The Church (notes I)

MONDAY, 5 APRIL 2004

I was at the “Bread of Life Church” in Kaohsiung last night. At first I thought it would feel like it had felt Saturday night when I took a different route home and ended up on a dark, deserted road in an industrial area. That feeling was fresh on my mind on the way to the church. I thought I was again going to find myself in a place where I don’t belong.

After 45 minutes I walked out and … I was disappointed. Disappointed in the so-called sermon that consisted mainly of a pseudo-science/history lecture to “prove” that Christ had really died. The what-it-means part was finally introduced with, “Just a few final words …” (or something similar).

I was also reminded of the fact that people “do church” on Sunday night, like other people (or the same people) “do sport” on a Saturday. It was a social event with the added benefit of religious identity confirmation.

I could not help but look at the people, at the “pastor” with his microphone and the paraphernalia of “Christianity” and come the conclusion that the Church of Christ had been hijacked by people who do not understand half of their own so-called faith.

This is a critical accusation, and I am aware of the fact that I only spent 45 minutes in the “community of the faithful”.

A question does come to mind: If this is what I think, do I have a responsibility to share my opinion – in the written word and in private conversation, or should I keep it to myself and say, “Let the people continue to do church in peace and confirm their identities”?

Responsibility to whom? As usual, I am not sure. All I know – and I am, after all, not a complete stranger to the whole church business – is that something was not right at that gathering.

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The emphasis on “evidence” in the lecture last night made me think the pastor assumed he was “preaching” to a group of doubters for whom believing was not enough; as if he knew the people had to dip their fingers in the wounds of Christ before they could believe.

* * *

It may seem odd to many believers to point this out, but one does get the idea that for many “Christians” the Christian religion is about correct action and reward – do this, get this. What should be done for the reward is that the person should “believe” in God. Of course, as soon as this becomes a prerequisite for salvation, it literally becomes a matter of life and death to define correct beliefs, and equally important, to define heretical beliefs. And once you have established the borderline between correct beliefs and incorrect beliefs, it is open season on those heretics who are “led astray”, who “follow the wrong path”, who are not “true believers, like us”.

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