Evangelical Collapse

Way back in March, the Christian Science Monitor published an article entitled “The Coming Evangelical Collapse” by Michael Spencer. This article was a bit of a summation of a number of blog post written at Internet Monk.  This article caused quite the storm in the Evangelical world. It was picked up by the Drudge Report, which no doubt helped spread its popularity.  I highly recommend that you read the article if you have not already.

I think Spencer has a number of valid things to say about the future of Evangelicalism.  I think he’s spot on about the rise of  the Post-Christian West and the antagonism that Christianity will experience from secularism (and perhaps vice-versa).  I think his article also is full of a number of personal gripes he has with Evangelicalsim’s political posturing, the prosperity gospel and Pentacostalism.  He admits in this podcast that he wrote the article while angry and his anger produces his best writing (a great listen to get more of his thoughts).

I personally am looking forward to the Evangelical collapse as he describes. it.  I do not live in the Bible Belt.  I would most likely hate living there and would probably be as cynical and jaded as Spencer is if I lived where he does.  The reason I like living in a place (somewhat) antagonistic to my faith is that I get to define Evangelicalism to those around me.  People don’t typically align themselves with Christianity unless they actually are commited to being discipled by Jesus.  My non-Christian neighbor, if he were living in Texas, would most likely be attending an Evangelical church out of cultural and family pressures.  His life would look exactly the same as it does here in California except for how he spends his Sunday mornings.  He would self-identify as an Evangelical (and probably vote like one).

There is a “safe” form of Evangelicalism. I want it to collapse.  There is nothing safe about following Jesus.  We do a disservice to the message of Jesus to allow people to think that they aren’t called to something radically different than the culture at large.  If this form of Christianity collapses we Evangelicals will lose a significant portion of our cultural and political strength.  That’s great. What we are supposed to be about is so much larger than what movies do well at the box office and what measures get passed on election day.

I think if Evangelicalism collapses the quality of individual Christians will increase.  We will begin to actually see something different in the lives of Chrisitans.  Our divorce, bankruptcy and abuse stats will no longer reflect the same numbers as the rest of the country.  There will be far fewer Evangelicals.  Our book, CD and teddy bear sales will drop.  Our non-profit organizations and churches will lose a lot of money.  But maybe, just maybe Jesus will shine brighter (and we’ll undoubtably pay the price for it).

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67 thoughts on “Evangelical Collapse

  1. Tim, Brigham Young seemed to be having similar thoughts to yours when he remarked:

    “The worst fear that I have about this people is that they will get rich in this country, forget God and His people, wax fat, and kick themselves out of the Church and go to hell. This people will stand mobbing, robbing, poverty, and all manner of persecution, and be true. But my greatest fear for them is that they cannot stand wealth; and yet they have to be tried with riches, for they will become the richest people on this earth” (Brigham Young, reported in James S. Brown, Life of a Pioneer [1900], 122-23).

    I wonder if there is something about success in God’s church that ultimately proves very damaging to it.

  2. Years ago Tim, I got to hear David Nasser speak at the Creation Festival West. So many good things that he said. I have the talk on tape (yes, audio cassette tape, it’s that old), and I’d love to put it online because it’s one of my favorite talks ever. Maybe I will.

    The talk was called “Doing Controversial Ministry” and some of the things that he said:

    ~ He criticized churches for only doing “safe” ministry. He talked about a youth group where their idea of a “mission trip” was taking the kids to a beach and having them paint a church building that was already painted by another youth group the summer before, because that’s the only type of “service” the kids would do.

    ~ He criticized churches for trying to feed people “the world’s garbage” and “handing out candy,” installing video game systems in the youth group rooms and such and the brand of cheap Christian that creates. He said churches will only lose at that game because the world can give people all of that stuff and do it better.

    ~ He asked everyone to stand up, and he asked people how long they’d been Christians. 5, 10, 15 years, whatever. Then he said, “Okay, now if you can’t recite for me one Bible verse for every year you’ve been a Christian, sit back down.” There were 500 people in the room. About 50 remained standing.

