May 24, 2019

Damaris Zehner: Rebranding Christianity

Washing of Feet. Giotto

Rebranding Christianity
Damaris Zehner

Christians have a bad name these days. There have been scandals, of course – abusive priests, sexually immoral Christian leaders, cult-like churches, financial irresponsibility, hypocrisy, and more. There have also been a lot of people in the public eye who have identified themselves as Christian while espousing hateful or ridiculous points of view. To many Americans, Christians of all denominations are at worst hate-mongers and at best buffoons, Westboro Baptist protesters or creation science theme park operators. It’s gotten to the point that well-meaning people are hesitant to say they’re Christians because they know they’ll be immediately pegged as one or both.

So how do we reclaim the public view of Christianity? Here are a few things that we shouldn’t do.

Public legislation. Fighting to pass laws to protect exclusively Christian points of view is not going to work. First of all, not all Christians agree on the content of laws concerning marriage, birth control and abortion, education, public display of religious symbolism, or legalization of drugs. And even when various Christian groups agree that a particular thing is right or wrong by biblical standards, not everyone agrees that legislation is the correct way to address the problem. The very public arguments over these issues have made Christians seem, fairly or unfairly, to be divisive, harsh, narrow-minded, and legalistic. Christianity under these conditions shows itself to be a religion of laws and conformity – though a careful reader of the New Testament can see that Jesus’ intent was exactly the opposite. We simply need to accept that the days of the American Christian Empire are at an end, if they ever existed. (And when we see the complications that have arisen in the past when government and Christianity have been conflated, we should honestly be grateful that they no longer are.)

Of course I would rather live in a country where everyone respects all life and lives according to moral and natural law – but even if that is possible, we have for the present ruined our chances of it. Before laws can be imposed from the outside, they must first be written on people’s hearts – or the act of legislation is like building a sandcastle when the tide comes in; every new wave washes it away.

Culture wars. I have a new coworker – a nice woman, hard-working, caring, and responsible – who is also aggressively Christian. She has hung a poster on her office wall that displays the words of a hymn; I stuck my head in to tell her that I liked that hymn, too. “You’re going to see a lot of that kind of stuff when I get everything unpacked,” she growled. “And I don’t care what anyone says; they’re not going to stop me from doing what I believe.” Well, all right. But honestly, no one would have stopped her. She didn’t need to come out swinging. She can say “Merry Christmas” if she likes, and no one is going to care one way or another, even those who aren’t Christian. But I’m afraid that she, like so many Christians, imagines herself engaged in a battle for the soul of America, a battle that must be fought by offensive (I use the term in both the military and the interpersonal sense) symbols that, for modern non-believers, are stripped of all Christian content and are just annoying. Will any wandering soul ever be saved by seeing a poster on your office wall or being whapped in the head by a rosary when he gets into your car? In fact, the insistence on public placement of objects of religious symbolism skates close to idolatry, by presuming that a plaque of the Ten Commandments or a statue of Jesus have any power in themselves to effect change or to save.

Apologetics. Well, to some extent. There are good books out there that portray Christianity in an attractive light and that answer sincere questions about the content of the faith. St. Francis de Sales, C.S. Lewis, Phillip Yancey, G.K. Chesterton, and others do a wonderful job of portraying the joys and honest struggles of Christianity without being hateful to people who think otherwise. There are also wise and gentle people who chat with their non-Christian neighbors over the backyard fence, who wait to be asked and who answer simply. But the proliferating television stations, the films produced as propaganda and not as art, the vitriolic blogs and websites, the shoddy trade in “Christian” fiction and self-help books, all make Christianity look like a commercial brand or a cult group. Even the call-in radio shows focused on apologetics don’t do much good. They might help clarify the beliefs of people who are already Christians, but I shudder to hear most of the questions that are asked: “My brother is gay. How do I convince him he’s in danger of hell?” “What can I say to my Muslim neighbor to show her that Mohammed was just a fake prophet?” “Our pastor is doing church wrong,” and so on. Some hosts are careful to give irenic advice, but mostly the goal of both the callers and the apologist seems to be the stockpiling of weapons in the war of the Just against the Unjust. Even if the individuals involved are innocent of judgmentalism, the shows don’t come across well to listeners who happen to tune them in.

Again, I would love to see excellent literature, film, and radio that portray true Christian values. One day we can return to that – but when we do, those books shouldn’t be marked with a cross on the spine in the library, and those movies and radio shows shouldn’t have as their premise that being poorly made is a guarantee of religious sincerity.

As far as I can tell, these three currently ineffective techniques are the go-to items when discussions of Christianity in America arise. Christian groups spend a lot of time, energy, and money on them and feel as a consequence that they have done something positive. But we have, by the bad behavior of many, forfeited our audience’s sympathies. Let us turn instead to the simplest, hardest, and most effective means of redeeming Christianity in our age: a humble life of service.

