The worst version of yourself shows up sometimes when someone accuses or attacks you. It’s human nature to have a negative first reaction in those circumstances. In the same way, an organization can the present the worst version of itself. I think this happened with the Christian church in the last century.
One hundred years ago, science challenged the church and the church responded by declaring war. It was a duel of sorts. Reason versus the spiritual. Science called into question miracles, the virgin birth of Jesus and this led to lots of questions about the validity of the Bible. This included a long and drawn out argument over creation. Sadly, religion lost ground.
Men of faith retreated and developed a definition called the Fundamentals. The Christian Fundamental movement was born. Their thinking was something like this: if you are Christian, you must believe these five fundamentals:
- Inerrancy of the Bible
- Virgin Birth of Jesus
- Substitutionary Atonement
- Resurrection of Jesus Christ
What is behind the fundamentals? The fundamentals are black and white. It’s either/or. Either you agree with the fundamentals or you don’t. It was the line in the sand. Either you are on the side of science or on the side of religion. This was framed as a competition with one winner and one loser. The challenge was set. Faith became an argument to be won.
My contention is not about these specific doctrines. My contention is that the role and identity of the church moved away from being a transformational force in society. We shifted away from being a trusted authority figure. By declaring war, the church created a new identity and role in the world. Instead of completing Jesus’ mission to heal the broken-hearted, church has become a place to fight and argue about what is truth.
To top it off, this mindset introduced a way to define relationships. If you believe these doctrines then we will associate with you. If you don’t, we will separate ourselves from you. In other words, I break my connection with you if we can’t agree on doctrine.
Frankly, this mindset in Christians scare me. Christian communities who live in an us-versus-them-mindset can be toxic. They declare war if you disagree with them. Once you are labeled as the enemy the relationship is defined in terms of war and the goal of war is to destroy your enemy. There is no respectful conversation. How am I supposed to deliver a message of salvation if my role is to be at war? How am I to bring a message of transformation when I am busy arguing?
I reject this role to argue and fight. I reject the identity to be at war. To be faithful to God and Scriptures, some Christians became precise in theology and weak in relationships. A good theology doesn’t automatically mean you are healthy in relationships. I’m not here to bash church. I love the church. I’m here to called the church up to a better mindset. I think we can do better than the last 100 years.
A Christian community can be healthy or toxic despite excellent theology.
The sad part of the church’s reaction is that there was a retreat. I wish we would have engaged in a conversation and wrestled with the new discoveries of science. The ones who wrestled with science were labeled liberal or unfaithful. There was no freedom to question or wrestle. How do we live in a world with scientific research and Christian faith? Today, pastors quote research from science as informative studies on human development, relationships and other topics. It’s a good thing to be informed by science. What disturbs me is the old war frame mindset is still in place lingering beneath. Us against them. Where will that lead us? What do you think?
See my next satirical blog post regarding this old us-versus-them mindset.