    ~ This was only about 2-3 years after Columbine, and he asked how many people thought they would say “yes” if confronted by a gunman on their belief in God. Most people raised their hands. And he said, “I believe that. I believe you when you say you’d take a bullet for God. But you won’t get up a little earlier and spend an extra 15 minutes with Him every morning.”

    ~ He talked about a youth pastor he spoke with who had about 200 kids going to his youth group, and he said, “Wow, I hope God grows your youth group to 12.” The pastor was confused and said, “What, you mean 1200?” No, he meant 12. Better 12 sold-out, devoted Christians than 200 who are just there for video games and candy.

    I’m a hypocrite for writing this. It’s been a long time since I felt like the Christian I used to be, and I sure as hell don’t think I’m a good example of what a disciple of Christ should be.

    Even so though? I’d rather see us clear the garbage out of the church, too. Let it come.

  3. Oh, and your line about not wanting “safe” evangelical Christianity reminds me of the part in The Chronicles of Narnia where one of the children asks whether Aslan is safe. “‘Safe?’ said Mr. Beaver; ‘don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you’”

  4. Tim’s article reminds me of an essay I read a few years ago by Orson Scott Card (an LDS science fiction writer) in which he said he’d much rather raise his kids in North Carolina than in Utah, because in North Carolina you choose to be Mormon rather than be one by default, and that forces you to think about why you choose the faith you choose. I’ve tried to find the essay online but haven’t had any luck.

    (My mention of Card here shouldn’t be seen as an endorsement of his politics or other views, by the way.)

  5. I had one of OSC’s nieces for a roommate in Heritage Halls at BYU.

    My mention of Card here shouldn’t be seen as an endorsement of his politics or other views, by the way.

    Seems like no one’s lining up to do that anymore.

  6. Seth wrote:

    I wonder if there is something about success in God’s church that ultimately proves very damaging to it.

    Here’s the point, as I see it: what we’ve CALLED success may turn out to have been not all that successful in GOD”s KINGDOM plans….

    Compare and contrast the evangelical church in
    AMERICA with , say, CHINA. We’ve made a VERY big deal out of winning cultural/political battles over “KEY” issues like homosexuality, creation/evolution, prayer in schools, the “RIGHT” kind of supreme court judges….. the CHURCH in CHINA (without any of our alleged ‘advantages’, has made a big deal out ot the gospel and discipleship… look closely at the two groups and what they’ve produced: which nation’s set of believers could honestly say “IN GOD WE TRUST”

    hmmmmmm

    Not making an argument for communism here, but maybe while we’ve been mostly tilting at windmills, GOD’s plan (unencumbered by totallitarian regimes…..like ROME….) goes on and on….

    Interesting sidenote: I copied I-MONK’s EXCELLENT three part article ref. above and passed it out to those who plan Sunday school themes (a job I used to assist with) for adults…..and got zilch response, so far, reg. this topic as possible future class material. Not only is this collapse coming, the ostrich is going to be SO surprised….and probably blame the devil….

    Wake up and smell the java/postum, folks
    GERMIT

  7. Jack: yes “safe” sells; the kids in our youth group also, sadly, take turns killing each other electronically while waiting for the bible lesson (not Grand Theft Auto, granted)…..I mean, what the…. I don’t get it.

    the sad part is that many kids/adults WOULD get radical if given the chance: shown and led toward a life of discipleship…not just church-as-boringly-normal

    great book on that: Erwin Raphael McManus’ “The Barbabian Way”

    GERMIT

  8. Germit, I think I would get your meaning better if you put more words in all-caps. Maybe you could adopt a regular scheme, like put all proper nouns and all adverbs in all-caps for example. Or all words with a certain number of letters or syllables. Or you could put all of the words that aren’t directly translated out of the original language into all-caps so you can draw the distinction between words that were actually translated from the text and words that you had to include to make it understandible.

