Sunday, April 26, 2009

On the sorry state of the Christian Church in America

As if the preceding two posts to this blog were not enough, I received a report from the frontlines a few days ago relating to the post title.

Now, I'm not particularly friendly to what some would call "organized religion." I'm a Christian, and I strive to follow Christ's teachings. That would include the Old Testament which Christ, several times in the New Testament, confirmed. On the other hand, I'm not opposed to some level of "organized" religion. There has to be a balance struck, and again, I strive [truly] to strike that balance as an individual, as well as in my relation to others outside my personal individuality.

In the particular case in question, and among other serious errors, it was reported to me, from a very reliable source, that the minister of this church announced to the congregation during his "altar call" during last Sunday's service that "if you want to be released from the bonds of traditionalism, then come forward and pray with me and you shall be set free." Well, okie dokie. That's about the point at which I would have walked out. And indeed, according to my informant, that WAS the point at which he walked out of the service, with no intention of ever returning.

Now, in and of itself it isn't that big of a deal if we establish some reasonable context in which the statement was made. But this isn't the case. This is the kind of church in which overweight females actually pray the calories out of their food (you'd think they'd look in the mirror, or step on a pair of scales once in a while), and such as that. It is the kind of church in which the Spirit of God cannot be in attendance unless virtually everyone is acting like a bunch of teenaged idiots at a rock concert or a local nightclub. And etc. You get the idea I think, but let us seal the deal: This is the kind of church in which the impending economic crisis is thought to be exclusive to the world; the kind of church in which the congregation is assured that as long as it pays its tithes, everything (for faithful tithe-paying members in exclusion of all others) will be hunky-dory. Getting the picture?

You see why I find life so interesting? Here we have a "Christian" church (and this is more common than some of you might think) which teaches doctrines that are not only unscriptural, but which also denies God's very nature and essence. But God is not mocked; He will laugh and will have us in derision. Let me put it this way: if you're a so-called "Christian" church, and your sole and exclusive focus is on the book of Revelation, end-times prophesy, name-it-and-claim-it "gospel," then you're so far from genuine Biblical-Christian teaching that you have no earthly business claiming to be "Christian" in any sense of the word. And this whole problem spans the denominations, believe me:

Several years ago one of the neighbor children came to me while I was busy doing some yard work and announced that she'd been "saved." Now, knowing her like I did, I thought this was kind of odd, so I began to quiz her on what she meant by the term "saved." She said that she was in church and the preacher had an altar call in which he invited all of the non-saved to participate. She, of course, participated. As I 'interrogated' her as to what she'd done, I found that she was completely oblivious to what she'd done. First, she didn't know who Christ was. Second, she had no idea about his birth, death, and resurrection. I gave her a few scriptures to read, and said to her that she should go back to the pastor and explain that she wasn't aware, at the time of her "conversion", what it all meant; that she wanted to be saved legitimately. She did so, and reported back to me (with a bit of an attitude this time) that the pastor in question had informed her that he had saved her before, so there was no need to go over it again ... and that she was to communicate this to me at our next encounter, which she did.

Years prior to that particular incident I was working on a job when the lady of the house announced to me that the weather at the time was the "weirdest weather she'd experienced during the course of her lifetime," and that she could "no longer tell the difference [between the seasons]." This occurance, to her, meant that Christ was soon to return in accordance with Revelation. The season in question was Fall, and I simply said to her that I can tell the difference -- all I have to do is look outside and see the changing as it takes place. And accordingly I asked how much time she spent outside the house. (Does geographic location -- in this case 35 degrees North latitiude, 100 degrees West longitude, approx. 750 ft. above Sea Level, and completely surrounded by land -- mean nothing to any American anymore?).

That, my friends, is the state of Christianity in this country. I've seen and experienced it over and over and over again during the course of the last several years. And it isn't getting any better. It is getting worse, and the stain on Christianity and Biblical-Christian teaching is becoming more and more profound as we speak.

I completely understand where many of you non-Christians are coming from when you say things to the effect that religion is unreasonable. But I want you to know that there are some of us 'religionists' who do not deny our physical beings and our physical natures, nor the physical world in which we live. Indeed, we embrace it as essential aspects of who we are. At the same time we do not deny our spiritual sides either. And we believe, with assurance, that our physical existance is governed by physical laws which are more or less immutable. The same applies as well to our spiritual natures.


Call Me Mom said...

You make me thankful for my own Bible church. There are some there who have very strong, although opposing views on the Calvinism vs. Armenianism question, but we are all together on the work of the cross.

