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Philosophically Christian

Posted Tuesday, September 7, 2010, at 8:51 AM

"If you don't want me to leave the Catholic Church and become what you are, then you have a religion which is not worth a 'tinker's dam.'" (Fr. Terry O'Shea, Ministerial Alliance meeting, 1973)

There is an old bromide about the Methodist who died and went to heaven (fyi -- denominations vary by who's telling the story). According to the storyline, as St. Peter is showing him around they come upon a very high wall. "What's with the wall?' he asks. St Peter whispers "That's where we keep all the (insert any denomination's name), they think they're the only one's up here."

It's hard to image now, but there was a time in this town and every like town in America when where you went to church mattered. It mattered a great deal. "Social position" was broadcast by which denomination one pledged allegiance. If one lived on a certain Brazil street, now on the historical register, it was assumed you were wise enough to attend a "high church." Living on another side of town gave liberty to being Baptist or some such; and if really poor Pentecostals were tolerated.

It's hard to image now, but there was a time in this town and every like town in America when whether a politician went to church mattered. If a man (it was 99 percent men) wanted to get elected, he pretty well had to be identified with a church. And, until 1960 that church dare not be Roman Catholic.

These perceptions have changed since 1960 and the election of President Kennedy. For better or worse who we are is not so much judged by where or whether a person goes to church. I might even be ready to admit it has become conceivable that if you do not attend my church you might get into heaven after all.

It is my observation that it continues to be possible to be what I would term a "philosophical" Christian -- that is, because I somehow identify with a certain church that is what I am. My stepfather Bill Maddox put it this way, "I'm a trunk Baptist. Joined the Baptist Church when I was a kid and got a membership certificate. Put the darn thing in a trunk and have been a Baptist ever since."

People identify with one church or another for a lot of reasons: They love the liturgy (every church has one, know it or not); or it's where they grew up; or there's a really nice preacher. All good reasons, I think.

Any American church can embrace any teachings or traditions it wishes, which makes for a very interesting diversity. As long as you say, "these are our traditions, the way we choose to 'do' church", you can get away with a lot of intriguing dichotomies.

What cannot be done in the name of Christ's Church is that which clearly contravenes the civil law or the rights of another. My church may advocate right to life and yours favor right to choose. Advocating gives neither justification to walk into another's church and murder.

On the second Sunday in September 1996 Kay and I walked into a church we have attended to this day, Christ Community Church. It had no specific denominational allegiance, but neither did we. For reason we could not articulate this is where we felt "at home".

It is not a secret that a while back Christ Community went though a spiritual wilderness not unlike that which many congregations experience. These sojourns might actually be beneficial, maybe even led into intentionally. It was a time of forcing us, and everyone involved, to search our hearts for an answer to these questions: Do I honestly believe this is where God has planted me, is this where I am to serve Him?

Affirmative answer to such questions raises every true follower above being a "Philosophical Christian."

David L. Lewis is an observer of and sometimes commentator on life who may be reached via e-mail at kayanddavid@verizon.net.


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The fact that "(a)ny American church can embrace any teachings or traditions it wishes..." still doesn't mean they should. 2 John 9 says, "Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ does not have God;". Churches that go off on their own are truely on their own. They do not have God with them. This leads to the tragic end where some will plead, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?" and then He responds, "I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness." Matthew 7:22-23 Just because WE attach God's name to something and call it a good work or acceptable worship, doesn't mean He will. There will be lots of people leaving this life who have built a spiritual house but built it on a foundation of sand. Matthew 7:24-27 We put alot of time, effort, and energy into our houses. It's a place of safety and rest. Whether you ignore religion or practice one that isn't based on God's word the result is the same - that spiritual house falls flat. Be wise and build on the Rock, Jesus the Christ. Search your heart AND your bible and you'll find where you should be planted. You'll be at home.

-- Posted by brazilian on Tue, Sep 7, 2010, at 10:18 AM

brazilian:

But who is the rightful judge to say what is "too far?" While I agree with you that attaching God's name to something does not make it "Godlike", interpretations of the Bible are as numerous as the different monotheistic religions.

The Bible is a good guide but God also gave us all a brain to use so we could interpret things from our own experiences. Sometimes it can even be difficult to accept the official teachings of one's own church. Does that mean we should break off yet another sect or just accept the fact that we each interpret readings on the basis of our own experiences, so long as we get the main idea?

Right to Life and Right to choose have become more political hot button/propaganda than real true Christian beliefs. They are not always mutually exclusive except maybe from a man's viewpoint. While there is no excuse for ending another's life, historically women have been ruled by men in the world, and still are in many locations, and a right to their own body is something that is precious to a woman and should not be decided upon by another. This brings the pregnant woman into a gray area that is hard to define. We have pregnant women who smoke, drink alcohol, do drugs but seems we can't touch them while they continue to do irreversible harm to the unborn children. Some of these children are born into a world where they are judged as well as handicapped mentally because of their mother's actions. We fight for the unborn baby's right to live, but do little to make that life the best one we have the power for it to be.

You see just like picking and choosing sections of the Bible to quote, we do the same when deciding the extent of the rights of an unborn child.

Right or wrong, all of our religions have an agenda that is driven by humans just as politics is. That is why an individual has the right to pick what he thinks are the most important parts of his own organized religious affiliations and cannot truly be damned by fellow church goers even if banned from the human run church. Some of the sects don't even seem to have a list of traditions or mores but just seem to change in the wind depending upon the cliques within them at any period of time.

That is why we have to step back to the two basic commandments. Love God above all else and love our siblings here on earth and do so by our actions as nothing we say here is worth a hill of beans unless backed by actions.

This is why I am so surprised at the results of the poll that asked if people were in favor of/against a group of God's people wanting to build a house of worship near the World Trade Center site. IF they have the money and land, what is the problem here? Muslim people died in that tragedy too. It just happened that the crazies that flew those planes were Muslims. To "damn" an entire religion and its people just isn't right nor is it Christian in the most very basic sense of the two basic commandments Christ put to us.

Makes me really wonder if many of those people who voted were really Christian or just giving lip service to Christianity as their actions certainly spoke louder than their claims of Christianity.

Have a good Day

-- Posted by Jenny Moore on Tue, Sep 7, 2010, at 3:08 PM

Please don't mistake humanity's quandaries with some sort of deficiency with our God. He's perfect. John 14:6 "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me." It makes no difference the size, age, or loud rantings of a church. If they are not preaching Jesus, then it is all in vain. Matthew 28:18 "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth." If we want to be in heaven then we must do things His way. If we want to be pleasing to Him on earth and enjoy those benfits, we must obey Him. "Authority" means legal or rightful power, the right to command, or act; dominion, jurisdiction. No person, nor any church has a right to simply make their own rules to live by - not with His sanction, and He is our only means into heaven, where He also has jurisdiction. The only sure ground is to have book,chapter and verse for what you preach and practice. Folks used to require a "Thus saith the Lord" from their teachers. Still should.

-- Posted by brazilian on Tue, Sep 7, 2010, at 4:18 PM


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