    Ooh ooh, I know! You should do all of the above so it’s like a puzzle.

    Alternately, you might just want to consider founding the all-caps cult, although that’s not really mutually exclusive to any of my other suggestions.

  9. Sorry, I only skimmed the article. There’s a lot to agree with there and here in the comments. I will say, however, that there seems to be this…searching for the right word…pessimism underlying the discussion. For example: “There is nothing safe about following Jesus. We do a disservice to the message of Jesus to allow people to think that they aren’t called to something radically different than the culture at large. “ There’s this assumption that whatever society at large wants is anathema to what Jesus wants. Or that the majority always have to be wrong.

    For similar reasons I reject Card’s idea that “in North Carolina you choose to be Mormon rather than be one by default.” A kid who is born to Mormon parents is a Mormon by default regardless of where she is raised; it’s her parents’ job to teach how Mormonism is more meaningful than just a social arrangement.

  10. For similar reasons I reject Card’s idea that “in North Carolina you choose to be Mormon rather than be one by default.” A kid who is born to Mormon parents is a Mormon by default regardless of where she is raised; it’s her parents’ job to teach how Mormonism is more meaningful than just a social arrangement.

    Agreed, wholeheartedly (with BrianJ, not with Card). While growing up in a minority subculture poses a number of different considerations than growing up in a majority culture, it’s still culture either way, and it is still culture that is transmitted the same way. A kind who is raised Mormon in NC faces some different challenges, but those will mostly be challenges related to his interactions with the majority culture–how he identifies himself, etc. But depending on his individual circumstances (his family, his ward, etc.) he may be quite a bit more “Mormon by default” than a kid who grows up in a jack-Mormon family in Utah.

    I was raised mostly in Knoxville TN, just over the hills from NC, and I was definitely “Mormon by default.” It was my family’s culture. Granted it was also something more meaningful, but I think we’re making a mistake if we think the two are mutually exclusive.

  11. I agree that Spencer comes across as pessimistic , jaded, and cynical, but his stonger impression is to remind us that God’s goal is not so much to ‘christianize’ the existing culture as to usher in, piece by piece, an entirely new thing, the Kingdom of GOD, into the existing culture. Whether that existing culture is partially, or mostly, in agreement with the Kingdom is kind of neither here nor there. Christians have been slow to get this. Ev’s are willing to settle for some kind of cultlural, or political clout, and celebrate if that level is high enough.

    GERMIT

  12. Card is a curmudgeon.

    Curmudgeons are usually wrong in some important ways. But that doesn’t mean they don’t fill a useful social role.

  13. Ev’s are willing to settle for some kind of cultlural, or political clout, and celebrate if that level is high enough.

    I agree that that is the wrong goal (and you state it excellently). My concern is that I often hear Christians talk like society is always bad-and-getting-worse, which gives them a different but still just as flawed goal: be different. Thus, the kingdom of God becomes a moving target—society can adopt some praiseworthy changes that are in line with Christian ideals, but then Christians have to redefine what “good” means.

  14. BrianJ: most ev’s I know talk about the society getting worse and worse in the context of “Oh my GOD, it’s that bad, we need to do x, y, and z, to turn this thing around..” So the imbedded goal is to get christians to act so that we have a godly culture. Nothing wrong in wanting a godly culture, but it misses the pre-eminent goal of God’s Kingdom (which is global , by the way, and so will work with many different cultures) Who knows how much further along the gospel would be if christians put the same emphasis towards winning the lost (which includes not demonizing their every attempt at goodness….which i think you allude to) as we have winning the political cause du jour.

    GERMIT

  15. Seth,
    That was actually one of my favorite quotes from ole’ Brigham. jesus said it well when He said it was easier for a camel to get thru the eye of a needle than a wealthy may to get into heaven.

    Kind regards,
    gloria

  16. ” I’d rather see us clear the garbage out of the church, too. Let it come”.

    Amen!

    I agree.