This requires no funding, no entrée to the corridors of power, no study. The poor and the wealthy, the prominent and the simple, the educated and the uneducated can live this way. A humble life of service may be a full time vocation, but it doesn’t need to be. Anyone in any profession can offer it. Physical and mental handicaps do not prevent Christians from following this calling. It is content with the simplest acts of kindness, done simply out of kindness and not for manipulative purposes. It doesn’t broadcast its motives. It doesn’t require publicity or reward. It is not a marketing technique. While it may organize for greater effectiveness – as the Little Sisters of the Poor did, for example – it can and must also be pursued individually. People living humble lives of service do not ask to “win,” to ride a wave of triumph into the public eye. If they are obscure, they are content. If they fail in the eyes of the world, they are not discouraged. If they are martyrs, they fix their eyes on God only.

In the past, this humble life of service was overtly identified as Christian. Religious orders and movements made it clear by their names, clothing, and disciplines that they were Christians. That was – and is – not wrong, but I might suggest that laypeople at least avoid overt identification in the current era. Christianity has become so odious to so many that even acts of mercy may be seen as manipulative or hypocritical. Instead let people know that we are good people, gentle, helpful, supportive, and quiet, only by the way we act; we can talk later.

The humble life of service will be more effective in redeeming our faith in the eyes of the world than any of the techniques discussed above. It will also be an act of penance for all of us who have tried through pride, power, and pushiness to further the cause of the Suffering Servant, who died a shameful death in an obscure backwater as a means of saving the world.

Comments

  1. +10000 This past summer, my husband and I read “To change the world : the irony, tragedy, and possibility of Christianity in the late modern world” by James Hunter. His conclusion is that Christians are called to be a Faithful Presence in our culture. It really was an eye-opening book since I spent so much of my time and energy in my 20s and 30s trying to “change the world for Jesus!”. Then Jesus let me get a chronic illness so my sphere of influence is suddenly very small. But, it’s not a place of power or pride. And Jesus has been teaching me about contentment and love and service in my 40s and now 50s. Beautiful post and very timely.

  2. john barry says

    I do not think any one can argue with the points made in this article. However, many , I will say most, Christians do live and practice a quiet, non aggressive Christian life. Of course they support the Christian movies, the books and the counter culture to the overwhelming secular culture that mocks, minimizes and does not follow Christian moral values. Of course the publicity hound, prosperity preachers, the hell and brimstone poor representatives of Christianity get the headline that is the headlines of the secular media. Westboro was a loose bunch of nuts but the Baptist in the name grabbed the headline and the stereotype. .
    The first thing and the best way to undermine an institution is to mock it and laugh at it. Another step is to show it is no longer needed in a modern world of enlightenment . This has been accomplished in the first world countries but Christianity still thrives and grows in second and third world countries. The faithful Christians in China , all these years, have kept the faith under intense pressure. What support have they gotten from their Mother Church.
    Within the next decade we will see how a complex society built on Christian values can remain a viable society.
    No moral authority for the nuclear family, what will replace it? No teaching of a moral code based on a higher authority, we are starting to see the real fruits of that now.
    The lost of the influence of Christianity in western culture and society is a major change in direction. Sure, individual true believers can and should pronounce their faith by deeds and example. The Amish show and live their religion . Soon Christianity will have the same influence. Christianity has lost the PR war in the secular world
    Saintly Mother Teresa died the same day as Princess Diana, got who got the weeks of adoring publicity and adoration?
    Christian influence in the west in in the descent , Islamic influence in the west in on the ascent. Is it because of the individual, caring, nurturing nature of Islam being practiced and portrayed by its faithful?
    However, in the end if you have to tell someone you are a Christian it is better left unsaid. I think practice what you preach covers it. Norte Dame, is it lost lamented for its relevance to the faithful or as a tourist attraction? .

    • “Within the next decade we will see how a complex society built on Christian values can remain a viable society.”

      You speak of a “society built on Christian values” as if such a thing is self-evidently knowable. But is it? For example…

      “No moral authority for the nuclear family, what will replace it?”

      Jesus is the one who said that faith in Him is more important than even the bonds between parent and child.

      “No teaching of a moral code based on a higher authority, we are starting to see the real fruits of that now.”

      And when did we ever nationally obey a “moral code based on a higher authority”? What decree of God sanctioned the disinheriting of the native inhabitants and the importation and enslavement of Africans? What moral code acquiesces to the violent separation of families? What “moral code” are we abandoning now that we didn’t “keep” then?

      “Christianity has lost the PR war in the secular world”

      Nothing, NOTHING in the NT ever gives the impression that true Christianity would ever “win a PR war”. The very question puts the argument in the world’s own terms, and the church cannot win on those terms.

      “Norte Dame, is it lost lamented for its relevance to the faithful or as a tourist attraction?”

      It was also a historic landmark, a magnificent work of art and architecture, and a national symbol, and thus had great value apart from being a church building. Tell me, 500 years from now, assuming it’s still standing, if Willow Creek Auditorium burns down… who will care?

      All of this aside, we are in agreement that Danaris’ main point is ABSOLUTELY correct.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        > ever gives the impression that true Christianity would ever “win a PR war”.

