments but CL claims everyone is a Christian who lives under a Christian head of state. By his terms we are all equally culpable of 'Christian atrocities' ... we elected them. It's the same sort of warped thinking that Islamic fanatics use to justify killing innocent 'infidels'. We elected the idiots, therefore we are equally culpable as the 'regime' because we inextricably linked up with it. I guarantee you that an Islamic suicide bomber would see CL as a Christian in the same way that CL thinks every British soldier is a Christian or every SS officer was a Christian.

Unlike CL or the minister he spoke to, I don't know whether Bush or Blair are Christians. Bush claims to be but Blair seems to do everything he can to avoid the topic.

I see no inconsistancy with being a Christian, being a national leader and being responsible for sending your nation to war. Being a pacifist has never been a precondition for being a Christian. Even if the war turns out to be a catastrophic error (as I believe this one to be) ... Christians sometimes make catastrophic mistakes. Even King David - a national leader and a man after Gods own heart - fought some unnecessary battles.

Are all the leaders involved in the Iraq war Christians ... what about the Indonesian troops that were sent?

CL has been posting his predicatable comments long enough for me to make the judgment to treat his remarks with the contempt I believe they deserve.

dinsy said...

Hi Shieldsy, how're you doing?

You're right, i did miss the point, it was too subtle for me. I've read quite a few of the CL rants, but had not seen him saying anyone who elected a leader is guilty of their actions. Lets me out then, i would not vote for Blair's party if they were the only ones on the ballot paper - not since Iraq. I guess we do have to pay CL the compliment of believing he means what he says :-)

"I see no inconsistancy with being a Christian, being a national leader and being responsible for sending your nation to war." -neither do I if it is a just war, legal, you have good grounds for it, you have been honest with your people and parliament, you have the broad support of your country, and at least a reasonable level of international supporty from the countries you are usually allied with.

I also think that if you are a christian war-leader, it is vital that the war is carried out with strict adherence to the international rules for war, defence of civilians while occupying foreign territory, rules for treatment of PoWs are followed etc. etc.

In the case of Iraq, i think Blair fails on all these counts.

The "guilt by association" charge is interesting. I think christians who support an action taken by an avowedly christian leader (whether they are or not in fact "really" christian) do carry some responsibility for those actions. They are in effect saying "this action falls within the bounds of what is acceptable from someone claiming to follow Jesus Christ". Hence, IMO the elder I referred to in my previous post carries some responsibility for supporting the Bush/Blair Iraq offensive.

It is of course nonsense to say that everyone in the UK is either a christian or in suport of Blair, the Iraq war or any other of his policies.

dinsy said...

On the article itself as against re-fighting the Iraq war again,

"The faith of our Fathers is one that is rich with a sense of authentic anticipation because it preserves its sense of the mysteries of God."

We often read great things about the faith of our "Fathers" - who do they mean? The early church (apostles etc), early catholic teachers, Luther, philanthropists such as Wilberforce? The average "man in the pew" all down the past generations?

While there will always be outstanding people in any walk of life, religious or other, was there ever a "golden age" of christianity where the majority of "grass-roots" believers really lived christianity as Jesus talked it? (with the possible exception of the first decades, and even then look at some of the incidents Paul had to write about).

Dave said...

While there will always be outstanding people in any walk of life, religious or other, was there ever a "golden age" of christianity where the majority of "grass-roots" believers really lived christianity as Jesus talked it?

Yep there sure was, it was in a house in Jerusalem on Pentesoct possibly AD 34ish. Golden age? I don't think so.

As to the faith of our fathers, maybe he means the founders of the USA? Seem to remember John saying something about 'faith, father, abraham and stones in Luke 3:8'


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