The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Why has much of institutionalized Christianity become so "us vs. them"


#1

If there is one thing I understand with the foundations of Christianity is that there is no room for any kind of spiritual pride and elitism. That is not to say that Christians are perfect, and immune from such spiritual elitism. But what has disturbed me is how much of Americanized Christianity has become very “us vs. them”. Frankly, this contradicts the very values Christianity and America were founded on. Plus, I have always been curious about why so much of Americanized Christianity has become so strongly tied to right wing politics, and demonization of the left. Officially, I have known that it is about the whole matter of pro-life and pro-choice. Frankly, I have little reason to believe either the left or right is consistently pro-life, or pro-death, which is a whole other subject, but Richard Rohr did a good job of addressing the matter. I have also noticed so much denominationism and sectarianism.

Much of this “us vs. them” thinking goes against anything Jesus taught. Now it is true that Jesus took sin seriously, and often got angry, but mostly with the Pharisees. Plus, much of the new testament leaves little room for placing those in the church on a pedestal while looking down on those outside the church. Nor do I think Jesus would go along with either the left or the right. But I would not agree with saying Jesus would demonize both parties either. It seems like a common practice for Fundamentalists to quote Jesus statements of wrath against anyone who disagrees with them, despite these statements being against the pharisees. Plus, I have noticed many hard statements in the Gospels and Epistles are meant to remind Christians not to fall into pride, rather than as justification to judge outsiders. This reminds me of C.S. Lewis chapter on Pride, and pointed out that sins of the spirit, or a malicious and self righteous spirit are more severe than sins of the flesh. Frankly, this aligns with Jesus, with the particular example of how he handled the woman caught in adultery.


#2

To answer the question, the reason is that most “institutionalized Christianity” consists of various denominations. In most cases, if you wish to join a denominational church, you must subscribe its “statement of faith.” The differing “statements of faith” tend to foment division. “You don’t believe as we do. So obviously you are a heretic.”

Jesus didn’t establish denominations. He founded ONE CHURCH (or better "Assembly). There is no other, When you become a disciple of Christ, you are part of that ONE ASSEMBLY. You may have beliefs that differ dramatically from mine, but if we are both part of that ONE CHURCH, we are brothers in Christ.


#3

:+1:


#4

Our small city hosts an annual interdenominational Communion service with a guest speaker in a large local park. The Lutherans boycott the gathering because some participating Evangelicals oppose same-sex marriage. The Baptists and Evangelical Free Church boycott the service because the odd liberal pastor is allowed to play a small role in the service. The reaction of the unchurched public? Well, as one non-Christian vet put it, “I don’t go to church because you people can’t get past your petty doctrinal bickering and just love each other.” Sigh!


#5

I attend an international church (in Denmark). Although the Pastor is Lutheran, we have worshippers who are Catholic, Orthodox, Methodist, Anglican, Baptist etc. It means that Bible study has a variety of viewpoints and we all take communion together.

The us vs them is a reflection of the entanglement of politics and religion. We should consider Replacing left vs right politics with Jesus and measuring ideas and policies not by whether they are left or right but whether they are Christlike or not.


#6

My take is I tried to find, the church that follows

The closest. Which would be the Eastern Orthodox church - IMHO.

  • And Orthodoxy allows for Holy Foolery (1, 2), Inclusivism (1,2,3,4), Theosis (1, 2); Hopeful Apocatastasis.

  • I supplement it with contemplation methods, that bring about peace, calm, balance and healing. Particularly in the Meditation (Mindfulness, Yoga (1, 2), Zen, Red Road, Golden Key) and Light ( 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) arenas.

  • For health reasons, I follow the ancient healing modalities of homeopathy, Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine - in conjunction with modern medicine and a healthy diet.

  • And I can still have my theological opinion, how I think the tribulation will occur with Z-Hell (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

So the ONLY “us” vs “them” for me, is when the zombies finally arrive!


#7

This sounds like a bit of the dilemma about how to handle pharisaism in the church without becoming a pharisee yourself. I think that Christian Universalists can fall into the same trap as the infernalists. I remember when I first believed in Universal Salvation, I divided all Christians into either Hardcore infernalists, Annihiliationists(I know Jehovah’s witnesses) and Universalists. To me, if one was not strictly Universalist or an Annihilationist, they were just cold legalists who only had a concept of law and punishment for transgression. Then I found out that people who adhered to benevolence can become just as malevolent against anything against them. This reminds me of those anti-abortion terrorists who are against the taking of life, but have no problem with using their very methods. I remember how painful it was to read through debates over Universal Salvation and Eternal Damnation. It seemed like neither could be civil with the believers in Eternal Damnation accusing the Universalists of advocating cheap grace, not taking sin seriously and telling people what they wanted to hear. All the while, the Universalists often accused the Infernalists of being sadistic, self righteous, and needing a sense of specialness. Even as a Catholic, I sometimes wish the pope would ex-communicate certain people with Fundamentalists tendencies. I know I shouldn’t.


#8

As everyone probably knows by now…I subscribe to the Patheos Catholic and Evangelical newsletters. Here are a couple of relevant articles - one from each of today’s newsletters.

And here’s a note, I just sent…to one of the Orthodox priests, where I am a prospect:

Well, I’m set to attend this week…the Bible study and the news about Orthodoxy this week. Besides the Orthodox Study Bible, I got a Parallel study hardcover bible. It has the NIV, NLT, NKJV and the Message. Both bibles were around $30 each from Amazon – a good deal. Even though the Message bible, has limited value – IMHO. I’m not sure why there’s a copy, in the BBB library. But with the first bible, with Orthodox notes…and the second, with the best of Protestant translation scholarship…I’m better prepared, for any Orthodox bible study – weather and life’s circumstances. permitting, of course


#9

As a simple Scotsman, I obviously have no deep insight into what you mean by “Americanized Christianity”. I humbly suggest that a Christian is one who recognizes his need of a Saviour, reads or is told about that Saviour, believes in Him and lives his/her life in accordance with what He teaches us in His Word. He may lean to the so-called Right (Republicans) or the so-called Left (Democrats) but will love his brother/sister in Christ irrespective of which political party he/she supports.


#10

:+1:


#11

By your definition of Christian, would you regard either of the following as Christian?

  1. Someone for whom politics come first and the recognition and belief in a Saviour second
  2. Someone who recognises and believes in a Saviour but despises those who vote for the other party

#12

“By your definition”. Is mine different from yours, Mike? How can I answer your question? It is not for me to declare who is a Christian and who is not. Only God knows who are His. We can get some idea of what a person believes from their actions and words but we are not to judge.

We are definitely not to despise anyone made in the image of God - even if they vote Democrat :weary: OTOH, if I know someone believes in Darwinism or one of its modern equivalents, I might have a different opinion! Just kidding - I know some of you believe it, but I still love you :star_struck:


#13

I say I’m independent and vote for the best candidate - Republican or Democrat. But if folks press me, for a party affiliation…I say I side the most, with the Zombie Liberation Party! :wink:

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#14

Thanks Norm,

And that is a place we need to continue to be.:smiley: