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15 Reasons Why I Left Church


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#1 Greg P

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Posted 22 March 2012 - 12:05 PM

Andy posted this today on FB and I found it refreshing, encouraging and affirming, so I'm reposting here. It could've probably been dumped into several older threads, but I felt like it deserved a fresh chance at discussion. There are a lot of 30 and 40-somethings on this board, and I think this probably strikes at the heart of a lot of what our demographic struggles with in the western church.

I admit I haven't read her book, but now I'm interested in checking it out. Reason #10 does sorta dismantle the power of her list and I can't tell if she included it with a mischievous, sideways wink for the sake of the Pharisees who will read it (in which case I like it), or if it's an actual guilty hangover from her evangelical past (in which case, I don't). Maybe it's a little of both. Nevertheless, I suspect many of us feel this way or have felt this way-- and frankly it's probably not talked about enough.

I moved this week to a new city and I've been researching the faith community in the neighborhood for a couple months. This has included looking at cheesy church websites, scanning statements of faith and reading between the lines, and consulting google maps. It's all pretty depressing, actually. Throughout the process I've asked myself repeatedly, "Do I REALLY miss going to church all that much?" The answer is probably "no".

Edited by Greg P, 22 March 2012 - 12:08 PM.


#2 Christian

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Posted 22 March 2012 - 01:13 PM

Andy posted this today on FB and I found it refreshing, encouraging and affirming, so I'm reposting here. It could've probably been dumped into several older threads, but I felt like it deserved a fresh chance at discussion. There are a lot of 30 and 40-somethings on this board, and I think this probably strikes at the heart of a lot of what our demographic struggles with in the western church.

I admit I haven't read her book, but now I'm interested in checking it out. Reason #10 does sorta dismantle the power of her list and I can't tell if she included it with a mischievous, sideways wink for the sake of the Pharisees who will read it (in which case I like it), or if it's an actual guilty hangover from her evangelical past (in which case, I don't). Maybe it's a little of both. Nevertheless, I suspect many of us feel this way or have felt this way-- and frankly it's probably not talked about enough.

I moved this week to a new city and I've been researching the faith community in the neighborhood for a couple months. This has included looking at cheesy church websites, scanning statements of faith and reading between the lines, and consulting google maps. It's all pretty depressing, actually. Throughout the process I've asked myself repeatedly, "Do I REALLY miss going to church all that much?" The answer is probably "no".

Thanks for posting this here, Greg. It's a better forum for discussion than is a Facebook comments thread. And, since I highlighted reason #10 in Andy's comment thread, I suppose I should address the issue, whether one thinks I'm a Pharisee or not.

I do think there are reasons to leave a church, but I am weary of people who decide to leave the church. I am, frankly, not sure what the author is saying. Note that she mentions an upcoming post about why she "stayed with the Church--with a capital-C--." But within the initial post says she "left church" -- that's the headline -- followed by several references to "the church," with a lowercase "c." Is she leading up to the distinction I made in the first sentence of this paragraph? Maybe. If so, that negates most of my concern, although I'd argue with how she states what she states in the linked post.

I have been a member of A&F for years, and I long ago stopped posting in the "Religion" section of the board (in its previous incarnation) because almost all of the posts were from disaffected Evangelicals complaining about the church, or they were arguments among Roman Catholics, Orthodox and Evangelicals. Not just minor points, but stuff that goes to the heart of one's faith.

I see that in religious culture more broadly. The people that get the attention are the fire-breathing Southern Baptists (who must be condemned at all costs!) while people who seek to redefine doctrines that the church has believed since its inception are defended as heroes. In the meantime, no one wants to celebrate their church, or where they worship. They want to point out flaws in their own denomination, or belief system. They especially want to point out the flaws in others' belief systems.

I can't complain about this too loudly, being a proponent of such strategies for many years. In a way, that area of the board was an instrument of reaping what I'd sowed over the years. I'm glad that there are other areas of the board that are more encouraging.

Back to the author's arguments. I'm not a proponent of lone-ranger Christianity, so when people declare they've set off on their own, I don't cheer them on. I realize that a congregation can sometimes hold one back, but the answer, I contend, is to find another place to worship. Not to "leave the church." In my experience, that's usually symptomatic of much deeper problems within the person leaving than it is within the church.