I still remember the day when my, then 2-3 year old, son came into the kitchen to tell me that the man on tv told him that he had to tell someone if he had just accepted Jesus into his heart, so he was telling me. I had left a Billy Graham crusade on while I was fixing dinner. I questioned him about it pretty closely and he seemed to understand what he had done as well as is possible for a 2-3 year old. He is now capable of debating theology with his friends to a degree that I never reached at his age.

However, I also remember how upset my mother had gotten, when my little brother came home from the Sunday School we were attending, and told her he had been baptized. They hadn't bothered to call her or ask for her permission to do so. (She had stopped our attendence at the Methodist church we attended when I was very small, so we had been attending this sunday school through the bus ministry of a friend's church.)

I think that little girl's pastor should have come to you directly instead of keeping the little girl as the "middle-man" of the discussion. Good for you that you checked to see what "saved" meant in her mind.

Vanishing American said...

Terry, I definitely agree that the Church in America is in a sorry state, but where I live it's a slightly different scenario. I know the kinds of churches you are talking about but where I live, the concern is more for people who are caught up in this 'emergent church' phenomenon, which is proving to be a huge liberalizing influence on some formerly conservative Christians. This town used to be a very conservatively Christian town and now the hip new 'emergent' style is the dominant thing here.
We've just seen Rick Warren, the father of this 'emergent' trend, denying that he had ever opposed same-sex ''marriage'' and he has led lots of Christians down that same liberalizing path, which I think is troubling.

Maybe the 'cheap grace' Christians or the emotion-based churches like those you seem to be referring to are deficient in Bible knowledge but we can pray they will find the truth. It's harder, I think, for those who once seemed to be sound Christians like those where I live who have now gone liberal and soft.

Terry Morris said...

I think that little girl's pastor should have come to you directly instead of keeping the little girl as the "middle-man" of the discussion.Interestingly enough I did tell her to convey to her pastor that I was willing to discuss the matter with him if he should like to do so, at his convenience. It seems, though, that he had no interest in discussing it with me. I think he was simply angered that I dared question his eminent authority. That's the way we tend to be, ya know. And pastors are human like the rest of us. Besides, who the heck am I - a mere layman - to question his eminency? Kind of reminds me of the attitude of Hussein Obama.

By the way, I don't want to leave the wrong impression. During my initial exchange with Katie on the matter, I was very gentle about the way I questioned both the pastor's methods and her salvation. Inwardly, however, the more she revealed of how little (next to nothing) she understood about what the pastor had led her to do through the effective use of fear tactics, the more appalled and angry I became. You see, I too am only human. :-)

Anonymous said...

"the pastor in question had informed her that he had saved her before"

I'm assuming the lack of a capitalization there indicates that this pastor is the 'he' referenced? Definitely a wolf in the fold, to even accidentally suggest such a thing. But hardly unexpected.

As for reading the Revelation of John, I wish that more people would. Comets and so forth hitting the Earth and killing billions due to environmental destruction isn't exactly the sort of thing one wouldn't notice.

I think that a more fundamental problem with Christianity generally is that being a Christian requires a lot of effort. Christ asks people to follow His example and live His teachings, and most people who would like to be thought of as 'Christians' just aren't up to it.

I don't really strive to follow Christ or do as He taught. Fortunately for me, I have enough intellectual curiosity that I can examine His life and teaching just because they're so interesting. And it doesn't really bother me that I fall short of Him (it does bother me to fall so far short of the common morality of humanity, but that's another story).

I don't usually refer to myself as a Christian, though I definitely believe that He is the only way to return to the presence of God. And, even putting aside my own preferences in the matter, God apparently desires this reunion. So of course I sorta try. I just never really seem to embrace the kind of devotion I know to be required.

Well, there is nothing for it. Take oil in your lamps, and bring extra with you. I wait in the darkness for the unwary and ill-prepared, cold though it may be. I take comfort from every soul too wise to be caught unprepared.

The_Editrix said...

I always wonder why the obvious need for spirituality leads people to the weirdest things and away from traditional Christianity and I don't think that it's a purely American phenomenon.

I attended one of the few private schools in Germany, starting in 1958. At that time, my well-intentioned (yes, the path to hell!) parents just thought it would be special and "progressive". How wrong they were. The underlying ideolgy at the Steiner-schools is a form of "Christianity" that includes (no kidding) re-incarnation. That was 50 years ago. In the meantime, those schools have become all the rave for the greenish-reddish "in"-crowd and I recognize a lot of the trappings from way back when I am watching the abominations at Chris Gillibrand's blog Catholic Church Conservation. At least you HAVE Christianity in America, it is a topic that is discussed, albeit controversially, and not totally dead, like here.