It is amazing to me how many people who are socially tied to a particular religious organization and are either willfully ignorant of their church’s doctrine or just ignore it. I used to think that was a bad thing, but I have changed my mind. That is what this post is all about.
I would imagine that there is only a small percentage of members of any religious institution who actually know what their church doctrine is or where it came from. Jesus gave us an utterly simple message that you are to love your creator and to love each other. He told us everything else is a very distant third place. This message should be enough but it didn’t end up that way.
There have been many people in the last two thousand years who wanted to add more. After studying church history for the last two decades I have come to the conclusion that Jesus gave us a simple message but then, within a few decades, Paul came along and made it complicated. And he was clearly not the last man, and I mean man literally, to have his say in the matter. God just didn’t seem to cover everything, so these folks believed it was up to them to fill in the gaps. The ones who made all these decisions are usually called theologians. I covered some of them in last Sunday’s post.
Now I’m not saying that Paul (or any of the others for that matter) didn’t truly believe he had some kind of divine knowledge to make up more rules. On the other hand, Paul’s epistles do show that he really didn’t have much of an understanding about the words of Jesus. He had no exposure to Jesus other than the blinding vision on the road to Damascus. I’m getting a little off point here for this post so let’s get back to the main subject.
Every Christian church has its statement of beliefs and if you join that church you are told you must agree with all of them. I remember that time in the woods during a church retreat when my wife and I pledged our allegiance to them. But for the life of me, I really don’t remember what they were. It seemed like more of an agreement thing that you find all over the place now. We never read the 9 pages involved but quickly just sign it, so we can start using the product.
We are anxious to join the club, so we never say “wait a minute…” and are likely never be called up on that fact until we come across a religious zealot who says we broke our pledge. Let’s face it, most members who join a church do it to a large degree for the “fellowship”. To the middle 50% of us our church is like the 1% er’s country club. It makes up the vast majority of our social agenda and where all our “friends” are. As long as we are happy with the club we don’t look elsewhere. But then some of us come up against the zealot.
To close out this trilogy of posts, I wish the early theologians had understood the idea of simplicity and let the words of Jesus to be our foundation. But, since that is not the case, we must all pretty much play the role of cafeteria Christians. It’s just too lonely trying to go our own way in our spiritual journey.