Catholic and Evangelical Conversations

My wife and I had some friends over last night that are very committed Catholics. We had some interesting discussions about how some things practically work in each of our churches. They felt slightly guilty for “parish shopping” when they recently moved and explained that some Catholics feel strongly that you should always support your local parish. Our friends, on the contrary felt that some parishes were of such a poor quality that they should be allowed to die. We then explained how Protestants go about choosing what church to attend (church shopping) and expressed our concern with how easy it is for a consumerist attitude to rise up in people. It’s definitely something that is a big problem for some Protestants.

Later on our friend said “Don’t you hate it when a pastor recycles his sermons? You get the point where you know everything he’s going to say. It makes it refreshing to move so that you can hear something new.” We had to confess that this doesn’t really happen all that often in Protestant churches. If a pastor starts mailing it in and giving the same sermons over and over again, he loses his congregation. In this way, “church capitalism” protects people.

I am just thinking about how this conversation relates to Mormonism, where nobody has any choice about what ward they attend. The LDS church has an inactivity rate of something like 70%. I think that number would be greatly improved if people were allowed to pick and choose a little bit more (that way people could avoid toxic collections of people). Increased attendance would be a worthy goal, but it would come with a price. Like Protestants, LDS would need to fight against the “it’s-all-about-me” attitude in church. It’s such prevalent message in our society, it’s hard not to be influenced by it.

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5 thoughts on “Catholic and Evangelical Conversations

  1. I’m not 100% sure that’s the case.

    First, there really is a pretty high degree of homogenous-ness in the LDS church. You’re unlikely to find something substantively different if you go to another ward.

    Second, there’s not an every-week preacher, so “the sermon” doesn’t even factor into it. Since ward members are asked to give talks every week, you pretty much get the same thing talk-wise everywhere you go.

    There are of course exceptions- where the local population is somehow extremely diverse from the national mean, the LDS ward will be a little more colorful, but it still won’t be that much different.

    Finally, the people who don’t like their ward so much that it makes them not want to go… usually go to a different ward. Technically they’re not supposed to, but there’s no way to stop people, so it actually happens fairly often.

    The people who are going to go to their right ward even when they don’t want to because it’s “the right thing to do” are certainly not going to choose inactivity (a much worse deal than just going to a different ward) instead.

  2. Kullervo is right. LDS wards are so similar from one to another that it rarely matters what ward’s sacrament meeting you attend. Sunday school and Priesthood/Relief Society on the other hand can be a little more unique but not usually too much.

    I see the strengths of geographical boundaries and the potential problems of “church shopping” but I am so tired of the current system right now that I would give almost anything to attend a church where at least one of the speakers is intelligent, prepared, entertaining, and gifted at conveying the Spirit. I would love to find a group of LDS who think and feel more like me, even for just a little while. Neither system is perfect but I’d hapily accept a 5 year rotation of geographically bound/attend any ward system right now.

  3. I would give almost anything to attend a church where at least one of the speakers is intelligent, prepared, entertaining, and gifted at conveying the Spirit.

    Want to come to church with me sometime? =p

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