Edited by Christian, 22 March 2012 - 01:14 PM.


#3 andrew_b_welch

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Posted 22 March 2012 - 01:42 PM

Really enjoyed the post. As someone who didn't attend church regularly for about two, almost three years (2009-2011) I can identify with a lot of those points. It wasn't that I didn't want to find a church, it was that no place I tried seemed to fit me. Some people enjoy a certain kind of contemporary, nondenominational service...but I don't, which puts me at odds with many in my age group (I'm 27, btw).

Now that I've found a congregation I enjoy, I actually look forward to church, or at least feel a certain amount of responsibility about going. The congregation skews older, which makes it difficult to fit in in other ways, but I find the corporateness of the worship refreshing. I'm bothered by services where everyone seems lost in their own world. I enjoy the liturgical approach. It has a certain beauty that other types of services lack. Not that one is objectively better than the other, it's just the one that works for me. I need to feel like I'm part of something larger than myself, and yet unified, if that makes any sense.

#4 Greg P

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Posted 22 March 2012 - 04:07 PM

Back to the author's arguments. I'm not a proponent of lone-ranger Christianity, so when people declare they've set off on their own, I don't cheer them on. I realize that a congregation can sometimes hold one back, but the answer, I contend, is to find another place to worship. Not to "leave the church." In my experience, that's usually symptomatic of much deeper problems within the person leaving than it is within the church.

I think any evangelical who's ever found themselves ostracized, or worse, by a church because of their political, scientific, philosophical or cultural convictions, will realize this harsh fact: There's not really anywhere to go. The Evangelical church has a long history of elevating these peripheral issues to the status of primary doctrine and of carving deep lines of demarcation between the "faithful" and the liberal "renegades" who they perceive are trying to infiltrate and dilute the purity of the faith. But as I said earlier in another thread-- no one who's been in evangelical circles as long as us should be surprised by any of this.

I've experienced the widespread tensions and false, legalistic strictures she describes. Sadly, the road to "community" for most people like us-- at least in a religious sense-- is a dirt road that narrows thru the wilderness and drops off the edge of a jagged ravine. Maybe this is a death march of our own doing. Or maybe we have a valid point... which is, the evangelical church is a mile wide and one inch deep and that conformity to tertiary beliefs, philosophies and doctrines is non-negotiable and that people who question this paper piety in any sense are automatically placed in some subterranean caste system.

So I've been scouting the new options for christian fellowship in town. What i've found is Southern Baptist, various Charismatic groups (the same franchise except with louder music and tongues), Catholic churches and Unity groups. I want to be a part of a viable faith community at this point in my life and yes, I still adhere to the teachings of Christ, but is it any surprise that I'm considering a Unity church? It's not what I want, but if I'm gonna "settle", it might as well be at a place that's not going to make me feel shitty for not being a young earth creationist or a Republican.

Edited by Greg P, 22 March 2012 - 04:22 PM.


#5 Christian

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Posted 22 March 2012 - 08:29 PM

I don't know what a Unity church is. That's how out of it I am.

Also, there are much worse things to be than a young-earth creationist or a Republican. Who cares? I mean, I guess you do, Greg, but why should it matter? Why is it so hard to focus on the things that unite you to those fellow believers rather than on the areas where you differ? Is every conversation with those folks about which political candidate you support, or about evolution and science? Can't you ever just steer the conversation to, ya know, Van Halen or something?

EDIT: Oh, and here's the blogger's 15 reasons she returned to church.

Edited by Christian, 22 March 2012 - 08:30 PM.


#6 bloop

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Posted 22 March 2012 - 09:30 PM

I don't know. I've been to churches that really did seem like glorified fronts for the Republican party. I don't think I could take those places of worship at this point in my life. Also, though I love my church (which seems relatively moderate to me) there are a few respected members who will needle their politics into any conversation in an abrasive, condescending way.

Also, I might scream at the next person who dismisses evolutionary theory by being a complete ignoramus about the theory. That person may even ultimately be my father-in-law.

#7 Greg P

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Posted 22 March 2012 - 09:50 PM

Also, there are much worse things to be than a young-earth creationist or a Republican. Who cares? I mean, I guess you do, Greg, but why should it matter? Why is it so hard to focus on the things that unite you to those fellow believers rather than on the areas where you differ?

