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The Problem with Contemporary Christianity

October 30, 2009

I recently read a post, The Bait and Switch of Contemporary Christianity, at Experimental Theology, and I was quite frankly refreshed by the attitude that Richard took. His analysis was:

The trouble with contemporary Christianity is that a massive bait and switch is going on. “Christianity” has essentially become a mechanism for allowing millions of people to replace being a decent human being with something else, an endorsed “spiritual” substitute. For example, rather than being a decent human being the following is a list of some commonly acceptable substitutes:

Going to church
Spiritual disciplines (e.g., fasting)
Bible study
Voting Republican
Going on spiritual retreats
Reading religious books
Arguing with evolutionists
Sending your child to a Christian school or providing education at home
Using religious language
Avoiding R-rated movies
Not reading Harry Potter.

The point is that one can fill a life full of spiritual activities without ever, actually, trying to become a more decent human being. Much of this activity can actually distract one from becoming a more decent human being. In fact, some of these activities make you worse, interpersonally speaking. Many churches are jerk factories.

While I’d like to call for a round of applause for Richard, what I fear is that his thoughts won’t go very far because he’s not exactly on the safe side of Christian doctrine here.

One commenter remarked:

I found that your advice to the young student was simply another form of works righteousness. Instead of telling her that “working on her relationship with God is totally useless because no amount of work can bring you closer to God” you told the student, “go out and apologize to people, that type of work will make things better.” All you’ve done is substitute one form of work with another seemingly better form.
Sure, apologizing to people is great! So is praying, and reading her Bible. You happen to think that apologizing to people is better than praying and reading the Bible, but you simply place new rules on her back. This is what the pharisees were doing to their poor subjects.

The problem that I see is that Christianity really isn’t about being a decent human being. No matter how I want to congratulate progressive Christians for emphasizing this, I get the sense that truly, they are a minority voice. It seems to me that in Christian doctrine, “being a decent human being” may be a side effect (or, it may not), but generally, I think that the reasonable interpretation of what Christianity is — whatever that is — would relegate that to being only a side effect. We can’t really get around this issue without gutting out the Christianity inside.

While I love reading progressive thinkers…thinkers who say that Christians best serve God by serving their fellow man…I feel that these thinkers are a minority…and instead, they live amid a sea of people who truly control the tide of Christian doctrine and who believe that loving one’s neighbor is only the second great commandment, loving God is the first, and these two commandments are clearly disparate.


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  1. What a great exerpt! I will have to check out his article, because I completely agree with the quote you posted. Thanks for sharing!

  2. FireTag permalink

    Voting Republican?

    Doesn’t live in a blue state, does he?

    I assure you, the Christian left can be just as unloving as the Christian right — they just pick different social targets.

    Whether one thinks that “loving thy neighbor as thyself” is consistent with, opposing to, or irrelevant to loving God depends critically on one’s conception (if any) of God, I suppose.

  3. He works at Abilene Christian University…Texas most certainly isn’t a blue state…

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