Strangers in the Church

I just don’t like the idea of going to a church out of our community. I don’t see church as a place to hear a sermon and sing so much as a place to find people to do life with. I always lived so far from church when I was a kid and it just made community life such a drag. I didn’t really connect much with the community I lived in and I was too far to have the kind of deep relationships you can have with close neighbors.

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I can understand. I always though it strange how some people drive an hour to go to a church. It becomes more like going to a concert or sporting event without the community involvement.
My problem is that my wife is heavily involved in our church activities, and does a better job than I at ignoring the differences and concentrating on the commonalities. I too am pretty involved, though it seems less so as I am open about science issues, and race, climate change, and particularly evolution are not subjects to be open about it seems. I relate to the narrator in Prayer for Owen Meany who was not nominated in his church elections, and to whom his pastor said in an effort to console, “To our younger parish officers…You’re something of an eccentric…” I take some joy in that as well, it seems.
Perhaps too much.
In any case, I hope things will settle down for you as well as those others of us in the same boat, and we will find healing and enough grace in our hearts to accept those with whom we disagree, and pray they do likewise.

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For me, I have always been fine with attending a church filled with people I disagree with. In fact, I always counted it as a “mission” of sorts that I show another way to think that people didn’t think was possible for Christians. Honestly, it’s probably impossible for me to find an evangelical church that supports the things I think. But, the final nail for me was the disregard for COVID standards and the refusal to speak out against controversial ideas. I just didn’t want to be associated with that kind of church. I didn’t want people to lump me in with “those” people. I started to see that as part of my “witness” and I didn’t want people to think I shared those beliefs and to hate Christianity even more.

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I ran into that so many times.

I heard dozens of times over the last year people say, “ masks don’t help “ and I finally started responding with then when you cough or sneeze why do you look away and cover?”!

They often said to not get spit on them.

I retorted with the fact that spit is respiratory droplets and you wear a mask since a lot of the virus is found in these droplets. The mask stops the majority of the virus by stopping the velocity and distance of the spit containing much of the virus snd when layered with social distancing and touching less stuff it helps reduce it.

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Maybe a bit unpopular but I feel as if evangelicals almost have to hold expert opinion in disdain and be distrustful of it. I mean, expert NT scholarship scoffs at the doctrine of inerrancy, expert biologists understand evolution is as “factual” as a scientific theory could ever be, expert cosmologists and geologists understand the age of the earth and universe to be billions of years old, expert archaeologists and historians see lots of problems and holes in the factuality of various biblical accounts.

I feel like evangelicals have to have the “us against the world” mindset well, because the majority of the world thinks they fell off the rocker on a plethora of issues. The way they have to reject science and history and expert opinion on countless topics, I sometimes legitimately see comparisons to flat earthers.

I think it all boils down to Sola Scripture and inerrancy. It alienates and muddies the thinking of otherwise very intelligent people. This is in no way meant to attack evangelicals. I go to Bible study with several every week and they are some of the strongest Christians I know, including being down to earth people that are actually very intelligent and reasonable on countless issues. It’s just that “Bible only” outlook skews thinking on a lot of issues in my opinion and makes authority the bad guy. I mean, when authority tells you that many of your cherished beliefs are wrong, you are put in a tough pickle.

Vinnie

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Good points. Ironically, Sola Scriptura is held as a battle cry by those who cling to man made doctrines like original sin, inerrancy, “the fall” and “the rapture” which are very derivitive and not clearly biblical.

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That sounds good. Is this a book that you’d recommend that speaks on an evangelical level to explain critical race theory to those who feel threatened by and don’t understand it? I think that there are many who don’t understand it, and so reject it. Thanks.

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I don’t think Evangelicals really need to understand critical race theory. They just need to stop using it as a bogeyman and scapegoat to avoid dealing with racism. Lots of Evangelical leaders have written articles recently, but they are mostly responding to specific critiques or other writers and I don’t think the average person needs to get so deep in the weeds.

These two podcasts have good discussions that I think cover what the average person in the pews needs to know. Note that critical race theory relates to law and came out of [critical legal theory], (which is more broad and also concerns itself with systematic oppression of women and people who are not heterosexual). Critical legal theory is a specific application of critical theory, which was an approach to viewing sociological and political dynamics in terms of power relationships. It is associated with the Frankfurt School of philosophy and draws heavily on Marx and Freud. In the current conversation, people have tended to lump all three of these things, CRT, CLT, CT, together, which has not always been helpful or accurate. Also people have tended to associate anyone who uses terms that entered the lexicon via CRT, (white privilege, intersectionality, systemic racism, etc.) with being a “CRT writer.” This is just stupid. I can talk about an Oedipus complex without being a “Freudian writer.” The short of it is that almost all Christian civil rights activists and anti-racist speakers have found that some of the vocabulary and observations highlighted by critical race theorists are helpful and resonate with what Black theologians and Christian civil rights workers have been saying for centuries. It’s not like Frederick Douglas had to learn from German Marxist philosophers that unequal power dynamics encoded into law and other institutions allowed whites to oppress Blacks. He could figure that out for himself. It seems to me that lots of Christians see the associations with Marxism, feminism, and Queer theory and freak out. Then they go on a guilt by association witch hunt to rid the world of CRT, instead of asking “is this tool helping to point out some truth Christians need to pay attention to and what is the appropriate Christian response to that truth?” (https://cyber.harvard.edu/bridge/CriticalTheory/critical1.htm).
https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/be-the-bridge-podcast-with-latasha-morrison/id1497999509?i=1000492916816&fbclid=IwAR0qOYrA8jqAUiC03jPyGWYU2IyQQ_1gO52ysqRcAPKmG4G5KuntPxj0FWo

Interview starts at 44:14:

[ETA one more that I haven’t actually listened to yet, but is supposed to be very good.]

