I did not grow up as immersed in church as some. Yet I am beginning to realize, even if my family did not always attend church and even if we did not discuss religion and faith a whole lot, still I was immersed in Christianity from birth. I grew up in the midwest of the United States, in the midst of rural and small towns. I grew up in a country some still try to call Christian denying diversity and endangering the freedoms we hold dear in favor of attempting to arrest the downward spiral of Christian privilege. Somehow we Christians can manage to simultaneously be privileged enough to claim an entire country in our own name and in the next breath claim persecution when we don’t get our way. Indeed I have lived my entire life in a culture in which the above words will likely baffle many, and enrage a few because Christian privilege is such a part of our culture we are mostly unaware of it.
I have come to these realizations through listening to those outside of Christianity. Thoughtful, well-spoken people with a different point of view. As I have listened and reflected, rejecting some points and conceding others, I have become open to the possibility church might be hazardous to our health in some ways. One obvious example might be the harm Christianity (as well as other religions) does to women’s rights. Scientific arguments supporting sexism have been pretty soundly negated. Would it still be newsworthy or at all controversial for a woman to be in a leadership role if it weren’t for religion? But I also have begun to wonder if church encourages apathy and discourages exploration.
One of the reasons I continue to write about church is because of the potential it holds. Many, good, caring, passionate people inhabit our churches. These are people who care so deeply about doing what is good and right they will endure weekly boredom, frequent frustrations and conflict in order to attempt to do the right thing by going to church. All of this good will is being squandered by the church. I have written in the past about the noble virtues to be found in our military personnel and how these virtues are often squandered by our country in unnecessary and ill motivated wars. Similarly, the virtues of our church goers are squandered in extraneous (to following Jesus) worship and meaningless institutional maintenance.
Does the church also discourage exploration? Do we restrict folks to sanctioned methods of exploring the divine for fear other methods are wrong or even evil? Have such restrictions inhibited our spiritual growth and prevented us from being strengthened in ways which would increase our empathy, our sense of community, our peacefulness? What are the real dangers of exploring the wisdom of other spiritual traditions? Could we be led astray or will it either work or not work?
I have many questions and few answers. What are your thoughts? Do you think the historical prevalence of Christianity in our culture has been beneficial or negative or both? What is to be gained or lost through exploring other faiths? How can we better employ the good will of congregation members? Is church detrimental to our well being?