For this Sunday’s post, I want to talk about the strict conformity many churches today demand of those who want to be members. It is not as simple as deciding to join but you must jump through all the hoops they tell you to before they will accept you.

canstockphoto3695937.jpgI’ve seen the light go out in people’s eyes when they decide it’s safer to embrace a doctrine or a policy that their gut tells them is wrong than it is to challenge those who say it’s right.

I’ve watched open minds close and tender hearts harden.

I’ve seen people pretend to believe things they don’t actually believe and do things they don’t actually want to do, all in the name of conformity to God’s will, all in the name of sacrifice and submission.

Fundamentalism erases people. It erases their joy, their compassion, their instincts, their curiosity, their passion, their selves. And then it celebrates this ghosting, this nulling and numbing, as a glorious “dying to the self,” just like Jesus demanded.

SOURCE: Hearts of Flesh.

These are some powerful words from Rachel Held Evans who is a young and popular Christian author and lecturer. She seldom parses words when it comes to her spirituality.  She also seems to be very aligned with the latest statistics of the Millennial generation when it comes to shedding much of the dogma of the current “church”.

I truly believe that the conformity that many churches demand is a primary factor for why even those raised in it are leaving in droves. They see things that directly contradict what they believe to be simple knowledge. They see their church speaking so viciously about those who are different from them.  What they see is not “conformity to God’s will” but to some hardened hearts who happen to have leadership positions.  They see a fixated emphasis on below the belt issues when Jesus said almost nothing about that topic.

Many young people are still in the mode of questioning things. They are still forming their own personal opinions on what will be important in their life. They will not allow someone to tell them what is moral when it is obviously not the definition of moral to them.

During my lifetime fundamentalism, even though it started with trying to bring the message of Jesus Christ to the world, has, for the most part, morphed into something completely different. It is now primarily about what you are supposed to hate rather than what Jesus told you to love. It has become the dark side of Christianity in many respects.

2014-03-25_16-33-02It is encouraging to see that the force is no longer with the fundamentalists but instead beginning to meld into what is now called the Great Emergence as described by Harvey Cox in his book entitled The Future Of Faith.  As explained in the book the emergent church is more about moving on to the next stage of Christianity rather than tearing down the current one. It is about shedding all those man-made rules and replacing them with the messages of its founder. If you are becoming discouraged with the direction that many in the church are taking maybe it is time you took up the book and read it with an open mind. It just might change your idea of some of the basic things you are told you must believe in order to see God.

2 thoughts on “Conformity..

  1. I agree with your overall argument. However there are many churches that do not “demand” strict conformity to beliefs to be part of the community. Most of the major mainline Protestant denominations do not (really) nor does the Roman Catholic Church. At least in my experience. There is an expectation that you will remain open to the teachings and main beliefs but certainly there is no penalty for privately practicing differently. There are many faithful Catholics who practice artificial birth control and are pro-choice in their political views. Obviously not believing in the saving grace of Jesus Christ and other rather fundamental teachings might put you in an interesting position but the Church does understand that faith is a journey and as long as these are not rejected out of hand and you are rather permanently closed to these beliefs one might wonder why you are there- but even then there is the belief that the Holy Spirit can work wonders so you are never rejected and told to leave.[officially anyway – a specific community might behave differently]

    I realize, at the same time, that many either are not comfortable with this idea or do will insist that they must believe it all if they are to join. It is these personality types that fall into the type who either join and believe against their instinct or who refuse to join since they can’t believe all of it. If you have a problem with ambiguity you either join against your instinct and just swallow it all or won’t join at all.

    Suggestion – Just as a note it might be better if you put a link in your posts that it took you to a specific location to do something vs just a link to the graphic. I would have expected the link in this post to take me to a location where I could review or order the book. Maybe that is what you intended but it is not working that way.


    1. Thanks for the thoughts Bob. I don’t pretend to know all the details of the thousands of versions of Christianity out there. When you say the major mainline Protestants I’m not really sure how you define that. When I look up Baptists, Lutherans, and Methodist they all adamantly state they believe in an inerrant and mostly literal bible. I think they make up a large percentage of Reformation Protestants.

      I was a practicing Catholic for my first 20 years or so and was schooled by nuns through grade school. I agree with you that they are more tolerant of opposing views than the Protestants. Yeah, cafeteria Catholics pretty much believe what they want and aren’t usually challenged by the church. Hierarchy seems more prominent than biblical.

      It depends on the individual pastors as to how much they “enforce” beliefs. When a new pastor came to my LCMS Lutheran church I was kicked out for publically saying the earth is more than 6,000 years old and not all the Bible is meant literally for the ages.

      As far as the link on the book cover, I was unaware that a link existed or I would have removed it. I google so much now that I can find a book by just knowing the title or even the author. Amazon is only about 15 seconds away from that info. I do religiously (pun intended) put links to my source quotes so you can read the entire article. But even there just cut/paste into a search engine a few sentences and the article will appear. Having said all that I will attempt to add links to Amazon when I use book covers in the future.

      Finally, yes there are many, especially the emergent churches who don’t exclude those who might not currently believe…


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