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 Post subject: The Christian Thread 2.0
PostPosted: February 5 18, 10:14 am 
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I saw that the other one was locked so I hope it is okay to start this one.

I really enjoyed this article and it does a good job of summarizing some of the thoughts I have had for awhile.

https://relevantmagazine.com/god/best-w ... Not%20Tell



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That’s not to say many dedicated and committed people haven’t worked tirelessly to share the Gospel, engage a nonbelieving culture and work for change. But the goal of restoring Christianity’s influence on culture has largely failed.

Need more proof?

We’ve protested at major movie studios, and the result? Zero.
We’ve boycotted television networks, and the result? Zero.
We’ve criticized stores who don’t encourage employees to say “Merry Christmas,” and the result? Zero.
We’ve publicized lists of corporations that aren’t “faith friendly,” and the result? Zero.
We could go on and on, but you get it. An honest and critical look at the last 50 years in America reveals that Christians as a community really haven’t moved the dial on any moral or cultural issue. Why is that? Why has almost every effort failed?

Maybe it’s because we are trying so hard to influence people.



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We haven’t been able to find any real proof that Jesus implemented any of the marketing efforts we’ve used to try to influence the world around us. There’s no evidence that Jesus boycotted anybody, released lists of local companies that weren’t friendly to His message, used the Jews’ buying power to coerce businesses or tried to intimidate the Romans into not occupying Israel. He never sought to rally people to divisive political causes. So maybe it should be no surprise to us that, after decades of those kinds of initiatives, modern Christianity has not only failed to turn things around, but we are actually losing ground.

When we chase influence, nonbelievers see us as being exactly like them, only with a thin veneer of religiosity. To them, we have the appearance of modern-day Pharisees, so they reject what we’re selling. This is exactly why Jesus wasn’t interested in influence as much as He was interested in being an example and showing a better way.

Maybe the problem with Christianity today isn’t a lack of influence.

It’s that we’re chasing it in the first place.



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PostPosted: February 5 18, 11:00 am 
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Thanks for starting the thread, Tim.

Agree with what's being said here, and reminds me of this twitter thread I saw the other day:

Spoiler: show
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I've been unchurched for a while now. When I first moved to St Louis, i attended and volunteered for a trendy Methodist church full of curious, warm people and staff I could trust and confide in. It was great to be a part of a church community who could accept my heterodoxy and attending church definitely did keep me full spiritually for a bit. However, as I settled into St Louis, started making more friends and warming up to community, I quickly found a lot of the things i got out of attending church being fulfilled in other areas in my life in a better and fuller way. While our church's outreach department was great, it wasn't quite like getting directly involved in local politics and making some more material and structural changes. While fellowship was fun and great and I met some really great people, we were all too different and too busy to ever really gel into more lasting and meaningful friendships, outside of a few exceptions, and I've developed a strong friend community through regional Burning Man stuff. My spiritual teaching/bible work was better left to my favorite authors and internet communities. My worship traditions were better served in solitude with some good headphones or meditation than in the church pews.

Moving forward, it's hard to imagine a church or community that checks off one or more of those boxes better than how I'm currently getting those needs fulfilled. But my faith has been just as big of a part of my life as it's ever been, and guides me through everything. I still connect with my old church friends regularly, and we do some rogue bible studies and fellowship every now and then. I've been trying to take my faith perspective "to the streets" and, when it's relevant, talk about the way that my faith has influenced who I am and what I do, and I think people are listening.

So I think, maybe, looking back, and this is kind of an interesting idea that just came to me, that churches would be better off thinking of themselves more as incubators than as clubs or nonprofits or what have you. I think that millennials + younger won't ever be really satisfied with the old church model--it's just inherently too static, too rigid, too hierarchical. But church still played such an important role in my life and the lives of many people i love, I would/could never call to completely abandon the brick and mortar church. But ultimately, I think it's primary goal is to equip us to be better stewards in the world. And if we think in terms of the Kingdom, is there really any other way? It's got to be taken outside the church doors, and I mean the crux of it, the meat of it, the heart of it.