        Yep. If it points in any direction it is the other way round.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > No moral authority for the nuclear family,

      The nuclear family is a myth; it was never “the norm”, not even in America. It was/is a fantasy of the Privileged – and heavily subsidized. The faster it dies as an Ideal all the better, and more Moral.

      • Yes. And that ‘nuclear family’ model looks very different from the ‘family’ models of biblical times.

      • The nuclear family, like the nuclear family, was invented in America. It doesn’t have legs to last a long time, not without the infusion of subsidies that you mention.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Norte Dame, is it lost lamented for its relevance to the faithful or as a tourist attraction? .

      Chaplain Mike (when you get back from the Mogollon Rim):

      Given the subject of this post by Damaris and the reaction you’ve been getting in the Notre Dame thread (i.e. “Why couldn’t they sell it off and give the money to the poor like REAL Christians?”), I think it’s time to reprint two older Internet Monk classics from 2010 by Jeff Dunn:

      “SURPRISE! God Does Art!”
      https://internetmonk.com/archive/surprise-god-does-art

      “Selling Jesus by the Pound”
      https://internetmonk.com/archive/selling-jesus-by-the-pound

  3. we can talk later.” — A good motto to guide the Christian life.

  4. Aside from regularly attending worship at church, and participating in this vlog as a commentator, I avoid Christian subculture like the plague. It’s productions are so immensely derivative, third and fourth rate, manipulative, formulaic, self-righteous, presumptuous, obnoxious, political, misanthropic….And yet, on the few occasions when I’m engaged with non-Christians about religious matters, I’m put in the position of having to answer for the existence of this subculture that I so dislike and avoid. It’s like an albatross hanging around the neck of any self-identified Christian who wants to relate to their neighbors, coworkers, and acquaintances as human beings first and foremost, not as religious big-game trophies in the culture war to win America for Christ.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > I avoid Christian subculture like the plague

      Same. It is an exhausting place; like s star ship diverting all spare energies to the Deflector Shields…. while traveling through safe Federation space.

    • Thank you for this Robert. I wondered if I was alone. Why would I want to so disengage from the culture around me? I am part of it for better or worse. I am a white female living in the Midwestern USA in the 21st Century. I am part of that world and to believe otherwise is a fool’s errand. Engaging with only sanitized Christian reality made up mostly by marketing firms simply turns Christianity into a commodity with a target market.

  5. Christiane says

    ” Let us turn instead to the simplest, hardest, and most effective means of redeeming Christianity in our age: a humble life of service.

    This requires no funding, no entrée to the corridors of power, no study. The poor and the wealthy, the prominent and the simple, the educated and the uneducated can live this way. A humble life of service may be a full time vocation, but it doesn’t need to be. Anyone in any profession can offer it. Physical and mental handicaps do not prevent Christians from following this calling. It is content with the simplest acts of kindness, done simply out of kindness and not for manipulative purposes. ”

    THIS, a thousand times THIS !

  6. Damaris, this and your post last week are spot on. We all know, or have been (or perhaps ‘are’) those people you mention. You have eloquently identified serious issues and offered constructive solutions (which are so often lacking in books that simply ‘identify the problem’ but offer no good alternatives). Well done.

    I do think that what American Christianity, evangelicalism in particular, needs, however, is more than simply rebranding (though the issues you address are important regardless of the content of the message – again, well done). The understanding of ‘the faith’, and the practice of it, by evangelicals (in particular) is very different from that of the early Christians (and most Christians throughout history for that matter). I understand that ‘the faith’ is a dynamic thing and that there never was really a ‘faith once for all delivered to the saints’. After all, the New Testament is largely the story of the early Christians trying to figure out the ‘Jesus event’ and its implications – what about Gentiles, what about the Old Testament law, what about the place of women, how do we deal with our neighbors, just to mention a few practical matters? And those kinds of issues aren’t settled when the New Testament closes. That continued on through the first few centuries of the church (and Christianity has always adapted to the culture in which it finds itself, taking on new baggage, some good, some bad). And with all the new discoveries in fields related to biblical studies (and biblical studies itself) that ‘dynamic’ has returned again as scholars (in particular) again rethink how ‘the faith’ is understood and practiced (and much of that ‘rethinking’ is being resisted vehemently by most conservatives, though many of the scholars are themselves quite conservative – e.g. N. T. Wright).

