2 Things from 4 Things about Western Christianity that screwed me up (But It’s Never too late to work on It)

‘I don’t mean to complain, much less to sound petty. I don’t mean to lay blame, either.  It is what it is, own it, and figure out where to go from here.

Anyway, as I think about my life of Christian faith, many of my experiences have, in hindsight, done more to hurt my perception of faith than help it—in large part because they are so under the surface, so much mixed in with the concrete of my “faith foundation.”

The thing is, I’m getting bored, and these 4 things are part of that mix. And you can see they are interrelated.

First, as a western Christian, my faith is overly intellectualized. I cannot remember a time when my Christian culture wasn’t dominated by the idea that being Christian meant being right, of essentially tapping into the data base of the universe and coming out with the right answers, of having the mind of God.

And with that, there is no room for mystery and for the spiritual value of not-knowing. I understand better now why “mystery” and “subjectivity” were mocked in much of my Christian training. I get it.

I’m NOT against rational processes (see here), but when “truth” is something that can only come to us through our rational activities, then there can be no room for mystery–indeed, no room for other ways of thinking.

I find such a mentality in which I participate bizarre, even arrogant. But more important, even central, is this: with an overly intellectualized faith the practice of the faith is minimized (except the act of “going to church” so doctrine can be taught.) And as a result, so much of what I read in the Bible (both testaments) about “doing” has fallen on deaf ears. All of those uncomfortable passages get catalogued for future consideration, after your theology is solid and secure.

Western faith is overly individualized. I see myself, far more often than I wish to admit, as functionally the center of the cosmos and that the Creator does too.

No, I don’t pray for a good sale at the mall and a great parking spot when I get there. But I do stop myself at times when I am praying or pondering some thought about God, faith, life, etc., and have a flash of insight, “Dude, you are so into your own little life, as if that’s the whole point of this Jesus business.”

Part of what lies behind this seems to be the co-opting of God in support of American individualism, and the corollary, that the end goal of all of this is “What will happen to you after you die?” As if that is the central question in Scripture and the primary concern of the Creator.

The Greek language of the New Testament has both a plural and singular form of the pronoun “you.” When I read “you”–even though I know better–my default is singular. And so I miss a lot.

And people like me whose default is “the individual” tend to think less of justice than we should (…).


source: Pete Enns, 4 Things about Western Christianity that screwed me up (But It’s Never too late to work on it) (peteenns).


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