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PostPosted: February 5 18, 11:17 am 
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PS something touched on in that article--that Jesus wasn't good at or interested in influence--is something that I disagree with completely. He was a shrewd instigator and movement leader that realized that true, lasting influence wouldn't be accomplished through cult of personality but through everything his ministry represented--healing yes, but also thoughtful, peaceful, and strategic resistance to injustice. I think to claim otherwise is to invalidate the power of the cross and to give Jesus the Human too little credit for some of the really clever ways he stood up to the powers that be. IMO that's the only way to foster influence and power without becoming the authority you set out to destroy.

Quote:
We haven’t been able to find any real proof that Jesus implemented any of the marketing efforts we’ve used to try to influence the world around us. There’s no evidence that Jesus boycotted anybody, released lists of local companies that weren’t friendly to His message, used the Jews’ buying power to coerce businesses or tried to intimidate the Romans into not occupying Israel. He never sought to rally people to divisive political causes. So maybe it should be no surprise to us that, after decades of those kinds of initiatives, modern Christianity has not only failed to turn things around, but we are actually losing ground.


I think this outlook misses a lot of subtlety in the Easter story and the events that led to his death. Palm Sunday, for starters. Borg & Crossan's book "The Last Week" was really good at spelling this out.


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PostPosted: February 5 18, 11:28 am 
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That is an interesting take. I just went to a volunteer training on Saturday for a local charity here. I think it is pretty relevant to what that article is talking about. This may turn into a rant.

This charity does all kinds of great things. They are working with public schools and offering things for kids like free youth sports and what is essentially like a Bible camp every Saturday. They are feeding school kids and even sending food home with them. They also have a residency program for addicts or other people that want to turn their lives around. They live there for a minimum of 14 months before they can "graduate". They can only accept like 20 people at time and they get like 80 to 100 applicants (not sure what happens to the other 60 to 80 people). And they have been pretty successful. They also have a food pantry and many other things. There are 37 area churches that support them with money and volunteers, and they use an average of 350 volunteers a month. They have partnered with the city and there are 46 vacant houses the city has obtained. They are going to teach the residents how to rehab them, and then some of them will get to live in them for cheap when they graduate.

The training was 4 hours long and the head guy was the first to speak and give an overview of the whole thing. He lost me when he told a story. He was talking about how there are 2 kinds of problems - crisis and chronic. Crisis problems require immediate action and then they are over. Chronic problems are ongoing and require a different approach. He claimed that the reason New Orleans was still in bad shape 12+ years after Hurricane Katrina is because they were still treating it like a crisis and giving people free stuff constantly. I was just like, uh, wow. First of all, I'd be very surprised if New Orleans residents were still getting showered with free stuff. Secondly, I guarantee you that if we went to New Orleans, we would find probably a couple dozen Christian charities that think they are doing a good job at treating "chronic" problems, or that they are at least trying to. Does he think there are no Christians in New Orleans? There were a few other moments of cognitive dissonance like this but this is already too long.

I may still volunteer with this group because they are improving lives, especially the things they are doing with kids. I can't deny that. But it is clear to me that this charity is not going to address the thing that is creating the problems in the first place. After these residents graduate from the program, they are just going back to being a cog in the same machine that created most of these problems, but they will just be in a better place within the machine.

How does this relate to the article? I think religion and especially the religious right has been extremely successful at gaining influence, in politics at least if not in the larger culture. Planned Parenthood has been decimated. Vouchers for private schools are becoming a thing. Israel is still our bestest buddy. And on and on. I just think that all these things they have accomplished have actually contributed to many of our problems, not fixed them.


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PostPosted: February 5 18, 11:41 am 
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Schlich wrote:
PS something touched on in that article--that Jesus wasn't good at or interested in influence--is something that I disagree with completely.

Yeah I am not sure I agreed with that point either. However I concede that I'm not sure Jesus was concerned about the church being influencers in culture, but rather disciple makers throughout the world.