    My pastor, a very young pastor that he is …. is always talking about the sugar coated candy that is out there in the church today and that we need more Jesus and not another program or fellowship meal. I agree.

    god bless,
    gloria

  17. Being a christian isn’t safe for sure….. our lives should be completely wrecked by our King… I know mine was. I will never be the same… I never ever want to be complacent and stale…..

    I say bring on the purging!

    Gloria

  18. Hooray! Threaded comments are dead!

    BrianJ’s Evil Twin on May 21, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    No, no, they live on. They will find a way… In your hearts you wants them. You wantsss them.

  19. You are all too funny.

    I actually obstain from alcohol , even though my faith has no prohibitions against it. I obstain out of respect for my LDS husband. ( he would flip out!) But I will say that I have discovered the wonders of a good cup of java. ( seattle’s best my fav ) He’s finally settled down about the coffee… I’ll never forget the look on his face when he saw the coffee maker plugged in…. that look was worth a thousand words. 🙂 God bless that man. 🙂

    Regards,
    gloria

  20. I’m in a similar boat, Gloria, only I don’t drink coffee at all either.

    My youngest sibling, my sister, just turned 21 this month. I’m a little sullen about the fact that my baby sister can have alcoholic beverages now and I can’t. I tried gently suggesting to my husband that maybe it wouldn’t hurt to let me try it, but… let’s just say it’s not gonna happen. And so I’m stuck to my promise.

  21. Jack, what, you can’t sneak even a teensy weensy little taste while he’s out of town?

    Everybody’s doing it…no one will ever know…

    (Did I cover all my “temptation” bases?)

  22. Don’t listen to him. He’s trying to lead you down the path of righteousness. Katie is gonna lead you down the path that ROCKS!

  23. Jack and Katie, I think there are enough pictures of me out there to show that I’ve downed enough alcohol for all three of us. Just remember how much money you’ve saved on drinks, cabs, and Ibuprofen by living vicariously.

    (And should we ever have the good fortune of convening an Assassin Wives meeting, I promise not to spike the punch.)

  24. Just remember how much money you’ve saved on drinks, cabs, and Ibuprofen by living vicariously.

    That’s why God invented drinking at home.

  25. I think a good Hefeweisen should be…I mean come on, it’s made of wheat, and once you add lemon, you’ve already knocked out two food groups in one swig.

    And Kullervo, you’re totally right. Except Ibuprofen still comes in handy regardless of where one chooses to imbibe…

  26. I for one think it will be interesting to see an Evangelical collapse, for many of the reasons that Tim proposed. But one of the things I wonder is…if people come to believe stronger that Christianity is something that shouldn’t be “safe,” that shouldn’t be the same as the culture at large, then doesn’t this have just as much chance to make a positive change as it does to backlash and make a negative change.

    In an LDS example, I’m pretty sure Fundies certainly agree that their faith is radically different from the culture at large, with them being “more faithful” or whatever for keeping polygamy. I’m sure there are certain members today who would love to continue believing certain things about certain races, or about homosexuals, feminists, and intellectuals, and even if the world moves on, they’d love to be “radically different.” But in these cases, this radicalization is not a good thing.

  27. Andrew ~ then doesn’t this have just as much chance to make a positive change as it does to backlash and make a negative change.

    Yup. The fact of the matter is, sometimes the culture gets things right, and when people rebel against it in the name of being “not in this world” they just come off looking like jerks and possibly going against God’s will. Example: people who say we shouldn’t ordain women because that’s what feminism (i.e. “the world”) wants. If you’re opposed to ordination of women because you think that’s what God wants, fair enough, but please don’t dig your heels into the ground and be opposed to it just because more and more people are coming to believe that women should have the same opportunities men have. That’s bass ackwards.

    Unfortunately, I don’t believe there’s a magic bullet for determining when it’s time to conform to the culture and when it’s time to stand against it. For evangelicals, that’s the bane of having a 2000 year-old text as your authority: you just have to try to understand for yourself what the author’s intent was for his day and culture and determine for yourself how that applies to our day and culture.

