1. Provide a Good Mix of Spirit Filled Male and Female Leadership
Most cultures have been patriarchal, and the world’s religions have for the most part sanctified patriarchy, legitimating it in their teaching and practice. I illustrate with Christianity, the religion I know best.
In most Christian cultures:
*Women have been taught to be subordinate to their husbands.
*They have been blamed for the presence of sin in the world.
*As late as the 19th century, they could not inherit or own property, and could not initiate divorce.
*Until very recently, they could not be ordained as clergy.
*They were sometimes persecuted with the blessing of the church. Though estimates of the number of women executed as “witches” vary widely, clearly it happened a lot.
The exceptions: In the formative periods of some of the world’s religions, especially those that began with a founding figure, the status of women was more egalitarian. I have been told that the status of women in very early Buddhist communities was higher than in later Buddhist cultures. So also, some Muslim scholars affirm that Prophet Muhammad assigned to women a more egalitarian role than what developed later in many traditional Muslim cultures.
Such seems to be the case in early Christianity as well, for Jesus and Paul. Though there was a reaction to this in some documents of the New Testament itself, early Christianity for the first few centuries offered a status and opportunity to women quite different from surrounding cultures.
Why did this change? In a sentence: because of the “drag” of culture, of civilization. As these new religious movements grew and involved more and more of the population, traditional cultural conventions crept back into the religions.
Recent developments are to be commended, even as we need to recognize that they were long overdue. It was only about forty years ago that many mainline Christian denominations began to ordain women. But we now have a woman Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. The full and equal status of women is not only one of the fruits of modernity, but consistent with the originative impulse of Christianity.
2. Quit Playing the Blame Game When it Comes to Sin and Preach More About the “Remedy” for Sin
Adam, not being satisfied with running an entire planet populated with millions of varieies of other creatures, a planet which God created just for him to run as he saw fit, went whining to God about being lonely and overworked. As a gesture of good-will and in an attempt to placate Adam, God set about creating another companion especially suited for Adam, a creature who would help Adam get through life while She was busy tending to her creations on other planets, just as God herself was Adam’s constant helpmate. After somehow managing to populate an entire planet without creating a being who satisfied Adam and wanting very much to finally make a creature who met with Adam’s approval, God decided to fashion only this creature, who was sure to be Her supreme creation, in the finest of locations, Paradise. Believing that perhaps Adam would be more content with this creation if he could claim part of the credit for the final product and wanting Adam to vicariously experience the birth-giving process, God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam. Knowing that the quality of the finished product is strongly correlated with the quality of the raw materials, instead of using common clay, dirt, and dung as she had when she created Adam, God selected the finest material available, Adam’s sanctified rib, to use as the raw material from which she fashioned her newest creation. Pleased with her new creation, she permitted Adam (which is Hebrew for earth- or dirt- man) to name this marvelous new creation Life (which in Hebrew is Eve). Knowing that Adam would always need the help and guidance of her newest creation, God commanded Adam to leave his father and mother and to cleave unto his wife, indicating that a matriarchal society is Her conception of the ideal society. God married the earth-man and Life and they became flesh of one flesh, HER. (Silly men, some men actually think that God commanded Adam to leave his family and cleave unto his wife and her family and then they became flesh of one flesh, him. Aren’t they silly little gooses?) Thereafter God saw that her work was truly good, that she was truly finished with creation, and she rested from her labors.
Romans 5: 15b, 18 For if the many died through the transgression of the one man, how much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one man Jesus Christ multiply to the many!
5:18 Consequently, just as condemnation for all people came through one transgression, so too through the one righteous act came righteousness leading to life for all people.
3. Give to the Poor, Not to the Church
Never, all in Scripture, is a tithe used to pay building and maintenance expenses for a meeting-house or clergy. The tithe is food, and it’s used to feed people—period. Freewill offerings (and/or perhaps a modern-day equivalent to Nehemiah’s “temple tax”) are the only Biblically-approved source of income from which such things as Equipment Upgrades, Insurance, Janitorial Services, Payroll Expenses, Repairs and Maintenance, Utilities, Mortgages, etc. are to be paid.
