Thursday, November 17, 2005


So this is my starting point today:

“This is the world of fundamentalism, of sectarianism, of certain kinds of conservative Christian religion. And, for many Christians, it is a world they are happy to have escaped. Now they don’t have to kowtow to authority figures. Now they don’t have to mindlessly agree and joylessly obey. Now they are free. They are free from an authoritarianism that kept them in perpetual spiritual childhood. But this freedom marks only a beginning, an opportunity. What are they free now to become and to do?” (John Stackhouse - Evangelical Landscapes)
Stackhouse says people have entered a state of spiritual adolescence – and perpetual at that…
I’m just as happy as the next guy that we can (although not in all contexts) escape the authoritarian mentality of many churches. I guess I just think that it is still far more pervasive and insidious than we’d like to admit. I would say we used to know who the authority figures – they were clearly identified and had matching roles. Now we still have authority figures - it’s just that they are not nearly as clearly defined and their roles no longer make a difference. We have been affected by two things: 1. the fact that nobody has to deal with anybody else’s work unless it strictly supports their position. So anybody can be in authority. Usually the qualifications are personal preference and the ability to have the latest ‘thing’ out there. So if I can just ‘mint’ something new and get people to consume it I am the authority. 2. Consumerism – So that the authority on anything becomes the thing that makes me happy. Preferably right now! Especially if I am going to fund some part of church activity I should be heralded as the next greatest guru, leader, and authority.
I can see how Stackhouse is approaching this but I don’t think we are through the woods yet and question that pops into my mind next is:
So if this is Christian adolescence and that was childhood, what will adulthood look like?
You know the Catholic church has the pope and we jump up and down about how ridiculous it is to have one single authority figure in the church. We scoff at him being the voice of God etc. And while I am not interested in aligning myself totally in that direction at least we can say that the authority is pretty well defined. The big problem I have is that we may very well have entered into a time when suspicious motivations rule the lines of authority in Christianity. Money (book deals and other shitty propaganda (like glow in the Dark WWJD bracelets), Fame (like Stackhouse says, “Just as popular culture has its trendsetters…so do evangelical Christians have their authority figures…without a critical thought in their head…”), Personal preference (again here it based on what ever will meet my Dial-A-Faith Mentality (meet my desires, justify my behavior, etc) And really that is no different that the dubious behavoir of an emporer imposing Christianity on his empire...
The problem is I know I don’t want to go back to the way it was but I really don’t know what the landscape should look like.
The other factor is (then I’ll shut up) while in know that faith needs to be internalized to be authentic I know that we are never finished with learning and growing in our faith. Is there some one out there who we can trust to help us grow? Will we be there to other grow as well?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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