According to the ladies at the Wartburg Watch, a lot of formerly committed evangelicals are now calling themselves atheists. I have made cyber-acquaintance with a few over at No Longer Quivering. I have a cyber-friendship with one such person who has come full circle and wants to return to enjoying a walk with Jesus, albeit without returning to organized religion or at least not the organized religion of her past. Her blog is fittingly titled Chronicles of a Christian Heretic.
Anne Rice, famous author of the Vampire Chronicles, turned away from atheism and embraced Christianity, specifically Catholicism, a decade ago. Recently she felt that in order to be true to the teachings of Christ, she needed to separate from the organized religion of Christianity. Fox news had this report at the time.
More than one young woman, having been raised in a committed evangelical home, complete with daily devotions and weekly church attendance, are now questioning how what they have personally internalized from the Bible and more importantly, the ministry of the Holy Spirit in their lives, fits together with what is being taught in American churches. Men also are beginning to question what they have blindly believed and taught all these years as "the true faith".
What is going on here? Is this a Spirit led exodus out of the politicized business model that has become American Christianity? Is all of it the responsibility of the American Christian booksellers/curriculum providers/church growth/music/movie industry? For the capitalist enterprise that is the Christian market, it has been very profitable to promote a parallel Christian society that exists apart from and in opposition to "the world", i.e. all the other dear people with whom we share the planet.
I'm just wondering out loud, but maybe the death of the American church industry wouldn't be such a bad thing. My mentor, good friend and life-long Catholic believer has quit going to church because of the politicized, hierarchical money-making empire she believes her church has returned to with recent papal decisions. As for me, good Protestant I was raised to be, everything that I see is wrong with the Catholic church is wrong with the rest of the organized American religious empire.
We may not have ever sold pardons, but we have still twisted the good news of salvation to a profit-making enterprise that steals from the poor and blesses the rich. Ed Young Jr is merely one high profile preacher to get called out on the "tithe or God will getcha!" sermons I have heard in so many churches. How is that so different from selling indulgences? Both are taking money from people under the guise of "god's will".
All over my little corner of the internet, I am finding people who are fed up with abusive churches, pastors, and doctrines. Most of these people, like myself, like Anne Rice, are not leaving Christ Jesus. We haven't rejected the Bible. We reject how so-called "spiritual authorities" have misapplied the Bible to build up their own influence, power and wealth.
We are however coming out and voicing our discontent, and not letting people shame up with misapplied verses to get us to shut up. The internet has given formerly marginalized people a voice, and we are using it. The exodus I speak of is an exodus out of silence. In some cases it is also an exodus out of organized religion. It raises even more questions for me.
The apostle John wrote "we proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you may also have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ...if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin." (I John 1:3.7) Surely he was not referring to the superficial Sunday morning gathering most American churches call "worship". It has to mean more than that, something real, heartfelt, and yes metaphysical.
Maybe it means you and I meeting over the internet and making the effort to come together in real life and pray for one another. Maybe it means having communion like Jesus first shared it- around the dinner table with friends- remembering how Jesus died for all of us and secured the new covenant in his blood for the remission of our sins! A joyful thing, not a solemn religious ceremony; a meeting of people you know and want to spend time; not a public event controlled by a grave man who does not personally know you and passed out by other dour-faced suit-wearing middle aged strangers.
Anyhoo, I have to go hang out with my daughter now. I leave you with musings and questions, and I have no plan to come back later and give you any "answers". Enjoy the mysteries. SS