It's hard because it's not allowed. I'm not being glib. I felt after a couple decades inside that church tradition that such differences in peripheral issues of life are simply unacceptable.

If you want to find out how true this is, mention to a few church members this Sunday in casual conversation how you believe in evolution or support gay marriage or the legalization of marijuana, and watch what happens. Fun experiment.

#8 Andy Whitman

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Posted 23 March 2012 - 08:16 AM


Andy posted this today on FB and I found it refreshing, encouraging and affirming, so I'm reposting here. It could've probably been dumped into several older threads, but I felt like it deserved a fresh chance at discussion. There are a lot of 30 and 40-somethings on this board, and I think this probably strikes at the heart of a lot of what our demographic struggles with in the western church.

I admit I haven't read her book, but now I'm interested in checking it out. Reason #10 does sorta dismantle the power of her list and I can't tell if she included it with a mischievous, sideways wink for the sake of the Pharisees who will read it (in which case I like it), or if it's an actual guilty hangover from her evangelical past (in which case, I don't). Maybe it's a little of both. Nevertheless, I suspect many of us feel this way or have felt this way-- and frankly it's probably not talked about enough.

I moved this week to a new city and I've been researching the faith community in the neighborhood for a couple months. This has included looking at cheesy church websites, scanning statements of faith and reading between the lines, and consulting google maps. It's all pretty depressing, actually. Throughout the process I've asked myself repeatedly, "Do I REALLY miss going to church all that much?" The answer is probably "no".

Thanks for posting this here, Greg. It's a better forum for discussion than is a Facebook comments thread. And, since I highlighted reason #10 in Andy's comment thread, I suppose I should address the issue, whether one thinks I'm a Pharisee or not.

I do think there are reasons to leave a church, but I am weary of people who decide to leave the church. I am, frankly, not sure what the author is saying. Note that she mentions an upcoming post about why she "stayed with the Church--with a capital-C--." But within the initial post says she "left church" -- that's the headline -- followed by several references to "the church," with a lowercase "c." Is she leading up to the distinction I made in the first sentence of this paragraph? Maybe. If so, that negates most of my concern, although I'd argue with how she states what she states in the linked post.

I have been a member of A&F for years, and I long ago stopped posting in the "Religion" section of the board (in its previous incarnation) because almost all of the posts were from disaffected Evangelicals complaining about the church, or they were arguments among Roman Catholics, Orthodox and Evangelicals. Not just minor points, but stuff that goes to the heart of one's faith.

I see that in religious culture more broadly. The people that get the attention are the fire-breathing Southern Baptists (who must be condemned at all costs!) while people who seek to redefine doctrines that the church has believed since its inception are defended as heroes. In the meantime, no one wants to celebrate their church, or where they worship. They want to point out flaws in their own denomination, or belief system. They especially want to point out the flaws in others' belief systems.

I can't complain about this too loudly, being a proponent of such strategies for many years. In a way, that area of the board was an instrument of reaping what I'd sowed over the years. I'm glad that there are other areas of the board that are more encouraging.

Back to the author's arguments. I'm not a proponent of lone-ranger Christianity, so when people declare they've set off on their own, I don't cheer them on. I realize that a congregation can sometimes hold one back, but the answer, I contend, is to find another place to worship. Not to "leave the church." In my experience, that's usually symptomatic of much deeper problems within the person leaving than it is within the church.

Well, since I inadvertently started this, I'll respond.

The problem is that many people can't find the church (small "c") that you suggest that they find.

For what it's worth, I'll celebrate my church. I genuinely love it, and I'm very thankful for it. But I think it's a rare thing, and I've experienced enough of what Rachel Held Evans describes to know that she's far from unique, and that she speaks for many, many disaffected Christians. A good church is hard to find. They're out there, but you may have to dig.

And there are many who don't find it at all, and who give up. I think that's unfortunate, but I understand it. It's possible to view that as the product of selfishness and pride, a sort of petty dismissal on the part of people who aren't willing to live with differences. But I'm fairly certain that it goes deeper than that. There are many people out there who are acutely aware of their own brokenness, and who end up in church in search of, you know, spiritual transformation. What they find is a focus on doctrinal minutiae, denominational distinctives, and a particular cultural/political worldview that is based more on middle-class respectability and a narrow definition of upright citizenship than it is on gradually looking more and more like Christ. And so they stop. They think that church is doing more harm than good, quite possibly because it is.

These issues are compounded because most churches simply have no room for screw-ups. Many people actually know that they're screw-ups. It's why they're in church, in fact, but they're taught, again and again, that their sin is a thing of the past, part of the old man that is dead and buried in Christ, and hallelujah! they've been redeemed. Except they haven't been, at least in some critical areas of their lives. So they shut up and act out the charade, week after week, until they don't. They start thinking that it's pointless, again quite possibly because it is.

These are stereotypes, and I realize, thank God, that there are exceptions to the stereotypes, but here's how it typically breaks down: The Catholics and Orthodox do what they do. You're welcome to join, but you're not there to negotiate the proceedings. It is what it is. And if you don't like what it is, and if you disagree with key beliefs, too bad. You're welcome to move on. The mainline Protestant world is full of nice, decent people who often don't seem to have any inkling of their brokenness. Eventually they end of up in rehab or divorce proceedings, just like everybody else. And the evangelicals understand their need for a savior, and their need for redemption, and then promptly forget about it because it's easier to dabble in the culture wars than it is to engage in the hard work of surrendering to God day by day, moment by moment.

Stereotypes? You bet. But it's what a lot of people find. And those stereotypes encompass the spiritual options of many Americans. Is it any wonder that people give up altogether?

The Church (capital "C") needs to welcome screw-ups. It needs to address the ways that people -- Christians and non-Christians -- screw up, and it needs to be characterized by what it is for -- restoring broken people into right relationship with God and one another -- rather than what it is against. Until that happens, the Rachel Held Evans' of the world will continue to leave by the millions.

Edited by Andy Whitman, 23 March 2012 - 08:18 AM.


#9 Greg P

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Posted 23 March 2012 - 09:12 AM

Great post, Andy.

A good church is hard to find. They're out there, but you may have to dig.

And even digging, sometimes, yields nuthin'.

As a small footnote, I think the ability to find a good church by digging often boils down to geography. Let's face it, certain parts of the country are unquestionably more traditionally conservative or religiously formal and less educated and/or forward-thinking. Each city or town has its own unique cultural challenges and ones ability to find a suitable church is dictated by that, to a large degree. People searching for more spiritual/emotional flexibility and openness in a church are much more likely to find it in Seattle or Austin than say, Duluth.

Christians repeat the mantra "don't forsake the assembling of yourselves" (of course the context of that verse is rarely ever discussed)... along with the accompanying personal admonition "you NEED fellowship, my brother". I've been hearing this for years and the question I always have is "how does listening to a musical performance and then a 40-50-minute speech, translate into 'fellowship'?" To say we need close friendships, face-to-face interactions and personal support/acceptance I would shout a hearty, pentecostal "Hallelujah!!!" The "essential" nature of the other stuff I'm not so sure about, even though I love music and a good speech.

#10 Christian

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Posted 23 March 2012 - 09:20 AM

Yes, the church is full of screw-ups. But what we don't talk about nearly enough -- here or elsewhere -- is how the church can make us whole, or how it is making us whole.

Being disaffected seems to be the key component of its own sort of fellowship, and in case it wasn't clear from my earlier posts here, I think my role in discussions of religion is to stand against those who find it easier to stand together by sharing what they don't like than to work (hard) to find their place within a worshiping community. It's easier to leave than it is to stay sometimes, but the church, while it's a congregation of people, is more than just people. When you decide to leave, you cut yourself off from the means of grace -- the preached word and the sacraments. Yes, you can listen to sermons on your own, but it's a different experience (not saying it might not be a better experience, at least sometimes), just like you can have fellowship online instead of in person, although that's not really the same thing either, is it? (Again, sometimes it's easier, even a blessing).

You're losing out on more than you're gaining when you leave the church. If you can't see past what you don't like in order to get what you need, then you're on the wrong track. God has appointed means -- the preached word and the sacraments. He has not appointed online discussion boards (although these can be great places), watching football on Sundays instead of worshipping, etc.

Why do I write that? Who's it going to convince? Probably no one who isn't inclined to believe it already. But I'm convinced it's true, it's Biblical, it's historical, and it's all a blessing. The church needs woshippers, the church needs members, the church needs committed people. But believers need the church! It's not negotiable. It's not an option.