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I really feel like at time the “term” white is treated as a actual concept while at others it’s just accused of being this blurry ambiguous almost meaningless term attacked to undermine a actual discussion.

Often when I listen to podcasts about critical theory I find it beneficial and interesting but often it just seems like an attempt make political paradigms sound like the most reasonable scientific based conclusion.

With that said I am going to listen to a bunch, I set the limit at 100 episodes to begin with , on critical theory in general and I’ll try to find 20 or so episodes focused solely on critical race theories. Probably ofer the next 2 years or so. I listened to a few focused solely on “ sports geography critical theory” and though one was interesting it’s mostly very boring because I don’t like sports either. Much of it just seems silly, but I’ll give it a chance to go through several. Im still trying to understand how cultural division occurs in various nations because of what sports their leaders play shirtless and what sports they don’t.

Perhaps since I’m way more interested in christianity than sports the podcasts Christy mentioned will be more interesting to me than the sports one I came into first.

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Looking on from the UK I find it hard to accept that any church leadership should continue to embrace a secular leader who has used so much misinformation in the years of his office, and has appeared to embrace extreme right wing groups. That’s not just a political problem it a deeply spiritual one that questions their theology. Confounding the truth and leading people astray, over Covid and also the security of the election process, is a moral and spiritual issue of the highest order. That so many still believe the lies and misinformation repeated over and over again is most troubling.

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I think that it goes deeper than that. Many who voted for Trump did not necessarily like him, but believes that the values of the Republican Party is more closely aligned to their beliefs than the democrat party. Some also simply sees the data differently. They have a different set of priorities than you , me or another.

I see similar things from the right where they are equally shocked someone would vote for a “pro baby killing” Democrat.

What I find most disturbing is not the political party someone aligns with, or which candidate they think would have been the best out of the choices, but when they take these political leaders and lift them up to this Christ like state. That goes for those that said Sanders was the embodiment of christian values, or Huckabee was the greatest Christian ever, to the “church” needs Trump to protect our freedoms.

It’s also why I limit the ways I use “‘a real Scotsman” type argument. Such as a real Christian should be anti capitalism or a real Christian should be against a candidate that suppprts this or that and so on. There are republicans, democrats, liberals, conservatives, and even things like socialists, capitalists, and communists who are Christians and in different ways uphold different aspects of their faith.

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I understand and sympathize with your position and feel much of the same, but it doesn’t have to end there. There are many reasons people embrace dubious beliefs, something I wrote at some length about here:

Christians and Conspiracies

Simply because people succumb to deception doesn’t make them bad people. That would be everyone. In the above, I barely mentioned the impact of demonic deception but I’m planning a much more focused follow-up. Satan and his minions are actively involved in deception, very skilled at it, and the internet has raised it to a whole new level of efficiency. Deceit is their primary weapon. Those who wish to serve Christ (including most Evangelicals) are the greatest obstacle to his agenda, which is to hurt humankind in whatever way he can. It therefore makes sense, from a Biblical standpoint, that those most desiring to serve the Lord would also be the chief targets for deception. So maybe we shouldn’t be judging our brothers and sisters too harshly.

This is a spiritual battle for which we are called upon to pray. I’m almost 65, and I’ve just discovered that the Lord’s prayer I learned - “deliver us from evil” - contains an article in the original Greek and should be translated “deliver us from the evil one”. In your church, public, and group prayers, how many times have people prayed for deliverance from Satan - which would imply, more than anything, deliverance from deceit? In my experience, hardly ever. Maybe we should be praying the way Jesus taught us?

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Good takeaway, Steve. I like that take on the Lord’s Prayer, and will take your advice in so praying.

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Thank you for all the wonderful replies! They have been encouraging. I will say that the leadership in my local church has responded well to this pandemic. Social Distancing and Mask Wearing. The pastor up front is even preaching while wearing a mask. However, some are not happy with how they are responding and are leaving the church. I have a 11, 13 and 15 year old girls. To see their cousins spending holidays with grandparents and seeing my daughter’s friends having sleepovers has been very difficult emotionally for me. The concern I have for my daughter’s mental health and wanting to follow my local health departments is hard to balance. My local health department basically begged people to not have large Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings. I listened to them, not politicians or pundits. I never cared if my friends or family believed in young earth creationism but this issue is a matter of life or death for so many vulnerable people. I’m glad to be part of this forum and so thankful for Biologos!

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Perhaps someone can explain…? I go to an evangelical Anglican church in the East of England. We have just done what we were told - worn face masks, distanced, taken vaccination when invited. Soon our church will open again for regulated worship and we will continue to follow the directions. What is the problem in the USA? I suppose part of the problem arose from the top. When the trumpet gives an unclear sound, people will not be prepared for battle.

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Some think masks and restrictions are an affront to their basic human rights. There were also political leaders who tried to downplay the severity and risk of COVID-19 in early 2020, so some have latched onto various conspiracy theories to support those narratives.

The US has this weird ability to politicize topics that are considered basic scientific consensus and basic decency elsewhere in the world.

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There also seems to be a lot of people who think their personal exploration of the internet is as good as a medical degree or a degree in any field of science. The ‘democratization’ of facts and expertise is one of the most disturbing social trends here.

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That makes me chuckle

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Nice - “searching until finding one hit that confirms what one already believes”.

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Yes–ouch, that kind of hurts, too! It’s a great temptation.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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