Wednesday, September 17, 2008

How to tell Obama is definitely a Christian

He has a top down, not a bottom up plan/ scheme to change people's lives for the better. That, my readers, is mainline Christianity all the way. I don't know a lot about the Muslim faith, but somehow, I doubt that either up or down to help your fellowman is a top priority. Main line Christianity, such as that of the United Church of Christ of which he is a member, has been struggling with how to best help the poor since the early 20th century but most specifically since a merger of two totally different streams of Christianity created it in 1957. In the 18th and 19th century, the poor, the immigrant and excluded in the United States were reached by various renewals and "awakenings." That's sort of our Methodist, Baptist and Pentecostal branches. Lives were changed from the bottom up--the only material help available was from your own church, which insisted that the drinking, gambling and womanizing had to go if you wanted to share in the fellowship. I know we like to believe the myth that we were somehow a more Christian nation around the time of the Revolution or War of 1812, but that's not true. For many, especially those Anabaptists in my family tree who began arriving in the 1730s, religious freedom was a component of the trip across the pond, but let's face it, they could have never owned land or even a small business in Europe with its rigid class system and rich state churches.

But those who were religious were most likely Protestant, and members of maybe 3 or 4different groups. The reason religious freedom is written into our nation's earliest documents is that these Christians couldn't get along, and each saw the other as a threat, so no one came out on top. Now that was good for our foundation, however, the splits and contentiousness have continued to this day.

The UCC is sort of the great-granddaughter of the Puritans and the German Reformed. The Puritans, or their descendants, gave us Harvard and Yale, the abolitionist movement and some terrific old time religion. They have always been about "purifying" first the church, and more recently society. There is magnificent history and tradition in that denomination. Obama's church, Trinity UCC in Chicago, added another layer to the struggle for justice and freedom, the Black Liberation Theology of Jeremiah Wright via James Cone. Unless you tune into black church radio on Sunday, it could sound quite foreign, but it's really a nice fit for the UCC for whom diversity, multiculturalism, redistribution of wealth, political debate, empowerment, victimhood, and community organizing are right up there with personal faith, the gospel, catechism, liturgy and the Eucharist in other churches.

Unfortunately for the UCC, Obama, and other mainline Christians (like ELCA), top-down change only works briefly if at all--except for the leaders and pastors, for whom it is a rich vein to mine. Mainline churches have shrunk in numbers and power, almost to insignificance. Members have fled to look for spiritual meaning elsewhere, or for none at all. Who wants to attend a worship service that sounds like an election campaign or a call to serve on a committee? In the 1950s the ecumenical movement was a big deal. Christian leaders looked around and said, Surely this isn't what Jesus wanted--that we're all squabbling and spending money on separate "good works" programming. So they merged, and merged, and merged, and fought some more, and split, and split, and after initial huge groups which closed offices in some cities and formed huge bureaucracies in other cities, they've dwindled to groups of angry demonstrators who have more in common with NGOs and government agencies than other gospel directed Christians. Because the poor and their version of "justice" has become their focus, not Jesus Christ, sin and evil is always "out there" somewhere and never their own personal responsibility and need to change. They have to be about rearranging the chairs instead of building the church.

There, doesn't that make sense? So stop spreading those rumors that Obama is a Muslim, and check out what your own church is about.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

"... never their own personal responsibility and need to change."

The breadth of your ignorance is amazing. Even more so your willingness to paint with a broad brush. How do you know, Norma, have you spent any time in a UCC church? I have. That is my church, and the church of my grandfather who was a minister. You are completely wrong, and have no idea of what you are talking about.

If I were to make stereotypical comments about Pentecostals or Fundamentalists, I suspect you would be calling me ignorant and ill-informed, ,and I would be... in equal quantity as you are.


Oh, and in reference to your comment about Islam - helping others is a big part of their religion. You are right, you don't know much about them. However, that doesn't seem to encourage you to learn more before you make egregious statements based on your admittedly sparse knowledge.

Norma said...

Yes, I'm a former member. What part are you denying--ties with the Puritans? All the good works of the past? The loss of membership?

Norma said...

And btw, the sentence you're objecting to is about mainline Protestants, not just UCC. In that, I include my own ELCA.

Anonymous said...

I'm denying the part that I quoted.

I know the history of the UCC church.

I'm sorry if the church(es) you belonged to were like that. It would be good to leave them if they weren't fulfilling your spiritual needs. However, be aware that your experience is not the necessarily the experience of everyone else. I can tell you that salvation, and personal responsibility, have been a part of the message of every UCC church I have been in.

I can't, and won't, speak for other mainline Christian churches because I have not been a part of their worship.

Norma said...

It's good that you've found a believing congregation; so have I (Lutherans are congregational in polity). But our denominations are both losing ground for the reasons I stated. You can check today's stats against the 1970s if you don't believe me.

Anonymous said...

I won't argue that they are losing ground. I'm just saying that it's not for the reasons you think. Perhaps they find something more akin to some of the newer, and in many cases, non-denominational churches.

You want to know what I think of what one of the understated reasons is? Music. I'm willing to bet that a lot of younger people are initially attracted to, for instance, Pentecostal churches is because of more contemporary music. My girlfriend was raised in a Pentecostal community and only broke away about 10 years ago (due to very conservative political attitudes and the constant injection, as she saw it, of fear). So we went and visited a Pentecostal church. The music was better. Personally, I was turned off by the focus on the Rapture and "getting right with God now!" But that is a personal observation. However, I did enjoy the upbeat music exponentially more than the traditional Christian hymns.

Emily said...

Alms-Giving (or Zakat) is one of the five Pillars of Islam - five tasks that every Muslim must partake in.

Helping your fellow man is an intrinsic part of the Muslim faith.