It might not be easy to attend. But even Rachel returned to the church -- and for good reason.

#11 jfutral

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Posted 23 March 2012 - 12:31 PM

Yes, the church is full of screw-ups. But what we don't talk about nearly enough -- here or elsewhere -- is how the church can make us whole, or how it is making us whole.

I would hazard a guess that this is part of the problem, what this actually means—what is wrong with someone to begin with and a particular church's ideas on how you should be made whole.

[edited to add]

But even Rachel returned to the church


Sure. I could be wrong, but I suspect that what you mean by "returned to the church" and what she means is probably not all that much alike. But, like I said, I could be wrong.

Joe

Edited by jfutral, 23 March 2012 - 12:35 PM.


#12 Christian

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Posted 23 March 2012 - 01:25 PM

Sure. I could be wrong, but I suspect that what you mean by "returned to the church" and what she means is probably not all that much alike. But, like I said, I could be wrong.

Granted. I was, in part, trying to push the discussion to her follow-up post about returning.

#13 Attica

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Posted 23 March 2012 - 09:35 PM

while people who seek to redefine doctrines that the church has believed since its inception are defended as heroes. In the meantime, no one wants to celebrate their church, or where they worship. They want to point out flaws in their own denomination, or belief system. They especially want to point out the flaws in others' belief systems.


I'm not meaning to be argumentative with this comment, but I've been pondering what you've said here and I have some thoughts. I think one of the things that is going on and why certain people are disenfranchised with the church is that there isn't that many denominations that are actually teaching doctrines that the church has believed since its inception.....being a more loving, merciful God, and a more community based Ecclesia. There are virtually none that hold close to what the very early church (pre Constantine) believed, and little in Western Christianity that is holding close to what the church before Augustine believed, and then even less that are holding close to what the church before Calvin believed in regards to the atonement.


Some examples.

1)Before Constantine and the Nicene Creed the church at large celebrated sabbath on Saturday beginning at Sundown on Friday night, like the Jews. They also held easter on passover instead of its current dating. They were not operating out of a heirarichal parish system.

2)Before Augustine the vast majority of the early church didn't child baptize...... why..... because they didn't believe in the Augustinian understanding of original sin, which is to be found (to varying degrees) in pretty much all of Western Christianity...... The pre-Augustinian church thought that mankind was basically good and became corrupted through their choice to sin, and was born with a free will and able to choose God..... they thought that we inherited "death" not a "sin nature" from Adam but were born into a world were sin abounded and could/would impact people to sin. The Eastern Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, Coptic, Celtic, Ethiopia Orthodox, Indian Orthodox churches still reject this doctrine..... Its only to be found in Roman Catholocism and its Protestant offshoots.

3) Before Augustine a good chunk of the church didn't believe in eternal torments, but instead of the sacrament of correction and purification.... Augustine was the first to dogmatically teach this doctrine. Augustine himself has said in his writings that "the mass of men believe that there will be an end to the torments"(he called them tender hearted doctors). The Eastern Church especially taught Apostastacasis (meaning the ultimate reconciliation of all - which is the Greek wording found in Peters sermon in Acts 3)..... this understanding was widespread amongst Christians who read, thought, and wrote in the Koine Greek language, which is of course the language of the original Biblical texts. The doctrine of Apostastacasis is slowly being restored to some of the church.

4 )Before Anselm the entire church believed in the Christus Victor view of the Atonement. The Penal Substitution view which is so dominant in Protestantism was completely foreign to the church, before Calvin. The Christus Victor view is still found amongst some Protestants, some Anglicans, and all the Orthodox branches.

5) Most (if not all) of the church did not believe in an ultra-literal interpretation of the scriptures until Christianity was influenced by the age of reason.

6) Until the 1800's the vast majority of Christianity believed in what is known as "historic preterism"... being that they thought that a good chunk of the prophecies that much of Christianity is currently throwing onto "end times doctrine" were fulfilled at 70 AD during the fall of Jerusalem and the temple. Also before this time rapture theology was unheard of.

7) The early church didn't use Icons....not that this is such a big deal... but it shows that even Orthodoxy has made some changes..... they just haven't really made changes in the last thousand years or so.