    In particular, I believe evangelical churches need to abandon (or at least seriously rethink) their view of ‘salvation’ – the very message they proclaim. The ‘transactional’ or ‘contractual’ understanding of salvation (as a ‘crisis’ event wherein one somehow exchanges their faith for God’s righteousness, and eternal life, effected through a rote ‘sinner’s prayer’, which guarantees salvation for the one who says the magic words) is far from what the early Christians believed. It fits very well in American culture (or has until recently) but if finds its roots in the Reformation, and the frontier revival movements, rather than the New Testament itself. When one reads the New Testament one does not find a ‘Romans Road’ model of salvation, or people trying to convince non-believers that they are ‘sinners who can’t save themselves’ and so on. It simply isn’t there. However, the message that IS there, and the way the early church ‘did evangelism’ (to use the popular phrase) would probably be attractive to people living in our times – times of collapse and skepticism about Christianity. Perhaps (read a large dose of understatement here) the reason evangelicals (in particular) have become irrelevant (at best) and offensive (at worst) is because they are pushing a religion that uses the words of the New Testament (and the name of Jesus) but its message is not the same (and the actual words of Jesus rarely heard), and its practice and public image resembles those Jesus himself opposed – the Pharisees – far more than the early followers of Jesus. More than simply a rebranding, I believe the church in America needs a reformation – one where the New Testament faith is more accurately understood, the voice of Jesus (rather than the presumed voice of Paul) is heard, and the truths and principles of that faith are adapted and applied to our very different culture today.

  7. Christiane says

    Apathy in the face of the suffering of innocents is the opposite of Christian kindness: the great mass of ‘conservative’ far-right self-identified Christians have given themselves over to a silent acquiescence to evil.

    How differently would we respond to suffering, if we who love the Lord, instead of trying so hard to remain blithely ‘unaware’ that a stone’s throw from our southern border is a camp of refugees seeking asylum huddled in the very cold nights, with little food, and among them so many children suffering with sickness . . . .

    Faced with the immense suffering in this world, maybe a melting of the cold places in the hearts of Christian people is not something unrelated to our salvation IF it increases our capacity for compassion in the process,

    In our own time we who identify as ‘Christian’ desperately need to experience ‘misericordia’: the melting of the hard places in our hearts; so that we will no longer be able to ‘look away’ from the suffering of innocents, but be moved to respond to it with an age-old kindness

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      In our own time we who identify as ‘Christian’ desperately need to experience ‘misericordia’:

      But then how can I be Holier Than Thou?
      Rub My Righteousness in your lukewarm face, O Ye of Little FAITH? (Tsk. Tsk.)

  8. David Cornwell says

    Thank you Damaris. Well written.

  9. Burro (Mule) says

    There is an exception to the blanket opprobrium thrown at Christianity by its cultured despisers. I live and work with a lot of black folk, and most of them are devout Christians of an Evangelical stripe. Bible verses drip from their lips easily and naturally, without the least self-consciousness or militancy, and with the assumption of a shared cultural understanding.

    Even as an Orthodox Christian, which nobody has ever heard of, I am somewhat jealous of the permission they are given to be devout Christians without triggering the reflexive and ubiquitous SJW wrath reserved for white people who presume to think that God may not exactly align with the platform of the Democratic party.

    You see, the odd thing is that they are quite conservative, family-oriented folks. Some are divorced. There are single mothers and single fathers suffering their own particular crosses. They tend to be left-leaning on economic issues but to the right even of me on the hated ‘pelvic issues’. I sense that in their churches there isn’t the special handling of Paul that results in making same-sex genital sex OK as long as it’s performed within the bonds of a modern ‘loving’ relationship of uncertain duration.

    And nobody calls them out on it or calls them ‘oppressors’, ‘homophobic scum’. It’s like they get a pass on that.

    • john barry says

      Burro/Mule, I completely agree with you astute observation. The key fact in your comment is that you live and work with the community of which you critique. That is so refreshing and honest. Not to dwell on the black Christian community but it is relevant to the discussion , they have historically gotten a pass on the “Johnson” amendment and have and do mix politics and religion quite easy. I have no problem personally with that but it only applies to the black Christian community and now the Muslim community..
      Other than the “economic” issues the American black church is very conservative. I will add, in my old man white opinion, the “black” evangelical church is more accepting and forgiving of pre martial sex and are more tolerant of leaders who have a roving eye. Again, it goes back to culture . The decline in power and influence of the black church in that community is not a good thing.
      Muslims in America also get a free pass on their homophobic and women rights teachings. That is why the face of Islam in America in politics are women. Excellent point from someone who sees the issue at the ground level.

    • Burro, perhaps the fact that those Bible verses drip from their lips easily and naturally, without the least self-consciousness or militancy is WHY nobody calls them oppressors or homophobic scum. Perhaps their left-leaning on economic issues gives the more credibility than white evangelicals, many of whom opposed the civil rights movement, and continue to oppose equal rights for many, and believe strongly that God helps those who help themselves, rather than those who actually need some help.

  10. john barry says

    All good points and examples from many comments above, which is becoming the established narrative.. I do not share the view that most Christians of any denomination including the frustrating evangelicals are the so far removed from the teachings of Jesus that they have become irrelevant . Christianity has lost its influence and importance in modern western civilization as it is believed it is no longer needed on a national level as many have abandoned Christianity. This will have consequences that we are now seeing develop. Most of the what we call “good” in the world comes from our understanding of the message of the Bible and the teaching of Jesus. What will replace the positive influence Christianity has had in the western world, leading us to where we are. Sure , again we can and should be individuals leading a life that is Christ like but that does not influence a culture whose chose to ignore the Jesus freaks, or the unenlightened. The vacuum of influence and power will be filled in any organization. Christianity is in decline and lost of influence in the culture as the “culture” has deemed it unnecessary and man can go it alone. At my age it is a moot point in this world but it is not good for the future of the world. And every man did what he thought was right in his own viewpoint.

