The church as a cultural entity has been under fire a lot in recent decades. We have an opportunity to use this as a refining fire.
Culture shifts, changes. Sometimes this is objectively good: abolishing slavery, developing social justice, and broadening civil rights. Sometimes it’s subjectively good: changing fashion and propriety. Sometimes it’s completely neutral: the influence of technology on entertainment.
Scientific understanding continues to expand, to correct past misconceptions, and ask new questions.
Deep breath please.
The lack of divine condemnation, and sometimes apostolic advice, regarding several practices and beliefs makes it difficult to avoid conflating cultural mores with moral teaching, human tradition with christian doctrine. So we have generations of people bundling their personal identities, religious beliefs, and cultural traditions into one inseparable entity. This leaves feelings not just of being attacked, which is fairly predictable as culture shifts, but of being attacked for their faith; feelings not just of cultural decline, which is fairly normal, after all, our way will always be the best way, but of cultural corruption.
We have a very sticky situation of which there are two sides. On the one hand, we have the people who don’t want to change, and on the other we have people that embrace the change.
To the people who don’t want to change, I just, for the moment, want to say this: we are not suggesting that God was wrong, or that the Bible was wrong. We are suggesting that human understanding of God’s word had always been flawed, and somewhere along the way cultural beliefs, human traditions, have been elevated to the status of Scripture, and this needs to be addressed and corrected.
To the people that are embracing change, I want to say a little bit more just now. I want to say I respect your willingness to examine your beliefs and sift through them, your willingness to accept that people you love and admire have been wrong, that you have been wrong. I want to say that I’m in favor of the movement to ‘deconstruct’ the faith, to take it back down to the essential elements and separate the tradition from the Word. I’m just worried this is where we stopping.
I’m worried we’re putting so much emphasis on the ‘de’ construction, a practice that I agree needs to take place, that we are failing to move past it, that we’re not ‘re’constructing the pieces when we’re done.
So that’s what I want to do here. I want to look at ways my Sunday School education fails to stand up to Scripture. I want to break apart the pieces of my faith and culture and sort out the tradition from the Word. I want to gather what I’m left with and stand proudly in my faith. I don’t want to disown my church; I want to strengthen it. I want to remove the rot and shore up the foundation.
I believe in the hearts of a people who are doing their best. The people that raised them and taught them were doing their best. I don’t want to lay blame. I don’t want to judge people. I seek only to judge traditions and evaluate beliefs.
Series Disclaimer: throughout this particular series, it is always possible that I simply missed something, or honestly forgot it. I am, however, operating on the assumption that my experience is actually fairly typical despite coming from a comparatively small denomination. I feel justified in this assumption because I have put effort into interacting with and listening to as wide a variety of people as I can, and I put effort into paying attention. My entire life I’ve put effort into paying attention, into understanding. So perhaps I’ve missed something, or forgotten a single lesson, but I am speaking of broad impressions of a large culture. Should your experience differ, I am glad. Should I be wrong, I would be relieved.