8) Before the reformation ALL of Christianity was liturgical...... All of Christianity believed in the real presence during the Eucharist, and that it was a gracious life giving sacrament. That being said the very early church was closer to the Eastern Orthodox and Anglican understanding of the Eucharist than the Roman Catholic understanding.



That's just a few example touching on some huge huge doctrines. What I'm trying to get at.... is that there isn't one denomination (major at least) that Hasn't got some form of changed doctrine. In fact there is little room in Christianity for someone who holds their doctrines and beliefs close to the Ante-Nicene church (Myself being one). But look at the changes I've listed (and there are a lot more than this)..... pretty much every change progressively leads to either a darker view of humanity, or a darker understanding of God being an angry tyrant.... instead of a loving, gracious,merciful, and yes just (true justice) father to humanity. So what do we do..... we just go to a church and learn when to shut up, and therefore not be considered a heretic for believing what a good chunk (in some docrtrines all) of the early Christians believed.

So a lot of what's sometimes seen as trying to redefine doctrines is actually trying to restore them (at least to those people).

I've probably said a little something here to tick off pretty much everybody ::blushing:: ...... my point isn't about who is (or what is) right or wrong but merely that nobody is believing everything that the church has believed since its inception...... and some of these beliefs are reasons why people have left church.

Edited by Attica, 24 March 2012 - 12:15 AM.


#14 Andy Whitman

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Posted 24 March 2012 - 08:10 AM

Yes, the church is full of screw-ups. But what we don't talk about nearly enough -- here or elsewhere -- is how the church can make us whole, or how it is making us whole.

Being disaffected seems to be the key component of its own sort of fellowship, and in case it wasn't clear from my earlier posts here, I think my role in discussions of religion is to stand against those who find it easier to stand together by sharing what they don't like than to work (hard) to find their place within a worshiping community. It's easier to leave than it is to stay sometimes, but the church, while it's a congregation of people, is more than just people. When you decide to leave, you cut yourself off from the means of grace -- the preached word and the sacraments. Yes, you can listen to sermons on your own, but it's a different experience (not saying it might not be a better experience, at least sometimes), just like you can have fellowship online instead of in person, although that's not really the same thing either, is it? (Again, sometimes it's easier, even a blessing).

You're losing out on more than you're gaining when you leave the church. If you can't see past what you don't like in order to get what you need, then you're on the wrong track. God has appointed means -- the preached word and the sacraments. He has not appointed online discussion boards (although these can be great places), watching football on Sundays instead of worshipping, etc.

Why do I write that? Who's it going to convince? Probably no one who isn't inclined to believe it already. But I'm convinced it's true, it's Biblical, it's historical, and it's all a blessing. The church needs woshippers, the church needs members, the church needs committed people. But believers need the church! It's not negotiable. It's not an option.

It might not be easy to attend. But even Rachel returned to the church -- and for good reason.

Of course I agree with this, Christian. It's better to be involved in a church (at least a good one) than not.

In terms of "means of grace," I don't dispute the efficacious but mysterious nature of the sacraments. The value of the preached word depends, I suspect, on what is being preached. If the preaching consists of exhortations to engage in the culture wars, as is increasingly common in many evangelical churches, then it's not surprising to me that people tune out and leave.

For what it's worth, I'm surrounded by these people. Many of them grew up in the evangelical church, were disgusted (and that's not too strong a word) by what they saw, and bailed. Now, sometimes after many years in the "world," they're cautiously returning to the church. The reason is that they want to follow Jesus. What does that look like? It looks like living in the inner city, living together, sharing their stuff and their lives, and becoming involved in a variety of ministry opportunities that were characterized as "liberal" or "communist" in their former churches, but which they're convinced are biblical and reflect the heart of Christ.

They could not stay in those former churches. Many of them tried. They tried to tough it out for all the reasons you mentioned, but there were such fundamental disagreements about the nature of Christianity and following Christ that it became impossible to stay. On a doctrinal level they may have still agreed with their home churches. But in terms of the implications of those doctrines, and what they meant in terms of how one lived life, there was a total disconnect. There was also a fairly radical disagreement about the appropriate way to engage the surrounding culture. For many of my friends, their home churches were places of fear, anger, and disengagement with the culture. The drawbridge went up, and the people stayed inside, venturing out every couple of years to head to the voting booth. And that's not what they believed or how they wanted to live. So they left.