    • “I do not share the view that most Christians of any denomination including the frustrating evangelicals are the so far removed from the teachings of Jesus that they have become irrelevant.”

      Barna did some recent polling that suggests that we are indeed so far removed from Jesus’ teachings that we are irrelevant (as well as hypocritical…)

      https://www.barna.com/research/christians-more-like-jesus-or-pharisees/

      • Burro (Mule) says

        In any form of Christianity where you make it ‘illegal’ for Christians to sin, you are going to end up with one of several accomodations: 1) You are going to have a large group of Christians who are going to expend a lot of psychic energy trying to convice themselves and others that they don’t sin. Oh yes, and a lot of non-psychic energy covering up their sin. 2) You are going to have pressure to move the goalposts,that is to say, to redefine sin as not-sin. 3) The most common accomodation is to ‘grade’ sins as to their seriousness and root out the sins that the other guy commits with the diligence and zeal of Cotton Mather while yawning at your own sins.

        This has been a problem with Christianity ever since the very beginning, ever since it became apparent that Jesus wasn’t coming back in two or three months. The sacrament of Confession is the unified Church’s response to this, and yes RobertF, I know how easily this can be manipulated. I have seen it with my own eyes.

        You’d think after 2000 years (or longer) we’d have learned punishing sin doesn’t get rid of it, or even reduce it very much, but it remains the go-to response for nearly everyone. (After all, someone has to DO DOMETHING, right?)

      • I think this paragraph near the end of the Barna article says volumes.

        “Many Christians are more concerned with what they call unrighteousness than they are with self-righteousness. It’s a lot easier to point fingers at how the culture is immoral than it is to confront Christians in their comfortable spiritual patterns. Perhaps pastors and teachers might take another look at how and what they communicate. Do people somehow get the message that the ‘right action’ is more important than the ‘right attitude’? Do church leaders have a tendency to focus more on tangible results, like actions, because those are easier to see and measure than attitudes?”

        I spent years in churches where the focus was on them vs us, and saw very little ‘Jesus’ in those churches. ‘God we thank you that WE are not like others: drunkards, baby-killers, gays, adulterers, or even like this Democrat here.’ Self-righteous triumphalism and a bunker mentality won’t change the world for the better. But focusing on other people’s sins – those of ‘the world’ – will help a pastor keep his job and his church full. Perhaps a little humility and honesty would help. Addressing sins of Christian leaders rather than justifying or excusing them might give some credibility. And maybe voting in a way that has at least a slight connection to the values Christians claim (voting for people who act even a little bit like Jesus ???) would change the impression people have of Christians. I’m afraid the contempt many have for the church is often deserved.

  11. john barry says

    I guess it is all in perception, the glass half full , half empty viewpoint. Of course historically Christians just like other religions have to believe that their faith and lifestyle is the correct belief and cultural pathway to living a good life.
    Maybe Christians cannot live up to the life and example of Christ is they are not Christ but they are attempting to follow his teachings.
    Maybe I was asleep but most churches I have attended stress we are all sinners. What better place for hypocrites to be than in a church? Even the most fundamental church would welcome a drug addict, a druggie, an adultery, a thief and any sinner who really accept Christ and quit their sinning ways. Long ago in a very basic church I learned that repent means to change, most of the frustrating evangelicals even believe that if you truly decide to follow Jesus, you are not what you once were. However the moral and social teaching of Christianity though the ages is a major plus and got us to where we are now. Our base of what is right and wrong, good and bad is based on the values and teaching of the Bible and Christianity.
    The popularity and appeal of the prosperity, who are we to judge, feel good mega preachers usually proclaim a non judgmental , easy and rewarding message. I do thank God ,I an be a Christian because of the work of Christ, I do believe trying to be like Christ knowing I cannot or do not have to be.
    I do believe a lot of the critics of people of faith hold white, evangelical Christians to a standard not applied to other ethnic and denominations. Jesus was perfect , white evangelical Christians are not. Got give the frustrating white low brow Christians a little love and credit. You are gonna to miss them when they are gone.

    • “Of course historically Christians just like other religions have to believe that their faith and lifestyle is the correct belief and cultural pathway to living a good life.”

      Of course. The problem is when Christians decide that, despite the preponderance of NT verses to the contrary, that they get to force/enforce that belief on everybody else.

      • john barry says

        Eeyore What society and culture does not have a major influence on their government ? It took a long time of effort and good/bad faith to get us where we are now.. At what times in America did evangelical Christians by use of “force” enforce their beliefs on others , in my life time , I cannot recall any time.

        • “At what times in America did evangelical Christians by use of “force” enforce their beliefs on others , in my life time , I cannot recall any time”

          Other than Prohibition, Blue Laws, Sodomy Laws, banning evolution from being taught in classrooms, etc etc?

