Churchy Christians often say, “Wherever two or three are gathered in God’s name, God is present.”
While they are likely right, practical Christians recognize that wherever two or three are gathered, many perspectives are present. And somehow, more often than we care to admit, extended conversations that highlight our differences turn into arguments.
Good Christian people have been known to argue about nearly any and every thing. I know better than to offer examples from this congregation, so let me share from my experiences elsewhere.
Believe it or not people of faith argue about creature comforts – How much padding is enough on the pews? – What is the proper temperature in the classrooms? – Should we offer valet parking?
They also argue about serious topics, especially theological topics – you know things like “Who really gets to go to heaven?” – “What is the best version of the Bible? – or, for those who need a controversy especially appropriate on Trinity Sunday: “Did the Holy Spirit proceed from the Father or from the Father and the Son?”
Some arguments can be helpful; others escalate into fights. When fights break out people step outside of the normally accepted boundaries, and start to recruit others to join their side. The focus shifts: winning at all costs becomes the goal.
To remind us that church fighting was as much an issue in the 1st century as the 21st we need look no farther than this morning’s Scripture reading. Paul addresses church fighting and factions as the first topic in the first chapter of his first letter to the church at Corinth.
Paul’s concern was bringing the fighting to an end, but my concern is the damage that has already been done. As the result of church fights many have walked away from the church, but not their faith. This growing group of people goes by many names, including “de-churched” and “formerly churched.” They also account for a significant number of the “spiritual but not religious.”
While many leave the church as the result of a church fight others make the move because they are disillusioned by irrelevancy.
The best-selling American author Anne Rice fits in the latter group. While her books have sold over 100 million copies, she used a Facebook post of under 100 words to alert the world of her decision to leave:
For those who care, and I understand if you don’t: Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being “Christian” or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to “belong” to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.
Anne Rice quit, and her very public declaration inspired me to be equally open about my decision to quit Christianity. I stand before you today as a quitter.
I have chosen to quit Christianity. More specifically, I quit Christianity when . . . (read full manuscript)
Christianity means different things to different people. While all understandings need not be accepted by all people, certain perspectives must be intentionally set aside. In this sermon, I named three specific ideas I have quit: (1) Christianity as a dying and increasingly irrelevant religion, (2) Christianity as defined by or exemplified in a specific denomination/tradition/network, and (3) Christianity focused on what it is against rather than what it is for.
- What understandings of Christianity have you already quit?
- What others do feel led to consider quitting?