Just Thinking

Just Thinking About…The Church

holy-bible-in-churchToday I had a conversation with my mother-in-law which started off being a discussion planning a family event and then turned into an Obama bashing and decry of how America is being turned from its Christian values during his term in office. My MIL is now what I would consider to be a conservative evangelical Christian – something that she did not use to be. During all the years I have known her she was a professed Christian, but not a member of any church. Upon retiring she joined the church and has since become rather active in expressing her beliefs.  She has changed quite a lot since joining the church, and not for the better. Her views have grown increasing more elitist, bigoted, homophobic and political. She complained to me that “people” think that she is wrong. She chalks opposing views as being disrespectful toward an inability to reason because of her age rather than her religious views, because she has become convinced that her religious views are correct and inerrant. All though she didn’t say who the “people” are, I know that she is talking about my nieces and nephews. One who is gay, one who has an interracial child and one who professes to be an agnostic.  Even though I have never told her that she is wrong, I think she probably counts me in the group of “people”, since although I haven’t specifically discussed with her my alternate spiritual views, they probably come across in my responses when I converse with her.

I’ve spent some time this afternoon thinking about the difference in her practice of Christianity and that of my own mother.  I tend to think of my mother as a “heart-felt” Christian and my MIL as a “head-thought” Christian. On the surface it may seem as if I am biased toward my mother, but the difference between them and how they approach their Christian beliefs is notably different. My mother disagrees with much of the policy administered by the Obama administration, but she doesn’t bash him. She believes the bible is against homosexuality, but she is not spiteful and mean in her words and attitudes toward homosexuals.  She believes that the bible teaches against interracial marriage but she never expresses a disregard or condemnation toward those who have transgressed her beliefs and treats them with as much consideration and respect as she would anyone else. As I have thought about this I have realized that there is one thing prominently different between them that once was the same. My mother does not attend church regularly and is not a devoted church member. A few years ago my MIL was also someone who didn’t attend church regularly and was not a devoted church member, and when that was the case she was more like my mother in her interactions with others.

It is not my intent to make a case that the church corrupts and brainwashes it members even though it is easy for me to think that way given the differences in my mother and MIL. I think what I am really contemplating is how like-minds breed more like-minds. My mother as someone who does not attend church regularly does not belong to a group which influences her therefore her heart guides her actions more than the group consensus. Since joining the church my MIL has seemingly become someone heavily influenced by the mindset of the church and her actions seem more governed by the will of the church than her previous nature.

Thinking along this line has given more credibility to my position that spirituality should be an individual quest and not directed from the pulpit by another flawed human being who may, likely as not, be prone to inject his own personal perspectives on lifestyle and government into what he teaches as the will of God.

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8 thoughts on “Just Thinking About…The Church

  1. I am so shocked that inter-racial marriage is seen as non-biblical in some churches! I have certaibly never come across it here in Australia. Very interesting and not in keepingwith the character of God in my understanding.

    I myself have been in churches who manipulate the culture through condemnation and judgement, the inention is conformity.

    I havr also been in churches who encourage deeper discovery of God on a personal level, promoting uniqueness and celebration of yhe individuals God created us to be.

    I myself, have been sucked in by the former church, becoming robotic and uniform, there is no life in that. I am now experiencing freedom in the latter environment.

    Churches definitely need to be aware of how they treat and ‘coach’ God’s creation…us. BUT…we are responsible for our own faith walk, not the church (though they hold incredible influence). We need to have our *own* relationship with God, allowing Him to mould, teach and love us into whole created beings. There *are* good churches around, but we need to operate our spirit of discernment and chat to God about the decisions we are making and the beliefs we hold to. I think if we filtered everything through love more often, we’d all be better (and more loving) people! Working on it….never there yet.

    I hope your post provokes church goers to discern and lovingly judge their attitudes and intents of their heart. Loyalty should always lie with God above the church…when this is backwards, it all goes awry.

  2. I’m not sure what job your MIL worked at but I’d be inclined to consider retirement as a possible factor in the narrowing of her views and reduction in her tolerance. I’ve seen that happen in my family members – none of whom are churchgoers.

    Maybe by making you interact on a daily basis with people with a wider range of views the workplace helps you to see things from a broader perspective. Or maybe just by freeing you up to spend more time seeking out self-confirming viewpoints – whether in church, with a narrow group of friends or through the media – retirement can make you more certain and fixed in your own perspective.

    • You make a good point. She retired from a career in retail sales where she interacted with many people throughout the day. Since retiring her social life is reduced to family and the church which makes sense in that her social involvement has become less diverse and more limited in varying lifestyle views.

  3. What about their views on the Bible in general? Simply removing perfect innerrancy from it alone seems to soften a lot of edges from what Ive seen. Even a tiny allotment for
    more “grey” morals seems to yield a lot more possibility for empathy imo.

    • She has assumed the view that the bible is the inerrant word of God. Before joining this church I don’t recall her ever speaking about the bible or her religious views. She may have held particular views but she didn’t stress them to others as she does now. I know that her age has caused her to become more cynical in life as I see this happen with many people entering into their end years, but it is startling to me how uber-religious she has become.

  4. Some of her fierce desire to know “the truth” and to protect the idea of biblical inerrancy my come from an impending sense of her own mortality – wanting to know and believe the “right” thing so she will go to heaven when she passes.

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