        • Christiane says

          you’re not old enough, JB . . . . . you must be REALLY young 🙂

          when I was a girl, I heard that in my hometown, there was a blue law still on the books that you couldn’t lead a bear on a lease down the center of Main Street on a Sunday. (true story, you can’t make this stuff up)

          I was always wondering how that law came to be, but no one knew its origin. It just ‘was’.

          Blue laws. Prohibition.

          The old-timers had a field day with prohibition . . . the mountain people made money off of their corn ‘liquor’
          (shades of Mayberry USA and the Morrison sisters’ who sold their ‘elixir for special occasions’ aka moonshine

          http://www.sitcomsonline.com/photopost/data/748/AndyG324.jpg

          • john barry says

            Eeyore, Christiane, I mangled my own comments. In my lifetime and yours, the not in anytime was a blooper.
            So rightfully so the laws you cited have disappeared . Prohibition was an ill advised amendment that aided Joe Kennedy and Al Capone more than the mountain people. Sodomy was enforced about as much as the laws against of adultery , but it is good it is gone. Teaching about God is now banned in the classroom and the evolution theory is taught as such. Does not seem that oppressive considering the power the Christians had in America of past. Again , in the “real” world what country, culture and society is the yardstick America is compared to?

            Agreed , Christians were not perfect, followed the culture of their society but though the process of America’s political system the wrongs were right and we are where we are.

            • BUT, Christians fought the repeal of most of those laws tooth and nail, as they continue to do in regard to gay marriage.

              • john barry says

                Greg, But Christians like any other special interest group has the right to seek address and oppose a law they feel unjust or immoral. Christians do accept the law of the government even when it goes against their faith teaching. Nothing in our secular world happens without a reason and we do not live in a vacuum.
                person who does not wish to be known, at times laws have to be passed, enacted and enforced to protect those with no power or cultural standing. Were the laws outlawing slavery not legislating morality, how about equal rights, the old chant you cannot legislate morality . Some things are foundational to a society and the foundation is being undermined by the reason of man. Abortion , safe , legal and rare, where are we now?

              • Headless Unicorn Guy says

                BUT, Christians fought the repeal of most of those laws tooth and nail, as they continue to do in regard to gay marriage.

                Remember Reefer Madness?
                That was bankrolled by Christians, who remain (along with the DEA and Donald Trump) THE biggest fanboys of the War on Drugs.

            • anonymous says

              we don’t get it that Christianity is meant to change hearts, not ‘legislate morality’

              two thousand years, and we don’t get it already?

              • Headless Unicorn Guy says

                It’s the Utopian Fantasy.
                “This Time We WILL Achieve True Communism!
                Unicorns farting rainbows and free ice cream for everyone — forever!”

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      “””just like other religions have to believe that their faith and lifestyle is the correct belief and cultural pathway to living a good life.”””

      What is a Christian “lifestyle”? What is a Christian “culture”? This conflation – as neither of those things exist – is the root of the problem.

      Once you conflate your culture or life-style with your religion there can be no possible outcome other that confrontation.

      • john barry says

        Adam T.W. I really believe in America the Christian lifestyle is pretty clear to most Christians and most people who lived during my lifetime. A lifestyle that taught the value of traditional marriage, following the Ten Commandments, reading and studying the Bible, caring for your family, attending and support your house of worship, being concerned about spreading the Gospel, praying , not indulging in activity that your faith deems harmful to your morality. I do not think it is that hard to id the Christian lifestyle or the Amish lifestyle or the Jewish lifestyle or the strictly secular life style.

        The Christian culture was such an influence on the American culture that it only recently that has been any real separation. America, only real “confrontation” was not over faith per se but economics and government power. Slavery was the moral issue based on its economic need for the cotton industry. America has had a pretty good track record of peaceful co existence using real world matrix.

        If anyone wants to know what the deadbeat, welfare culture is , let me know , I will call my Cousin Rusty and report back.

        • “I really believe in America the Christian lifestyle is pretty clear to most Christians and most people who lived during my lifetime. A lifestyle that taught the value of traditional marriage, following the Ten Commandments, reading and studying the Bible, caring for your family, attending and support your house of worship, being concerned about spreading the Gospel, praying, not indulging in activity that your faith deems harmful to your morality.”

          That’s the American version of the “Christian lifestyle”, which is not the same as a universal “Christian lifestyle”. Other eras of Christianity privileged non-married lifestyles. The privileging of the Ten Commandments is also a Protestant/evangelical theological construction. Many Christians around the world could never afford a separate house of worship, let alone a Bible of their own (if they were even permitted to own one). Praying and spreading the Gospel? Sure, but I think Damaris’ article raises a very valid point about exactly HOW that is to be done, and it’s not the way that American evangelicalism has conditioned itself to do it.

          “America, only real “confrontation” was not over faith per se but economics and government power. Slavery was the moral issue based on its economic need for the cotton industry. America has had a pretty good track record of peaceful co existence using real world matrix.”