It is pretty obvious that the way American Christians try to accomplish this are detrimental to Christianity.

Your comments on church attendance reminded me of when Donald Miller blogged that he didn't attend church services. He sure took some backlash for that.

I believe being a member of a church and attending regular services is important if not commanded in Scripture. That said, today's church is a far cry from what Peter, John, Paul and the other disciples planted throughout the book of Acts. I would be lying if I said I was in a church pew every Sunday during my 20s and didn't think my time would've been better served volunteering elsewhere. Ultimately I feel that attending worship is not about me, but about God and just another way for me to worship.


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PostPosted: February 5 18, 11:44 am 
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It's fine to start the thread, but if it goes south like the other one, it'll get locked up.


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PostPosted: February 5 18, 1:15 pm 
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I think churches would do themselves huge favors if they would focus on the good and not the bad. Around here churches are anti everything. They fund terrible candidates who are usually [expletive]. A couple times a decade they will get some ballot initiative to try and make the town or county dry, they try to stop gambling, they advocate for harsher penalties for crime. The build massive buildings and the pastors drive expensive cars. Yet half their congregations are on welfare. They don't ever do big food or clothing drives here but if the democrat senator is in town you can bet your ass they are their protesting abortion.

So here is my advice to Christians, how about you quit supporting evil politicians and I don't know maybe try feeding the poor occasionally, or opening your doors to the homeless?

Other than that you all know how I feel about Christians.


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PostPosted: February 5 18, 2:58 pm 
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IMADreamer wrote:
I think churches would do themselves huge favors if they would focus on the good and not the bad. Around here churches are anti everything. They fund terrible candidates who are usually [expletive]. A couple times a decade they will get some ballot initiative to try and make the town or county dry, they try to stop gambling, they advocate for harsher penalties for crime. The build massive buildings and the pastors drive expensive cars. Yet half their congregations are on welfare. They don't ever do big food or clothing drives here but if the democrat senator is in town you can bet your ass they are their protesting abortion.

So here is my advice to Christians, how about you quit supporting evil politicians and I don't know maybe try feeding the poor occasionally, or opening your doors to the homeless?

Other than that you all know how I feel about Christians.



Sounds like your area sucks. Church-folks don't always get it right for sure. Generally speaking though, they probably put forth more effort than any other organized or unorganized group toward feeding the poor and helping the needy.


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PostPosted: February 5 18, 4:11 pm 
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Socnorb11 wrote:
IMADreamer wrote:
I think churches would do themselves huge favors if they would focus on the good and not the bad. Around here churches are anti everything. They fund terrible candidates who are usually [expletive]. A couple times a decade they will get some ballot initiative to try and make the town or county dry, they try to stop gambling, they advocate for harsher penalties for crime. The build massive buildings and the pastors drive expensive cars. Yet half their congregations are on welfare. They don't ever do big food or clothing drives here but if the democrat senator is in town you can bet your ass they are their protesting abortion.

So here is my advice to Christians, how about you quit supporting evil politicians and I don't know maybe try feeding the poor occasionally, or opening your doors to the homeless?

Other than that you all know how I feel about Christians.



Sounds like your area sucks. Church-folks don't always get it right for sure. Generally speaking though, they probably put forth more effort than any other organized or unorganized group toward feeding the poor and helping the needy.


++


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PostPosted: February 5 18, 4:31 pm 
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Grateful that churches help with the needy.

shocking as it sounds, I served on a church board for its charities. I don't think any people involved in the charities wanted the government to take a lesser role in social services, in lieu of the church. Sometimes they were helping people to get whatever benefits available from the govt.

I say this, because - and this is directed at nobody here - sometimes I think libertarian and right-wing Christians have adopted anti-govt attitude towards social services; and hold a fantasy view of charity replacing govt programs. I suspect, not many holding this view have much practical experience in working with the less fortunate, just glom on the efforts for political use

Also, worth noting - churches do not contribute via taxes. (agreed though, it's not always about $ - the volunteer hours just as valuable of contribution.)


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