Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Two Interesting Articles.

Over at Fare Forward again, a review of Accidental Saints, one of this year's supposedly controversial books among evangelicals. I had liked the review well enough already, but liked it better when I saw it was by a recent William and Mary grad who now lives in Dallas. These days I wonder if any good thing can come out of Williamsburg, so it was gratifying. The yong woman's regular site is here.  It does strike me as odd to read the old sermon coming back about accepting the shabby and the countercultural. It was common enough to be trite in the 70's and 80's, and I keep thinking that is the evangelical reality.  It isn't, of course.  The independent evangelical churches are about as respectable looking in the congregation as the mainstreamers, the only difference being the rougher looks of some of the worship bands and maybe some youth pastors.

It is too easy to say that the church has rejected the outsiders and won't acknowledge them.  That is the stereotype, but I think it is still more often the beatniks who are rejecting the squares.  A certain type of rebelliousness in the young is still admired among evangelicals.  Groups self-select without much meaning to and even when they make concerted efforts not to.  Counterculture churches get started when there are enough people to man them.  When there aren't, the respectable people go on, trying to remind themselves to reach out, not very successfully. Then they get blamed for being exclusive.  It's not untrue, but it is less than half true.

The tone of this next article bothered me a bit, oversimplifying the arguments of its opponents, I think.  But it raises an aspect of cultural change in the church I had not thought of.  Catholics do not permit the divorced to partake of the sacraments, though they can participate in other parts of congregational life. There is growing pressure to change that, pointing to the need to minister to and not unnecessarily offend those remarrieds who are trying to bring up children in the faith in a hard world. Those advocates point to those remarrieds who are living something close to a penitent and pious life.  The article condemning Country Club Catholicism points out that such an approach favors the rich and respectable and those of good appearance.


james said...

I read The Purpose Driven Church back when the church I was then a member of looked to expand. I got the impression of "segregated by design." If you tailor your outreach to attract young families, or young professionals, or Hmong without a church building--you leave out others.

The parish church model has some advantages here.

JMSmith said...

We should not reject prospective church members because they look funny, but neither should we be surprised that congregations are for the most part composed of fairly normal looking and respectable people. It takes discipline to go to church every Sunday morning, and the same discipline that gets a man out of bed will get him to comb and cut his hair, hold down a regular job, and observe the conventions. It also takes a fairly strong sense of loyalty, since church services are often rather dull. Church-going is not for thrill seekers.

I've watched this selection for normalcy in the Bible study that I attend before mass on Sunday mornings. Every so often an eccentric will join us, and we go out of our way to make them welcome. But they normally disappear after a month or so, I think because they are fundamentally erratic and inconstant people.

I'm not saying anything about the relative spiritual condition of steady and flighty Christians, only that an organized activity like church-going selects for the steady and against the flighty. We all have our oddities, of course, but very odd people are odd through and through. It's not a lack of acceptance from normal people that has made them that way.