    The only guidepost I’m certain of is that having a religion should not look exactly the same as not having a religion. After that, it gets fuzzy.

  28. I too am perplexed by the Card quote Eric brought up. When we lived in the Research Triangle, NC area before moving to Houston, it was very easy for my kids to be with-the-program Mormons in that Bible belt community vs. the NYC area we lived before that. Houston, being a big city, is much like Metro NY culturally.

    Now I know Card lives in the Triad area of NC with UNC-Gay (UNC-Greensboro) and all that, but the Triangle area has UNC Chapel Hill and Duke (NC State too, but that’s a pretty conservative agricultural/engineering school.). So I’m having a hard time believing where Card lives is much different than where I lived in NC or Intermountain West Mormondom.

    I’ll add there’s been enough intermarriage/conversion between the dominate Southern Baptists and Mormons in NC that much of the past religious animosity has disappeared. I think there are three LDS Stakes in Wake County NC alone! We found mostly love and respect in NC, and I’d love to work there again.

  29. The only guidepost I’m certain of is that having a religion should not look exactly the same as not having a religion.

    This is really well said, Jack. I am going to quote you on this on my blog.

  30. Andrew and Jack: good posts and points. The “not of this world” snippet makes for a very handy excuse to:

    1) look weird and crazy , in the name of being “biblical”: now where’s my “How to Cook Locusts Cookbook” ??

    2)not mix with the pagan, godless, heathen horde (except when you need a snappy hair style…they are SO good at that ….catering and flowers ditto

    3) buy remote stretches of land in places like Idaho and Montana….is fly fishing “of this world”….GOD i hope not..

    4)set up nearly identical knock off industries that are not “of this world” and make a freakin’ killing , financially speaking of course…

    this list could go a stretch, I’m thinking

    GERMIT

  31. Getting quoted by Kullervo instead of “bullsh!t”ed, I must be moving up in the world.

    I actually thought, after I wrote that, there probably are plenty of religions out there which tell you that your life is fine as it is and no changes in your behavior are required. I’m not sure that I personally see the value in such religions, as I like it when sacrifices and improvements are called for, but I’m sure someone could disagree with me on that.

  32. I also don’t see much of the value in the religions that suggest we don’t need to change anything about our lives. But maybe that’s a side effect of growing up in a religion that was very concerned about the necessity of change.

    But personally, even I agree with a statement like “Having a religion should not look exactly the same as not having a religion.” But at the same time, I don’t think this should be in the sense that having a religion should be “better” than not. People who do not have a religion also should be bettering themselves.

  33. I actually thought, after I wrote that, there probably are plenty of religions out there which tell you that your life is fine as it is and no changes in your behavior are required. I’m not sure that I personally see the value in such religions, as I like it when sacrifices and improvements are called for, but I’m sure someone could disagree with me on that.

    I have been thinking about this for most of the morning. I still think I agree that having a religion should look different than not having a religion, but more in terms of a personal maxim, i.e. that’s what I want religion to be for me. While I realize that my personal preferences largely inform my religious choices, I don’t personally want to fall into the trap of looking for spiritual justification for what I wanted to do or believe anyway. In other words, I feel like my religion should force me to make accomodations elsewhere in my life.

    But I wouldn’t use it necessarily as a norm to judge other people by, at the very least because I don’t know what their life would look like without their religion. Alternately, they may be religious but just not that zealous, and I’m not going to insist that everyone claiming a religion meets a minimum threshold of zeal or else their professed religion is not valid.

    I can also see where a religion is thoroughly integrated into a society’s culture, a person in that culture may generally behave like the culture’s religious believers even though he does not accept the religion. He won’t perform the same religious rites, for example, but his norms may correlate nearly 100% with the religion’s norms, because the religion is pretty much completely integrated into the culture.

