The Shallowness of Some Contemporary Christians

The following is an exerpt from Richard Beck writing for “Sojourners” (12 Dec 2011):

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 “spriritual” substitute.  For example, rather that being a decent human being the following is a list of some commonly acceptable substitutes:

  • Going to church
  • Worship
  • Praying
  • Spiritual disciplines (e.g., fasting)
  • Bible study
  • Voting Republican
  • Going on spiritual retreats
  • Reading religious books
  • Arguing with evolutionists
  • Sending you child to a Christian school/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.

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6 Responses to The Shallowness of Some Contemporary Christians

  1. Allen says:

    In my mormonsite.wordpress.com blog I have an essay called “Converted to Christ or To The Church?” that expresses similar thoughts. It seems to be easier for people to avoid thinking and just follow a bunch of rules.

  2. dor says:

    Christianity is an extremely difficult religion. It requires us to love our neighbor as ourselves, to love our enemies and to value everyone as kin. This requires shedding the “I am” of our ego. The call to do away with material goods is a deep understanding that anything we place value on can become a false God, returning us to ego and separateness, distracting us from the intent of the unity of God. Some Christians and some who value spirituality over religion have come to mistake the paths to God for God. We make make idols even out of our most sacred beliefs, including sometimes, Christ himself. The life of spirit is so ephemeral, so fragile and at once so potent, that we (and by that I mean me) may only gain a sense of power in the face of it if we contain it. That container differs person to person: a Bible, a church or, for me, trying to feel as though I have it figured out. But all the ritual and all the artifacts are merely reflections of that which can never be fully known nor fully understood.
    I think it is the Taoists who tell the story of the monk who pointed to the moon and then fell in love with his finger. Perhaps it is a miracle that we ever see the Divine at all, ever experience moments and flashes of true awe. Is it not amazing, then, that we are ever less than shallow in the face of such responsibility?

  3. efrum says:

    A wonderful and true post. Thank you.

  4. Unfortunately, we’ve all been guilty of this. Isn’t that Jesus’ main point?

  5. rogerdhansen says:

    I suppose that structure in a religion is necessary. How much though is an interesting debate. I think in Mormonism, there is: (1) too much emphasis on outward appearance; (2) too many make-work church jobs; (3) too much money spend on buildings, and (4) not enough emphasis on loving your fellow man (all 7 billion of them). The church, in general, has a very educated and motivated membership; it needs to consider how to best use the talents of these people. To a certain extent, this has started with the work of LDS Humanitarian Services. But so much more can be done. Particularly with all the baby boomers (like me) retiring and looking for meaningful ways to help.

    In a few years, over 50 percent of the Mormon membership will live in developing countries. More needs to be done to assist these members, and also more needs to be done to help the countrymen of these members. The LDS Church has a great opportunity here, I hope we don’t drop the ball.

    Having said that, I think social relationships are important, and churches fulfill a valuable service in bringing people together. But in areas where there is a dominant religion it can also be a great divider.

    Dor, I love the story about the monk pointing at the moon and falling in love with his finger.

  6. dor says:

    Major mainline denominations are all coming to realize that growth in membership is in the developing world. In regions where “who you belong to” is a key factor in your ability to participate in the societies (such as Africa and India), Christianity helps give the disenfranchised a voice. The challenge will be in giving up the paternalistic role and realizing that the West has much to learn from these new members. In part the awareness and rise of Liberation Theology is a case in point. Churches that resist the very urgent and very Christian call for social justice are also resisting being reshaped by the wider Body of Christ.
    With a conversion-oriented missionary attitude, it is sometimes difficult to think of ourselves as being the ones in need of help. (If, though, Spirit has led us to mission rather than, say, obligation, I think it is perhaps an inevitable lesson.) Very often it is just such a humble stance that allows us to heal and to become more decent humans.

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