Friday, December 2, 2011

Christianity and the Church are dying

For as long as I can remember Christianity has been in conflict with itself. I grew up a Southern Baptist and I was never encouraged to respect or trust other Christian denominations. The Methodists and Presbyterians were both liberal and didn’t really believe the Bible. The Lutherans were started by Martin Luther and somehow that meant they weren’t really legitimate. They followed a man instead of Christ. The Catholics weren’t really even Christians because they believed in and prayed to Mary, and their priests heard their confessions and offered them absolution, not Jesus. Of course in the Baptist Church you just walked down the aisle at the end of the church service and told the preacher you were sorry for something you did wrong that day or during the past week. He prayed with you. You asked God for forgiveness. And all was well. What the hell difference was there in that and what the Catholics did? I had no idea. Then or now. And the Episcopalians were just a step down from the Catholics so they were off limits as well.

I remember when I was a sophomore in high school I liked this cute little girl who was a member of the Church of Christ. I was not allowed to attend her church and she was not allowed to attend mine. Now wasn’t that a nice way to teach teens about God? My parents said the Church of Christ believed you had to be baptized in order to be saved. I never understood why in the world we were called Baptists, which comes from the word “baptize” and yet we had nothing to do with Christians who believed in baptism for salvation.

No one was really going to heaven except Southern Baptists. That’s what I was told. And my little girlfriend’s church told her no one was going to heaven except those in The Church of Christ.

After all these years of bickering with one another instead of working together, cooperating, respecting each other’s commitment to a spiritual experience of faith and a love for Christ, the Christian Church is dying in America.

It is dying of greed and this awful “prosperity gospel” that is circus barked daily on television. It is dying of indifference to the real needs of people. While the Church schmoozes in politics and obsesses over power, people in addictions, grief, brokenness, despair, and pain are ignored. It is dying of irrelevance. What does the Church offer today but trite slogans and happy talk; or worse, bigotry and intolerance.

Recently, a Free Will Baptist Church in Kentucky set a policy in their church that states no interracial couples are allowed to participate. They are not welcome there. Robert Jeffress, pastor of the giant First Baptist Church of Dallas, was on national television a month ago saying Mitt Romney is not a viable presidential candidate because he belongs to the Mormon Church which Jeffress called a cult and Romney "not a real Christian."

This is why Christianity and the Church are dying. Instead of inclusiveness there is rejection. Instead of grace there are rules of intolerance. Instead of compassion there is indifference. Instead of generosity of spirit and life there is selfishness and elitism and owning truth not possessed by any other expression of faith. Instead of humility there is arrogance and self-righteousness.

Gandhi once said that God has no religion. Too bad his followers haven't realized that or refuse to believe it. Until we do, Christianity looks doomed.

© 2011 Timothy Moody

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