  34. Beer is Word of Wisdom approved isn’t it?

    I deny the existence of a god that says I should not drink beer. Beer is awesome.

  35. Yet another interesting side note to Spenser’s article and TIms’ blog: a huge factor in the evangelical collapse is the profound absence of life transformation for many of these ev.’s. For all the rhetoric about “life changing sermons/seminars/books/relics”, lives that are actually radically transformed , and look remarkably like those found in the NT and church history are astonishingly rare. After 10, 15, 25 yrs, folks ask “is this all there is ….?” and either 1) check out of church altogether 2) pursue some quasi-christian alternative 3) grab an exciting hobby and say “wahhhhh-hoooo”

    Jack’s point is on target here: early christians were called, at times, followers of The Way. Praxis that stood out was a christian norm. Seen any of this lately ??

    the phrase that Spenser uses to describe this praxis, ancient or modern, is “Jesus shaped spirituality”. Do all our religious gyrations produce behavior , speech, and attitudes that reflect HIM ?? Does the church produce “decisions for Jesus” OR “disciples of Jesus ??”

    GEMrIT

  36. But I wouldn’t use it necessarily as a norm to judge other people by, at the very least because I don’t know what their life would look like without their religion.

    Kullervo, that’s a really good point–and a key, I think, to tolerance, love, and respect.

    It reminds me of a part in Mere Christianity when Lewis argues that you can’t judge the truthfulness of Christianity (and by extension, I suppose, any religion) by the objective actions of its followers–because the real question is not so much how a person behaves compared to others, but how they behave compared to themselves. In other words, how different would their life be without it?

    Since we don’t really know how people would be without it, we need to be graceful and charitable in cutting folks some slack.

  37. Kullervo: I can see where the “fruit of the Spirit” can look like different things in different places, and when housed in different people….I am a huge (internally) C.S. Lewis fan, but his observation doesn’t pursuade me: I sure don’t think that people are mostly affected my right theological ideas. The attraction of Jesus was Jesus. If HIS live is not multiplied in us, in a way that people can see and appreciate, what kind of apologetic do we have ?? Not saying that a non-follower of Jesus is bereft of good works, but back to Jack’s comment: does following our religion (perhaps better: the person of Jesus) make us the kind of people that wins an audience to talk about our beliefs (that produce that behavior) OR is there no real difference ??

  38. PC,

    Yes, I absolutely expect true religion to have a changing value on the individual. My point is that in most cases (unless we are extremely close to someone over a period of many years), we have no way of knowing what the person would have been without the religion.

    In Mere Christianity, Lewis talks of comparing a gossipy, persnickety old Christian woman with a congenial, outgoing atheist. Someone looking at those two people from the outside would say, “See! Christianity has done nothing for that mean woman, and the nice guy didn’t need it!”

    But that’s not the case, because we don’t know but that the nasty woman would have been even worse without Christ; and the nice guy would have been even better.

    The point, then, is that we can judge and gauge the extent to which we are allowing our religion to work within us and change us within ourselves, but the instant we try to make that same judgment in others, we have a problem. That’s because we cannot possibly have an intimate understanding of the “raw material” that person is dealing with.

    So the best thing we can do is give people the benefit of the doubt, and love ’em anyway.

    I’ll check out the Parable of the Ring and get back to you later on your second question…

  39. “The point, then, is that we can judge and gauge the extent to which we are allowing our religion to work within us and change us within ourselves, but the instant we try to make that same judgment in others, we have a problem. “

    Even if we can’t judge an individual very well, Can’t we judge groups by their religion?

    It may not make sense to judge by one datapoint but if we have a whole lot we should be able to discern some patterns.

    Shouldn’t a “true” religion make a noticeable difference when averaged out over a lot of people? (Just like language and other cultural influences?)

  40. If you notice, this has strayed off the topic. Jack said that having a religion should not look the same as not having a religion, and I said i agreed, in a qualified manner. This was never really about whether we can judge other people–or other religions–based on the quality of their behavior. We’re talking about to what extent a religion should be life-changing for people, not whether we can judge a tree by its fruits. They’re similar, but not the same.