          It was indeed a faith issue as well, as both abolitionists and secessionists appealed to Scripture for their positions. As far as that “track record of peaceful co-existence” is concerned… well, just ask the Mexicans… or the Natives… or blacks… or non-white immigrants… or Jews…

          • John barry says

            Eeyore, Sometimes just to be somewhat objective America let us give USA a fair look. What country, what culture , what society is America being compared to in the real world? The Mexicans and others in Central America are still coming here in masse. How did the Spanish conquers treat the Aztec, Mayans and other native born people? Because America is a baby in the terms of world history the record of treating the natives here upon European arrival is recorded and open to review. Again, the history of the world is conquest and taking over land/resources from the natives. Russia was the land of the Rus, whole British empire took over land and people from India on down to small islands, where are the Mayan gambling casinos? Again no country in more fair, least racist, more open and welcoming to all people than the USA historically and today. Again , we can judge history with today’s yardstick if we want to remain in the past.
            What other country had a civil war to free a minority. Without slavery there would have been no civil war.

            I will say again, the same arguments used for illegal immigrants were used for using slave labor. Non white immigrants , the majority of immigrants since the 1965 immigration act have been non white.
            For the anti American , America is inherently evil, built on slavery by the evil Europeans crowd, feel at ease . You have won the war, the demographics that were voluntarily changed and the lost of appreciation for the American experience is leading to the end of America as we knew it. No , it is not the end now but it is the beginning of the end. America will be another city on a hill and not shine too much soon.

            Ok the decline will surely start with the passing of me. Wish I could come back in a hundred years to see how the non shining America turned out. My guess is like Mexico. However the poverty and lack of economic and social freedom will go unlamented because as Elvis sang “You Don’t Know What You Got Until You Lose It’ and it is fair to say to America “It is Now or Never” if there is any chance to keep the American dream alive and progressing.

            • No , it is not the end now but it is the beginning of the end. America will be another city on a hill and not shine too much soon.

              Make that a city on a trash heap of environmental devastation that the next generation of Americans, of whatever races or cultures they may be comprised, will have to take the brunt of full on. That’s the decline that this country has to look forward to, and that you would see if you were able to come back in a hundred years.

  12. senecagriggs says

    After reading the majority of the comments [ minus Burro and Barry ] the consensus is,
    “We just need the Evangelicals to shut up” — dryly.
    _______

    “If only Evangelicals would just keep their opinions to themselves” – the mantra of the progressives.
    “They are haters and must be squelched [ by any means necessary ] if we’re going to reach a kinder, gentler society” – almost utopia.
    _______

    Finally, one should consider N.T. Scripture

    John 6:60-71 New International Version (NIV)

    Many Disciples Desert Jesus

    60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”

    61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit[a] and life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”

    66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

    Did Jesus need to Rebrand?

    • ““We just need the Evangelicals to shut up” — dryly.

      Given their track record, some quiet introspection might do some good. Job’s comforters were truly comforters for seven days. And then they opened their pie holes, and everything went to hell…

    • Seneca: Yes, Evangelicals could afford to shut up, but this essay is aimed as much at Catholics and the most liberal mainstream churches as it is at them. All of us run the risk of being strident in defending our particular views.

      And to your question, “Did Jesus need to rebrand?” — the purpose of rebranding is not to avoid giving offense, precisely. It’s to distance oneself from misunderstandings, to rediscover accurate definitions, and to proclaim one’s willingness to repent for past sins. So Jesus did not need to rebrand — the offense he caused was the offense of the Gospel. But nowadays Christians are offensive not so much because of the Gospel itself but because of the cultural and personal interpretations of the Gospel that they’ve subscribed to.

      I hope that’s clear — it’s a hard distinction to express.

    • Dana Ames says

      Seneca,

      The context of the passage you quoted is not simply “general desertion” by most of Jesus’ followers. Those who left him – most likely sincere Jews who would have abhorred the very thought of what he said – were outraged by a specific teaching he gave: “Unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink of his blood, you shall not have life within you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”

      When I was an Evangelical, this context was completely ignored. The bread and grape juice of the Lord’s Supper were never to be thought of as in any way, shape or form the “real” body and blood of Christ; they were “only symbolic”. One of the significant points on my journey was actually confronting this entire chapter, esp from verse 22 on. (Notice it is already at this time that Judas starts to think about how he can bring Jesus down.) And do be careful about including in your quote the headings that were put into the text by modern translators. In context, there is no separation between vs 59 and vs 60; it’s all one episode.

      As for “rebranding”, I agree with Damaris. Yes, there are some people for whom “Christianity” will always be odious. I think there are many more whose hearts will, in some way, start turning toward God as a result of Christians’ humble service sans “close the deal” preaching. I know many Christians, including Evangelicals, who do this without any publicity, simply from love and care for people. They are better Christians than I.

      Dana

  13. Christians will have to learn to live in society without being privileged. The wise will see that this just about the best thing that could ever happen.

    • Absolutely, Stephen. When one is used to privilege, equality almost always seems like persecution, doesn’t it?

