What the Church is Not…….

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Church is not about a few like-minded persons getting together for mutual support; it is about millions and millions of different kind of persons transending their differences so as to become a community beyond temperament, race, ideology, gender, language and background.

–Richard Rolheiser, “The Holy Longing”


11 thoughts on “What the Church is Not…….

  1. Transcending ideology? Surely the church and christianity is an ideology? This could be really profound if he suggests accepting alternate religions into the church. I’m guessing he meant secular ideologies though right?

  2. J.I., are you suggesting that everyone in the Church has an identical ideology? I don’t think Rolheiser is suggesting for us to embrace some form of universalism. I think he’s talking about the many forms of “in-house” bickering.

    For example, your comment communicates that you feel there is a difference between “secular” ideology and religious ideology. That is an ideology that we disagree on. In my opinion, if we follow Jesus then every ounce of our ideology should be rooted in that spiritual, mystical connection.

    Even though both you and I try our best at keeping Jesus at the center, we most likely share a different ideology in how to do so. I think what Rolheiser is suggesting here is that we transend these differences in order to remain authentically connected to the body of Christ.

  3. “Ideology:
    1. The body of ideas reflecting the social needs and aspirations of an individual, group, class, or culture.
    2. A set of doctrines or beliefs that form the basis of a political, economic, or other system.”
    That was no help in seeing whether or not a person can have only one all encompassing ideology! But I take your point and to encompass all in one seems a valuable idea.

    In my system (i.e. with a discreet number of ideologies per field (!)) then yes in theory every one in the church is supposed to have the same spiritual belief structure, thus the same spiritual ideology; in your system, with one ideology per person then everyone’s differing views on political issues or aspirations, give rise to differences in their ideology.

    I should probably at this point mention that I cannot call myself a Christian. While I adhere to many of Christianity’s values and principles, I was brought up going to Sunday school, singing in choirs, my father is local churchwarden, my grandfather was a vicar and Francis McKemie (a direct relative, spellings vary) founded the US Presbyterian Church I myself do not wholly believe in the Bible or Jesus’ divinity (I think he was inspirational, just probably not a deity). Encountering many Muslim and Hindu friends through sport and university has made me very sceptical about orthodox religion, I just feel we should make up our own minds and what should make one religion more right than the others? That you grew up around it? Also studying Astrophysics gives you a new perspective on life, you realise how insignificant the earth is and are of forced to find your own meaning, nothing matters but that which you deem fit to care about. If you have really thought about this, as you clearly have, and become a stronger Christian then more power to you, I’m glad you found your way. But to me the more I think the more sceptical I feel, not about the existence of a God or that we are undeniably spiritual beings, but about the accuracy of any religion since they have all essentially been created by man. Essentially pre-ordaining how people should relate to God seems questionable, likewise blind faith is dangerous (see your conservative evangelists).

    However I commented because the idea of the Christian church accepting agnostics like me is a rather appealing one, but I appreciate you have to have some kind of ground rules to have a Church at all! The idea of having a representative church for all faiths seems a beautiful idea to me… but utterly impracticable! Instead I guess we have to live in acceptance of each other and keep the churches/mosques etc for those who believe in the orthodox religions.

  4. JI,

    I can certainly relate to your thoughts here, but I don’t really see how your thoughts relate to Rolheiser’s quote. He’s addressing the issues of transcending the differences those share within the Christian faith. He’s not addressing the validity of one faith over another.

    If, in theory, all in people within the Church should share the same ideology, then that theory is ignoring the imposition of the human experience. To suggest that, because all Christians base their doctrine on the same text, all should naturally have the same general approach on how to live out that doctrine is a silly notion. We all carry our life experience and presuppositions into our spiritual journeys. It’s simply unavoidable.

    If we have it your way, then why do we need four separate Gospel accounts? Why would Hindu’s need multiple Gods for different reasons? Why would Muslims and Jews affirm multiple prophets? If everyone within the same belief systems shared the same ideology, then why the need for multiple and varying sources of authority within most religious faiths?

    You may look at the study of Astrophysics and have lost your faith, but you must know that many have come to faith while looking up at the same cosmos in awe and wonder. By no means do I feel I’ve “found my way”. The certainty we all desperately seek is a myth. In the end, maybe it’s not about the knowledge of what’s waiting for us at the end. Maybe it’s the more about how we get there. Hopefully while we are on our way, we can take Rolheiser’s advice and transcend the things that keep us separated.

  5. The initial comment was all that related to Rolheiser really, I just read more into that idea of accepting all other ideologies than I’m sure he meant.

    I went off on a tangent in the second paragraph purely because I felt I couldn’t take credit for ‘keeping Jesus at [my] centre’ as you had suggested!

    And yes there are many String Theorists and theoretical Astrophysicists who go back to the church because the further you probe the more there seems to be behind existence that would point to some kind of God, just to me it does not point towards Jesus, or to an Orthodox religion. And I wouldn’t say I lost my faith because of this, I couldn’t say I’d ever had true Christian faith, growing up around the church etc doesn’t give you faith, its something you have to find yourself and having deliberated over such things myself I have a differing view on certain aspects than the church does.

    And I’m not sure what you meant by your 3rd paragraph, but yes indeed with my way there is no need for multiple Hindu Gods, multiple Gospel accounts, for there is no need to decree how people should relate to God and/or how they worship or come to terms with existence. I should now point out I am not anti-religion, while they have caused endless historical problems I feel giving people a channel to devote their lives to brings huge benefits, amazing things are achieved.

    And I take your point about there not being certainty, but by ‘finding your way’ I meant that it appears you have found Christianity as your route, not your destination!

    And your final comment certainly finds us in whole hearted agreement 🙂

  6. J.I.,

    We may not totally agree on some of this stuff, but I really appreciate your perspective here. I think when people of faith are honest, they can very much relate to your position. It’s good to see that we find ourselves in agreement on what is the most important point.

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