  41. The point I like about Jacks comment is the direction is self-reflection. Does my religion change me ?? But I don’t think that same concern has to be limited to ourselves, even if it should start with ourselves. Also, there is “judging” in order to make ourselves look better (this is the common variety) and then there is judging as in making a righteous assessment (the not so common variety). Taking stock of ourselves first, and others (for their benefit) later are not, to me, all that unrelated.

  42. I think Katie’s quote from Mere Christianity is right on. Christianity (and other religions) should certainly be life-changing, but measuring whether or not a religion has been life-changing in other people can be difficult to judge.

    I personally don’t feel like I’m a great example of evangelical Christianity, at least not these days. I’m sure people could look at my lifestyle and say, “Yeah right, there’s not much difference between you and a culturally clean-cut person who isn’t religious.” However, there isn’t a doubt in my mind that without Christianity, I’d be a much worse person than I am now. I have a fast temper, inherited from my father, which I’ve constantly worked at keeping in check because I believe that’s what Christianity wants. Without it I’m sure I would have gone straight down my father’s path of abusing my kids and blaming everything that goes wrong in my life on my children and spouse.

    Anyways, I think I will try to upload Nasser’s talk for tomorrow because it really does hit on so many of the ways Christianity can and should be discernibly life-changing.

  43. Jared, I don’t know about the whole “judging groups” thing…because unless you’re doing some sort of empirical scientific study, it’s still hard to say. You might just happen to associate with a bunch of bastards who just happen to be religious in one way or another.

    I know that without religion, my life would probably be a lot more fun, but a lot less stable. 😀

  44. Eh. Mine was about the same, to be honest. I mean, there has been a lot more beer post-Mormonism. But not so much that I’m shipwrecking my life or anything. And tarot cards. Beer and tarot cards.

  45. And AC/DC.

    I guess, my morals and values were informed by Mormonism but not dictated to me by Mormonism. As much as my mother consistently failed to understand it, the values I developed while growing up were not totally rooted in Mormonism but were independently formed (although not for the most part in conflict with Mormonism). I never really completely internalized Mormonism’s value system.

    So while leaving the Church left me with a crisis of identity, spiritual longing, and a crisis of meaning, it never caused me to have a crisis of values.

  46. Kullervo’s post brings up an interesting, and sometimes troubling tension: does our community of faith HELP form our values and lifestyle , but in a way that does not dominate or over ride the role of the Holy Spirit in our walk with Jesus. A very tricky balance between a faith that is so private that our fellow believers really don’t have a serious voice in how we live OR some kind of legalism or moralism where Pastor Bob and friends have it all figured out and we just need to stick to the outline. Between the margins of excess we find life with Jesus, and life with those HE has put in our lives.

    Both our personal spiritual health , and the health of our particular congregation seems to in part ride on the success of finding this balance.

    One thing I really like about M. Spenser’s post and sermons is that he really gets the importance of avoiding either excess.

  47. As to “judging others” I’m pretty certain that the context for “iron sharpening iron” is a level of friendship and discipleship that is foreign to many; I think the NT presumes this level of knowing each other PRIOR to making those kinds of judgments. Otherwise, it’s just the heavenly gestapo on patrol

  48. Katie said: “unless you’re doing some sort of empirical scientific study, it’s still hard to say”

    Well, my point is that its really uninformed and nearly impossible to say anything unless you do this sort of study.

    If you are going to judge or compare religions and their impact on humanity (or even the expected impact on you as an individual) it seems that if you don’t do it scientifically some how you are just shooting from the hip.

    However the scientific method has rarely been rigorously applied to these issues (hence the impenetrable fog surrounding its effects on people and what it really does).

    I share William James’ hope that we may eventually develop this sort of knowledge. quoted here

  49. Pingback: Religion vs. relationship « Irresistible (Dis)Grace

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