Monday, January 25, 2010

gimme that new time religion...

Theology After Google

Take the question of authority. In the frontier town, the Southern city, or the New England village there was the authority of the law and the government. A lot of folks weren’t very educated, so they didn’t read much, and there was no radio or TV. The pastor of the church was not only the moral and spiritual authority — the representative of the only true religion and its obviously true scriptures —but also probably the most educated person in town. He (there were virtually no female pastors!) spoke with authority on a wide variety of issues that were important to the society of his day.

Contrast that with today’s situation. Rarely are pastors approached as figures of authority, except (sometimes!) within their own congregations. Radio, television, and the internet are our primary authorities for the information we need, with newspapers, advertisements, and movies coming in a close second. For many American Christians (“Your Trusted Source for Free Daily Inspiration & Faith”) is a bigger authority on matters of Christian belief and practice than any pastor.We love self-help books, so we’re more likely to read Spirituality for Dummies than to go to a group Bible study. Forty years ago people were influenced in their judgments about religious matters not only by their pastor but also by the editorials in the Religion section of their local newspaper. Today the blogs one happens to read are more likely to influence her beliefs.

Well, I suppose he has a point, to an extent. I'm not sure how comparing a pastor as authority figure to various media outlets as sources for information works out, but, oh well.

But if we look at the two time periods, perhaps we can ask which is necessarily better? Oh, no doubt, one could point to ways in which society today has changed for the better from various periods in the past. But just as well, one could point to ways that society today has become worse. And if we look at the attributes he assigns to today, perhaps those attributes are at least one source of those problems.

He says that pastors are not as sought out as authority figures as they were in the past. Perhaps he is right. But can he say that the things he lists as replacements are better? While I know of much good that comes from those media, one doesn't have to look far to see how they have been sources of things that have done no small amount of harm to society. Have people who substituted out the pastor and subbed in the Oprah really been better off? Saying this as one who believes in personal reading and study, have we really become better Christians by replacing the pastor with theological readings, even good ones? Are we better off having been preached to by televangelists? Are the people who get their 'church' from CBN better off than if they had gone to a local church?

...If they have the good fortune to depart seminary with their idealism intact, they’re generally assigned to a traditional church that has virtually no youth or younger families present, an average age of 60, and a major budget crisis on its hands. The orders are, “Keep this church alive!” The church members like the old hymns and liturgies; they don’t like tattoos, rock music, or electronics. They are about as likely to read and respond to blogs as I am to play in the Super Bowl. So the young pastor folds her idealism away in a closet and struggles to offer the
traditional ministry that churches want.

In short: the majority of our resources continue to be flung at traditional church structures. Those doing the real revolutionary work, those trying to envision — and incarnate — the church of the future struggle on with the barest of resources.

This is not smart. Let’s do something different. Let’s do it now.

I've been to many different kinds of churches. When I was young, we went to some rather charismatic types of churchs. I spent much of my youth in a rather strick fundamentalist church. I've gone to Vineyards and Calvary Chapels, and little storefront churches. I've been to those that seemed to think that anything after the 60s was evil, and anything before the 90s was archaic.

It is amazing how this writer gets caught up in the superfluous, like many others do.

The people in the church like the old hymns and liturgies? Ok. Sorry, I don't see that as being much of a problem. Personally, I'm so sick of any church music, be it traditional or contemporary, that I'd as soon arrive at a service after that music has ended than endure it. Still, I do find the words of many hymns fit to use for my own expressions. Some choruses are good, too, though I usually find myself wondering what the song is really about, considering how much many P&W singers and writers are in the charismatic camp that all in on the modern-day frauds calling themselves apostles and prophets, or are into the whole latter rain thing.

And as far as this "real revolutionary work" the writer goes on about, well, I suppose we can ask what he means by that.


Anonymous said...

the write is closer to the truth then you know

jazzact13 said...

Which comment tells me absolutely nothing.