In contrast to the Old Covenant system, Paul set aside any pastoral “right” to live off the ministry and instead worked additional jobs to provide for his own expenses. He reasoned that he stood to gain no heavenly reward from “simply” preaching the Gospel (1 Cor. 9:15) and must go out of his way to make it a completely free gift if he were to receive anything from the Father because of his work. However, if Paul were simply a “New Covenant priest” he would have been leading the churches into sin by causing them to break God’s Law which required a community to feed its Levites (again, Deut. 18:1-8). Thus, we can infer that Paul did not believe these laws were binding for ministers of the Gospel.
4. Be Inclusive, Not Exclusive, Through Kindness and Forgiveness
Affirmation 5: Engaging people authentically, as Jesus did, treating all as creations made in God’s very image, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, age, physical or mental ability, nationality, or economic class;
Genesis 1:27; Psalm 8:3-5; 1 Corinthians 12:3-7
As Christians, we welcome those of every race, gender, sexual orientation, age, physical and mental ability, nationality, and economic class into the full life of our community.
We affirm that the Path of Jesus is found where Christ’s followers uplift and celebrate the worth and integrity of all people as created in God’s very image and likeness. We further affirm that Christ’s Path includes treating people authentically rather than as mere categories or classes, challenging and inspiring all people to live according to their high identity.
We confess that we have stepped away from this Path whenever we have failed to recognize the essential goodness of God’s Creation by treating some classes of human beings as more godly than others. We have moved further from Christ’s Path when we have treated people superficially, as objects to be used rather than human beings with depth and distinction.
5. Give up the Deification of the Bible and the “Inerrancy Doctrine” That is Used More As a Weapon Rather Than For Healing
Inerrancy is a contempt that breeds hate. Inerrantists take it as divinely certain that other people’s religious views are inferior to their own. One reaps what one sows, so when inerrantists show their contempt, contempt for their own religious views is returned. History is bloodied by the consequences. Jews, Muslems, heathens, and other Christians have been subjugated, tortured, and slaughtered in the name of the “true” god. Jacob Bronowski (1973, 374), speaking of Auschwitz, wrote,
Into this pond were flushed the ashes of some four million people. And that was not done by gas. It was done by dogma. It was done by arrogance. When people believe that they have absolute knowledge, with no test in reality, this is how they behave. This is what men do when they aspire to the knowledge of gods.
The contempt also shows up as intolerance — against women’s roles, in attitudes about sex, and through a variety of other different views. Even those who do not commit atrocities, when they display such intolerance, are guilty of fomenting the atmosphere that makes the atrocities possible.
Some tell me that there are churches out there that practice the principles I outline above and more! I’ve never seen them where I live. Maybe they exist in large urban areas, I don’t know. But I live in an ultra-conservative, Midwestern rural town that would run such a church out of town if it ever formed. If one ever does show up somewhere nearby, I think I’d have to visit it just to see if it’s truly possible.
5 thoughts on “Top Five Things That Might Get Me Back In Church”
I really don’t foresee a time that I would ever be a part of a Christian community. I think the very structure of a church invites ego and hierarchy. There is no way that people could be spiritually mature enough to let the movement of the spirit reign. There are too many material/practical matters when considering the maintenence of a physical building and the accumulation of assets.
It is man’s very nature to give things form and structure. In doing so, he kills the spirit.
I honestly don’t believe that spirituality is a group endeavor. Perhaps it might be in the future, but I think each person has their experience with god and when God wants to bring the body together, He will. I think any attempt on our part to do it almost always ends badly, or people end up spiritually stunted.
Yes, I often think I will never go back, but it doesn’t hurt to imagine the perfect community. But, you never know.
I like your comments on the deification of the Bible. I think the inerrancy issue is lost in semantics. Inerrancy is not the core of the deification problem. The deification problem presents itself like this, “I believe in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Scriptures.” What tends to happen is people with an ill-formed doctrine of the Holy Spirit and an even more ill-formed doctrine of the Trinity replace the Holy Spirit with the Scriptures. Long story short. Peace.
I’m not just projecting all of those egotistical traits onto others… I know that I too, suffer from the same delusions.
Excellent point, Bill. And you’re right. The bible replaces the Holy Spirit!
Peace to you as well. 🙂
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