In many media and private conversations you can hear of the alleged conspiracy to remove Christianity from the world – or at least from the USA as we know it. In many places I have heard and read very concerned people of faith expressing the POV that if we don’t all act now it will spell the certain doom for their religion.
This idea is false beyond reason.
First – this concern stems from the healthy attribute of faith, as I understand the term. Namely, doubt. From your natural human doubt arises your faith in whatever you believe in. No doubt – no faith. It really is that simple. When we no longer doubt a thing we KNOW IT TO BE TRUE. In such cases as these there is no logical reason for faith. I do not have faith that I weigh 207 lbs. I know it to be true. I can observe it, quantify it. On the other hand, I have faith that my kids will grow up to be healthy, intelligent human beings. I have no proof that this will actually happen, but I sure hope it does.
All this goes to say that these very concerned people of faith are not dealing with their doubt in a healthy manner. Instead of appreciating it as the initiator of their faith, they resist it and use to hurt other people. There is no conspiracy to ruin your religion – your doubt is just responding to different circumstances. As they arise you start ot feel your doubt and look around for external causes for that feeling. DON’T. Accept it for what it is.
Second – Christianity is ubiquitous. Really, its everywhere. Want proof? Go someplace. Seriously, you can’t appreciate this observable fact until you see it from a religious minority’s point of view. Everything from the calendar to Walgreens reflects the very fact that this is a culture centered on Christianity. At times it can feel oppressive, like trying to get something done on Easter. At other times it can be mindboggling.
Last night we ended up walking around a local Borders. It was shocking at how much it resembled a nondenominational Christian bookstore. God was everywhere! Books with God, Jesus, Christmas, the Roman Catholic Pope on covers were placed in prominent locations. The no-attempt-to-be-subliminal attempt to market the new Narnia movie as the next best thing to Gibson’s Passions movie was overwhelming. Back in the children’s section there is a section for religion. Then there is the section for Christianity. I can’t kid you about this because my wife pointed it out to me in the first place. All of the World’s religions – according to Borders there are 3, Buddhism, Judaism and ‘Kwanzaa’ – fit in no more than a palms width next to shelves of Christian material. I can only imagine that these concerned Christian polemicists are threatened by the 5 books on other religions. Obviously their presence weakens your hold on our culture.
Believe it – no, KNOW it people – you are the winners! Your religion has successfully penetrated absolutely everything. I suspect that what we find above is in effect here. But also, you must become careful and realize that Christianity is now a marketable commodity grasped for by the largest corporations. In the end you will face branding and labeling unlike anything any religion has heretofore suffered.
Or, look at it another way. Early Christians threw themselves into the full horror of persecution: young women choosing execution over sex, defenders of the faith accepting martyrdom rather than betray their god – and you people of today can’t handle a little diversity. For cripes sake – Jews reverse-circumcised themselves to walk around naked with Romans! Give that a try! Your religious ancestors are shaking fingers at you and demanding that you develop half the backbone they had. Times have been much harder. This is not a life or death century for Christians. Relax.
Finally – the real enemy of Christianity will now be revealed to you. If it comes as a surprise let me prelude this revelation by the fact that you can relax and take confidence that Buddhists and Muslims and Jews are not your enemy. In fact, Atheists may probably be your greatest ally in this affair.
Christianity must wake up and recognize that the transformation of Christendom to Christendumb is the real enemy.
When I was a kid my Grandfather – today is his birthday and he has passed away so I am honoring him in my own fashion – a Baptist Pastor told me a story as we drove around his community.
“In the early seventies,” he told me, “our church membership dropped by almost over 50%.”
“That must have been terrible.” I replied. Now concerned for the past I tried to think of all the negative effects a mass migration like that would produce on a large church: fewer people to staff and stock food pantries, smaller youth groups, tighter restrictions on services to shut-ins, cutting back of funds sent to support missions and their missionaries, less money to reach out to other local charities and funds, the constraints of maintaining the hulking mass of the material church constructed to support its previous inhabitants. The list seemed to go on forever.
“No – it was the best thing that ever happened.” he said, shocking me as the trees whizzed past. “You see, in those days, most people went to church because they had to. There was a social obligation to go to church, to be a Christian. Society was just getting out of this very restrictive environment and many people started to live the life they wanted to and to stop doing the things that they did just because society told them to. When that happened the people sitting in the pews out in front of me every Sunday were those who wanted to be there and who would always be there no matter what changed. That is why it was a good thing to have happened.”
Now we are beginning to see our society reverting – in part – to this old kind of obligatory religion. Politics and policy, the people we vote for or against, schools, friends and families – they are all feeling again the crunch. The new RC Pope is no friend of Buddhism because he sees it as a threat – not to Christianity – but to the number of Christians. Kind of the reverse of my grandfather.
So the real threat is internal. In your Church, neighborhood, Dioceses, Presbytry – there are people trying to make Christianity different – trying to make it in their own image. These people are Dumbing down your religion. The mega churches that make it fun and more a way of life than a lay person could ever have hoped for before – these are your enemies. Watering down the principals, removing obstacles and challenges and always making sure that it feels good.
Christendumb is taking over and unless you take back your own religion you’ll wake up one day not knowing what happened. Demand more basic education about your faith and denomination. Understand the history and the core concepts that make it worthwhile. Don’t be a Methodist just because your Mom was one – find out why she was and what it means for you. Do you know the difference between a Methodist and an Episcopalian? Find out!
Pastors, Priests and Bishops of all denominations: implement immediate educational reforms in your churches to ensure that your people comprehend your religion. Accept the responsibility of failed and anachronistic initiation ceremonies. Take a more direct and personal role in this process. Stop with the sensationalism and polemics – cancel the class on Revelation and Deuteronomy and start one OF the Gospels and the Epistles. Teach courses in the history and development of your denomination.
Sometimes people insist on change outside their own system for fear of accepting the changes within. No more barking for prayer in public schools or scripture sculptures – clean your own house! Stop the spread of Christendumb now before it’s too late. And in the mean time, refraining from the lies that you are a persecuted religion will go a long way in dialogue with other groups of people.
(NB: my Grandfather also made a stand against the beginning of the Fundamentalist movement in the Baptist Church before most of us knew what that was – if we were even born. His concept of faith by reason – even though I don’t share it – should be adopted by many today who seek the security and perpetuity of their religion.)