There are a lot of scars there. Some of them are self-imposed, of course. Some, out of rebellion, pride, or whatever else drives people to reject their upbringings, went off the deep end. So my church has its share of divorced people, addicts, and idealistic neo-hippies and tattooed, pierced, wounded warriors who have no idea how to hold down a job. On the plus side, they want to follow Jesus.

But this is what the evangelical church looks like a couple generations down the line. The faithful remnant hang out in the castle and listen to Rush Limbaugh and worry themselves about the communist/Muslim takeover. Two-thirds of their kids -- part of the 8 million twenty-somethings Rachel Held Evans mentions -- have given up the proceedings altogether. And the other third regroup, cautiously, and try something very different. They read their Bibles and envision a church that looks very different from that of their parents and grandparents.

#15 Ryan H.

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Posted 24 March 2012 - 12:13 PM

They read their Bibles and envision a church that looks very different from that of their parents and grandparents.

Not a bad project, perhaps, but it's also symptomatic of the great tragedy of Protestantism; Protestantism is a great fracture that spider-webbed into countless smaller ones until nothing is left but a web of cracks. In truth, the last thing the world needs is another new Christianity, another pendulum swing against the generations that proceeded before it. This persistent fracturing only eats away at the continued witness of the Church. What we need is to rediscover the old Christianity, something that American Christianity is scarcely aware of, given its poor grasp of history and suspicion of tradition, otherwise we simply continue chipping away at the bridge that extends between us and Jesus, who has been presented to us through the traditions and writings of a long-standing historical community.

#16 Andy Whitman

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Posted 24 March 2012 - 01:00 PM

They read their Bibles and envision a church that looks very different from that of their parents and grandparents.

Not a bad project, perhaps, but it's also symptomatic of the great tragedy of Protestantism; Protestantism is a great fracture that spider-webbed into countless smaller ones until nothing is left but a web of cracks. In truth, the last thing the world needs is another new Christianity, another pendulum swing against the generations that proceeded before it. This persistent fracturing only eats away at the continued witness of the Church. What we need is to rediscover the old Christianity, something that American Christianity is scarcely aware of, given its poor grasp of history and suspicion of tradition, otherwise we simply continue chipping away at the bridge that extends between us and Jesus, who has been presented to us through the traditions and writings of a long-standing historical community.

I'm part of a church that reads the Bible, and studies Church history and tradition, and engages in social justice, and worships liturgically and incorporates the prayers and spiritual disciplines that have been a part of the Church for 2,000 years. It's a hybrid of evangelicalism, mainline Protestantism, the charismatic tradition, and Catholicism and Orthodoxy. Of course, we like to think that we borrow the best parts of each. Or, if you prefer, we like to think of ourselves as the "old" Christianity (even before Constantine!). But of course that's open for interpretation. What isn't? Welcome to the Church in 2012.

Edited by Andy Whitman, 24 March 2012 - 01:00 PM.


#17 Thom Wade

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Posted 24 March 2012 - 09:00 PM

What we need is to rediscover the old Christianity, something that American Christianity is scarcely aware of, given its poor grasp of history and suspicion of tradition, otherwise we simply continue chipping away at the bridge that extends between us and Jesus, who has been presented to us through the traditions and writings of a long-standing historical community.



Attica's previous comments suggest this is true of the Church well beyond America as well. Depending on who you talk too, The Orthodox or the Catholic started chipping away...why is Protestantism always blamed when there was already an example set before them?

#18 Ryan H.

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Posted 24 March 2012 - 09:10 PM

Depending on who you talk too, The Orthodox or the Catholic started chipping away...why is Protestantism always blamed when there was already an example set before them?

Because Protestantism did something that the prior schism of the church did not, ultimately suggesting that the contents of Right Belief are up to the individual's conscience. It's telling that the first schism resulted in two distinct traditions that nevertheless continued to have a reasonably consistent sense of identity and communion amongst themselves, but that the latter schism resulted in a practically endless series of formulations of Christian belief.

Edited by Ryan H., 24 March 2012 - 09:16 PM.


#19 Attica

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Posted 25 March 2012 - 12:34 AM


What we need is to rediscover the old Christianity, something that American Christianity is scarcely aware of, given its poor grasp of history and suspicion of tradition, otherwise we simply continue chipping away at the bridge that extends between us and Jesus, who has been presented to us through the traditions and writings of a long-standing historical community.



