Monday, December 7, 2009

Are Christian Churches Failing

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Before writing anything on this topic I should admit to being a very skeptical Christian.  I find it hard to believe teachings that are illogical, miraculous, or unbelieveable for some other reason - yet I consider myself a Christian. That said, let's explore the impact of the church on American society. 

It is easy to be critical. The history of the church is one of religious wars, abuse of parishoners, corrupt leadership, and so forth -  yet most Christian churches are well meaning and charitable teachers that set standards for the morals, virtues, ethics and principles of humanity. Their preachers tell us that human beings are different from other animals because of our more highly developed brains, and they claim that God chose human beings to rule the world. The Holy Bible seems to support this contention, and  I can go along with most of these fundamental ideas.

But, the church also says that the only way to God and Heaven is belief in Jesus Christ. That strikes me as an arrogant assumption promoted by the clergy and is one of the reasons I keep the church at arms length. But let's proceed. When Christians first came to America there were several denominations among them, and they did not always get along well together. As time passed they never completely healed the divisive breaches. Today, they still struggle to maintain their differences - while at the same time professing  a more eucheminical spirit of acceptance. Confusion reigns.

The largest Christian schism is between the Catholic Church and Protestant Churches.  Both have a bloody history.  For brevity I want to deal here with the more recent past. 

I spent several years in West Germany just after WWII. Some of the twisted steel, denuded landscapes, and bullet pocked broken buildings were still being cleared. Evidence of the war was everywhere. Recovery and reconstructions was still in process. 

I purchased an inexpensive car and traveled extensively with friends. As we drove through rural areas we noticed that most villages contained a large and beautiful Catholic church constructed on a grand scale. The interiors were featured colorful frescos, dark wood carvings, beautiful marble statuary,  and liberal applications of gold leaf everywhere.  Almost every church, regardless of the drab and poor homes around it,  stood over the village with impressive richness and majesty. 

Who paid for all this splendor?  The impoverished villagers. It was the same all over France, Belgium, Spain, Luxemburg, Switzerland and Italy. Poor villages with an overwhelmingly rich Catholic church in the center.

Cut to the chase. The Catholic clergy has been used money collected from their often impoverished parishoners to build grand edifaces. At first glance a person assumes that the building was more important than the lives of the worshipers. This is not true.

Pope John Paul struck a resonant chord with me. I've read almost all of his books and believe he was an outstanding (if stubborn) advocate for the Catholic faith. He was a very intellectual and spiritual man and I can not always follow his intellectual wanderings. At the same time his devotion to the past teachings of the church, and his explanations of their many controversial rules for living have provided a rock solid base for believers. I admire that. Pope John Paul also made it possible for me to view the church in a much kinder way, despite my firm resistance to it's teachings.

I can understand how poor, rural, largely unschooled villagers, can  relieve the stress of their poverty by joining with neighbors to enjoy a magnificent village church. 

The Pope suggests that their devout subscription to the faith and enjoyment of the solid and beautiful church,  relieves the congregation  of earthly cares and nourishes their souls.

I don't want to dig a lot deeper. It seems I am picking on the Catholics but that is not the case. Catholics and Protestants alike have events in their history they would rather forget, but they have more similarities than differences. 

(1) They have ALL funded their churches on the proceeds of the collection plate.
(2) They ALL agree that their believers should join together regularly to worship. 
(3) They ALL agree that they have more in common than not in common.
(4) They ALL agree on the supremacy of human beings.

The Christian religion is the bonding agent.

Christianity depends on peaceful persuasion to promote and spread their belief. Charitable missionary work among heathens all over the world has successfully spread and increased the impact of Christianity, and it has benifited those it has touched.

****  Today Christianity is being attacked by a unfriendly belief system.

****  Christianity does not how to address the aggressive nature of radical Islam.

****  Until it learns to do so Christianity will be in great peril. 

It is estimated that there are over 2 Billion Christians (Catholics, Protestants, and of other descriptions) in the world today. It is by far the largest religion.

The Peaceful Religion of Islam has approximately 1.2 Billion members, and is the second largest religion.

Christians tolerate and live peacefully side by side with all other religions - despite fundamental differences.

Islam's Muslims  do not tolerate nor live peacefully with any persons of any other religion. This statement must be tempered with a distinction between within Islam.

More to come . . .

4 comments:

Rain said...

Interesting and I pretty much agree. Although when I drive around down here and see so many churches on high value property with expensive buildings, one right next to another in some cases, I wonder if our tax laws have contributed to a lot of money going into the religious system that brings back nothing. Some churches do serve the poor but many are into gymnasiums for themselves and their only service is to their own members as a social organization that they claim is spiritual but is it or is it just self serving?

As for the moral teachings, it seems a lot of them believe they can do anything if they ask forgiveness which leads into what we have seen a lot of with our Congress people with righteous talk and secretive actions. Maybe if they didn't believe they got a heavenly reward and thought they had to do whatever good they could do right here, maybe they'd try harder to help those who aren't in their churches and never will be?

I am a little cynical about churches though right now. I still think about how much I miss the Catholic mass or the social community in the country church. It felt good during those years but I'd have to believe they were right to go back to it. Not believing it's right and supporting it seems to me to be part of the problem.

Another good piece from you. You are really a thinker! You aren't a libra by any chance? *s*

Rain said...

Yes and down here in Arizona there are some beautiful churches, missions basically that still serve their populations but they were built with native laborers who got very little or nothing as they did it for 'god'. The people would live in poverty to build those structures which they did feel proud but still it's hard to see it as less than exploitation. In many countries, the church came in to pave the way for other nations to take the riches from the countries.

Rain said...

It might do those things but isn't it based on a lie then? It promises them something that reality cannot promise. They give up life of quality for this illusion. There are many things I like about the Catholic Church. I was an adult convert to it; but reality is I think it's not based on truth. In many cases, the poor people were not given a choice in supporting it by their work. They were virutally slaves. If you tell people they go to hell if they don't do something, is that ever going to be a good thing? Fear as a tactic is commonly used but it doesn't seem to me any spiritual belief that uses it can be good.

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