Monday, June 04, 2007

Turning Stones

We all have some origin that we hold no responsibility for. We didn’t get to choose our landing place. Of course I don’t know all of your circumstance and what you may have been granted that you never asked to receive, so as usual I am left to talk about myself.

I was born into a family that took its Baptist religion straight-up. It was like ordering coffee black; you had to be man or woman enough to handle it without any artificial sweetener. Sometimes bitter, sometimes less so, but just like coffee, always very real to the senses, particularly if you were not crazy about coffee in the first place.

My spiritual immersion was the Southern Baptist version of Christianity. I think when Jesus worked his message to the first listeners he did not exactly have the Southern Baptist church in his vision, but like all things that we think about in our biologically mandated individual manner, mine is only an opinion of one.

The subject comes up because I have been lately stuck on random thoughts about the churches in my area of Dallas-Fort Worth. Everywhere I look in the bible belt that surrounds me I see churches. We have 3 churches per four corners in North Texas. There are gigantic ones and little tiny ones about a block apart. My professional work is currently overwhelmed with churches requesting what my skills provide; the estimation of construction cost for new facilities. A facility I estimated last week will take 20 million dollars to construct. This leads me to my central thought for the post. Churches that were birthed to spread the message of Christianity are now business centers. We have churches that (if you will grant me some small allowances for generalization) have become business centers. What is the business? Too often I am seeing the funding of salaries, construction of facilities and non-religious education as the central, and certainly unofficial, mission statement.

When I was young I was sent to church every Sunday morning and Sunday evening. Each service lasted approximately 2 hours. Add the weekly Wednesday evening service and the twice yearly week-long revivals and, well you see my point that I have seen the inside of the southern Christian church and therefore I am not a pretender in writing about the same. At the age of separation from my parents I simply rebelled. No more church. Please God, no more church. I retained my spirituality. I even dared expand it while in the middle of my ‘church rebellion'.

I am struck today by some thoughts worth exploring. Is the 2007 version of the ‘business of church’ still conducive to Christian education? With potential exposure to sounding old and dated I will tell you that by the time I was 14 years old I had read the New Testament 3 times, the entire Bible once and listened to countless sermons on both texts. Does the new ‘business model’ church of 2007 require its youth to read the Bible? Maybe they do, and maybe like so much of life it simply depends on the individual church/teacher in question. Whatever the facts, I have become a questioner of the ‘business model’ approach to the development and continuation of the Christian message. It is always easy to question isn’t it? Too often we ask questions because we want a sure and quick answer rather than having to think, so I will turn the frontal attack on the church on its head and suggest that if the Christian churches are ignored, no matter their ‘model’ status, who is left to move the message forward? Is asking the question dangerous in this way?

What’s next? While Muslims hate and kill and those Muslims that do not hate stand by idly without admonishment for those that do hate, what next for Christianity? Are big business and Crystal Cathedrals all we have to offer the world?

I am full circle to the opening thought that each of us has some origin that we hold no responsibility for. Some of us were born Muslim, some Hindu, some southern Baptist Christians and some were born into the poverty of spiritual absence. As we grow older and learn to discern and think for ourselves, will we gravitate to the message that reaches us; or in contrast, will we move toward the message we have reached out to find?

When we begin to reach, do we reach toward the ‘businesses’ of Christianity, or do we reach for the truth and the peace of knowing something finer, something more meaningful than who might have the largest sanctuary and most televised pastor?


Rick said...

I hear ya. While not a Southern Baptist, I, too, grew up in a conservative congregation and rebelled in adolescence. I, too, took the road less traveled. And looking back, or in, as the case may be, from the outside, it seems to me that The Church is in full MBA mode and scrambling to avoid a corporate takeover. Sad, actually.

Seven said...

Good to hear from you Rick. We share a lot it seems.

Lynilu said...

Since our backgrounds in this area are so similar, I'm sure you're not surprised that this struck a chord in me. And I probably don't even have to tell you my answer ... but you know I will. :)

After struggling with Southern Baptist roots and finding hypocrisies that I could not abide, I tried to be a Methodist, and eventually a Lutheran. All that changed, really, was that there was less shouting from the pulpit with each move. The politics weren't much different, sadly. I began reading about religions in an attempt to find one that was a fit for me, and after a few years I discovered that I had switched my reading focus from "religion" to "spirituality."

Thus I was following my own path in the spiritual quest, choosing to seek what brought me comfort and made me reach for the stars, rather than being told I was surely damned even as the moneys were slipped from my fingers. I've given my funds in recent years to charitable organizations that use them for people, not structures.

My 2 So. Bap. brothers pray for my soul, I'm sure. I know my Morman brother does, and my non-practicing Methodist sister seems to understand me and simply love me. All that is OK with me. I'll take prayers from anyone (it all goes to the same place, anyway, despite what some might have us think) and love is always welcome in my world.

Take down the cathedrals. Use the money to help people. Squash the hierarchies of religion and use funds and energies to feed people, to lift people who have physical needs so they can heal and tend to their spiritual needs. Seven, your skill is in designing lovely buildings, and I’m sure you do a great job of that; I’m just saddened that this type of building seems to promote promoting financial cause than spiritual health.

I’m going to go now, look at the beauty around me in the world the Creator has given us, and be glad I am where I am.

Seven said...

Silver Lovely,
I surmise the son shines on your path.

patti_cake said...

Give me a little quaint wooden church anyway over a crystal monstrosity. For some reason I just think Jesus would rather keep it simple.

patti_cake said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Reach said...

It is very nice to see my 'Handle' so referenced, in the quest for spiritual illumination- an additional reason as to my selection of references.

Ironically, when speaking of the great state of Texas, one attribute that becomes singled out is ‘Buckles’. Yes, not only are you speaking from the 'Bible-Belt', but I like to think that you are in the 'Buckle', of the ‘Bible-Belt’, bringing each end together. Or, is that another 'Reach'?

Recently, I was speaking with a dear friend on this issue. Together we have summarized that, "Today's Religion is of Man's doing, and not the complete direction of Jesus' teachings." As for Today's Religion, from the business perspective, it has cornered the market at every level. While remaining a major topic of conversation, it leads in Supply and Demand through: Advertising, Sales, and Trends. Just to exemplify another point- Or is this another 'Reach'?

Be Safe,


Jenn said...

I reach for the truth and peace of knowing something finer. Can't really say it better than that.

Seven said...

I had you figured for the little chapel type all along. I trust it will have glass doorknobs to make you smile....

There are so many places to Reach that exceed our grasp, eh?

Search on. BTW; lover the photos of Bellie, they are high quality and she is a doll.

Enemy of the Republic said...

Oooh! Good post. I worry about these things, you know--the state of Christianity. I will write a better comment, but I am sleepy. Although I attend what many call a fundamentalist church, I am far from being one--we differ on social issues, even interpretative ones. Yet they know that I essentially share what they do--a belief in Christ as my Savior and the acknowledgement of being born again through spiritual rebirth. I wish we didn't have to divide ourselves so much. Okay, more to say later.

Jenn said...

Thanks. Is it ok that I miss you? :-)

Seven said...

Can't wait to hear more. I know you think deeply about the Christian prescription.

Actually I am very flattered, and please know I am not absent by choice. I am truly stretched very thin right now. I got over to your place long enough to look at the slide show and go "awwwww"

Enemy of the Republic said...

I've seen a lot of damage from the Southern Baptist mentality, so I am not fond of them. They tend to stress God's judgment, wrath and sin, sin, sin. People I know who come out of that tradition either rebel, reinvent it or just become spineless in their obedience. This may sound cruel, but it is what I have seen. Yes, we are supposed to fear God, as in awe. These people fear him like I fear a gun. And there are so many rules and standards. I've seen lives ruined by people who cannot live up to the demands of this faith. So I don't like it.

I would like Christians in general to stress the love of Christ. This doesn't mean Jesus was some hippie peacenik--I tell the pacifists that Jesus came to bring a sword, and you cannot have such a controversial, self sacrificing God without struggle. But Jesus saved humanity out of love. He showed a toughness of fiber that I only wish I could emulate. And he didn't waste time with hypocrites, which I fear is what organized Christianity is creating today. (not all.)

The literal Christians lean on the Biblical words as a blueprint for a building. But blueprints have smudges; that doesn't mean the architect is incompetent; it may mean he was limited in the space provided to clearly transmit his vision. In short, there is much we don't know. It doesn't make the word of God a lie; it makes it deserving of questioning. Anything that is of God's will hold up to scrutiny. I am tired of Christians fighting others for the ONE interpretation of God's word. Too many people get hurt over that. And those that damage find it hard to admit that God is a mystery; he is spirit, and he lowered himself by sending his son as a human to reach us. Even with that, we still were not reached. So how can a book do more? That is why I trust in prayer and the Holy Spirit. And I accept my inability to know all--I only know in part. Sorry so long. Enemy out.

Seven said...

Center on to my thinking. I do beleive this type of formulation exists in many minds around us, fear keeps us from questioning the AUTHORITY of the CHURCH. Thank you for such a cogent and thoughtful comment.

Lady Selena said...

Amen! Having grown up in the deep south, I was also a big participant in church. Now, as an adult, I find I describe myself as very spiritual, not religious. I do not attend church anymore and the largest reason being what you have stated here. Just how can they build these huge buildings, with all their recreational facilities, etc., costing millions of dollars, when there are still starving people in their own communities? And no, I don't believe that for the most part, children are taught as we once were. Of course, I could be wrong on that. Reading this tonight is very ironic...just having had this same discussion with my mother earlier today, who has also come to this same conclusion. Very sad.

kathi said...

If it's not 'personal', no amount of money or building is going to make it worth it's cost.