Attica's previous comments suggest this is true of the Church well beyond America as well. Depending on who you talk too, The Orthodox or the Catholic started chipping away...why is Protestantism always blamed when there was already an example set before them?


My understanding is that the Pre-Constantine church was fairly consistent in their beliefs. But after Constantine legalized Christianity the church (especially in the west) started incorporating pagan elements in order to attract the pagans of the time, which was probably with good intentions but did lead to some changes in how they "did church". But then what happened was that the pagan people started going to church and becoming part of the Christian communities, without truly converting and following Christ...... thus even more pagan thought started to make it's way in. The very early church tried very hard not let let pagan thought, that wasn't compatible with Christianity make it's way into Christendom (they did find some thought to be compatible), but after Constantine the flood gates were opened and there also didn't seem to be as much of a concern.

Then Augustine came around and introduced some thought that was novel and the church bought into it in varying degrees. By the way..... Augustine had Pelagious tried at 3 different synods as a heretic and he was considered orthodox at all of them..... it was later when Augustine had him tried through political means that he was deemed a heretic. I've read some of Pelagious' writings that exist and in those writings he spoke of God's grace. Make of that what you will.

If one reads some of the earlier Christian writings like Basil the Great On the Human Condition, Saint Irenaeus of Lyons: Against Heresies, or some of thought of Gregory of Nyssa, amongst others he/she will find that what they were saying was very different, or even opposed to what Augustine would eventually teach, which had such a great influence on Christian thought (especially in the West). They were in unity on most of their beliefs (althought not in some minor things) and their beliefs were very much more positive. To be honest I can't understand why Christendom holds Augustine in such high regards. Sure he had a brilliant mind, and said some good stuff like the quote of ...."in all things charity". But the fact of it is that Augustine wasn't all that charitable with people who disagreed with him (even in some smaller things). He didn't live up to the quote and had no problems with having those whom he considered "heretics" persecuted to a high degree. The early christian response to those they considered heretics was just to write against them and to generally stay away from them (there is a legend of St. John fleeing from a bathhouse when he found out that a "heretic" was in it.... I'm not sure if it can be proven though).

History seems to show that between the times of Constantine and the East West schism Christianity went into the "dark ages" and there were changes in beliefs and practice, especially in the west, and that the reformation attempted to, but never fully brought back the understandings of ancient Christianity, and in some cases even moved further away. So now what we have in Protestantism is a lot of splits, sometimes with the attempts to restore things (at least in their minds) but often the splits are for more petty reasons.

For the record my personal belief and understanding is that the demonic is continually trying to send Christianity astray, and has managed to trip everybody up to varying degrees.....especially through the dark ages. But God is larger and his mercy is with Christendom and he is caring for us even amongst our nonsense. But that of course doesn't mean that our nonsense doesn't have consequences. I'm interested in understanding what the very early Ante-Nicene church believed and have been studying this off and on for the last three years or so...... I had a Bishop friend once tell me the saying that "If one wants to drink clean water they should drink from the start of the stream".

Edited by Attica, 25 March 2012 - 02:25 AM.


#20 Andy Whitman

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Posted 25 March 2012 - 07:19 AM

Depending on who you talk too, The Orthodox or the Catholic started chipping away...why is Protestantism always blamed when there was already an example set before them?

Because Protestantism did something that the prior schism of the church did not, ultimately suggesting that the contents of Right Belief are up to the individual's conscience. It's telling that the first schism resulted in two distinct traditions that nevertheless continued to have a reasonably consistent sense of identity and communion amongst themselves, but that the latter schism resulted in a practically endless series of formulations of Christian belief.

Fair enough. But my heightened sense of individualism tells me that I don't want to be Catholic or Orthodox. Sorry. It's not as if I haven't heard these arguments, oh, about 500 times, Ryan. And I mean no disrespect to my Catholic and Orthodox brothers and sisters. But there are reasons why I'm not a part of those traditions. And yes, those are individual reasons I've arrived at through my own peculiar, personal lens of life experience, church history, understanding of doctrine, etc. It's the same process at work that draws people to Catholicism and Orthodoxy from other Christian traditions, or that results in people leaving Catholicism and Orthodoxy for other Christian traditions. People attempt to suss it out as best they can, and follow Jesus accordingly.