  14. john barry says

    Stephen, can you give me some real examples of privilege that a Christian has in the society that we live in? Are Scienctologist privileged? Jew? Atheist ? . In the USA we are all privileged to be citizens of this great nation. I am a double dipper I am white and a Christian, talk about having it made. I will just here and soak up the unearned privilege . Reminds me of an old , great Eddie Murphy skit on SNL where he went “undercover” using make up and got free money from bank for being white, no tickets for speeding for being white, eating free at restaurant for being white and many good things just for being white. Eddie Murphy was ahead of his time, now it is college course material.

    Stephen, tell me what places will honor my Christian privilege entitlement , I hope it is Ruth Chris Steakhouse.

    • Those who are most privileged are often the ones who least realize it.

      “tell me what places will honor my Christian privilege entitlement”

      Other than public schools (remember the Pledge of Allegience?), your taxes (tithes are tax deductible), your money (In God We Trust)… need I go on?

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        And then there is the dark machinery of real-estate covenants which can be very pointed.

        And there is all the side-ways methods used to discriminate against people; of course, those who don’t want to see them for what they are never will.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          You mean Homeowner’s Association CC&Rs, which some 70 years ago were a lot shorter?
          i.e. “Whites Only” and Jews and Slavs and Italians and Irish weren’t White?
          Then and now, making sure “The WRONG Kind of People” don’t come and take down My Property Values.

          • john barry says

            Headless U Guy, the only barrier to live in any community is money. That is the way it works.

            • If you are white, that is.

              • john barry says

                No, the color that counts is green. Trying living next to M. Jordan or for that matter Al Sharpton. You will not be denied for your race, creed or religion. Got give a little love to capitalism.

            • Adam Tauno Williams says

              > the only barrier to live in any community is money.

              And it costs far more for some people that others; that difference has a name.

  15. john barry says

    Eeyore, public schools example, it is a privilege offered to all not just Christians to recite the Pledge and not it is not even a requirement , it is voluntary. Secular charity donations are also tax deductible but with the new tax code irrelevant for most Americans, In God We Trust is not in Jesus we trust and it is a historical foundation cornerstone of this country. There is not a great deal of privilege to convince someone to be a Christian , if your case is that t will bring you worldly privilege .

    Wealth is the greatest source of privilege in any culture or society.

    • “it is not even a requirement , it is voluntary.”

      It may be now, in some areas, but somehow I doubt you would have been given much leeway back in the 50s and 60s if you did NOT make the Pledge in what would now be considered “Red State” territory…

      • john barry says

        Eeyore , times have changed with the compliance and respect for the laws of this nation that Christians give, even at time very begrudgingly . . Going back to 1960 to rehash what was never a big issue shows how far we have come .

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        50s and 60s?
        As far as I know, that attitude’s coming back every since Winning the Culture War in 2016.

  16. Iain Lovejoy says

    You are I think, right, in a way. The majority in power aren’t “privileged” as such in the sense they / we get something extraordinary. What they / we have is, as it were, a “lack of antiprivilege”: the way we white people see the world operating is basically, normal: the way it ought to work for everyone, but doesn’t. A white person isn’t stopped by the cops to ask him where he is going and what he is doing because he doesn’t quite “look right for the neighborhood”. A white person doesn’t get that little bit of extra tension in dealing with cops that makes it more likely he will be arrested (or shot, in the trigger-happy US). A white person doesn’t have an odd or stand-out name that makes his CV bounce back that little bit more often, doesn’t have to worry so much about fitting in, or standing out as the only non-white person in a crowd. A white person doesn’t get seen as just a little less normal and reliable when applying for a loan, or renting or buying property. A white person staying too long in a restaurant because he’s waiting for friends gets just that bit more slack before they become suspicious. White privilege is not having to be careful.
    It’s very difficult to spot white privilege if you are white because you can’t see something that isn’t there for you at all, but present for other, not privileged, people.

    • senecagriggs says

      ” A white person isn’t stopped by the cops to ask him where he is going and what he is doing because he doesn’t quite “look right for the neighborhood”.
      _________

      Iain

      A couple decades back, I – a very white guy – was stopped EXACTLY for that reason. I was a white guy in a black neighborhood [ L.A. ] driving a Volvo sports car. Cop pulled me over – ultimately told me I didn’t fit the profile of the neighborhood or the car.

  17. senecagriggs says

    In a tweet from 2017, Tim Wise called Christians “Jeezoids.” In 2012, he tweeted that “people who believe in a God of hell/ damnation deserve to be mocked viciously and run out of public square.”
    ________

  18. senecagriggs says

    MISRULEOFLAW

    “San Antonio, a predominantly-Hispanic city named after the Catholic Saint Anthony of Padua, has doubled down in its crusade against the popular fast food chain Chick-fil-A, due to its owners’ religious beliefs. So far, opponents of the restaurant operator have the upper hand in the Alamo City, although that could soon change. Voters will have the opportunity to weigh in on the Chick-fil-A controversy at a local election on May 4. As readers may recall, last month the San Antonio City Council voted to exclude the privately-owned company as a concessionaire at the city-operated airport on the grounds that its owners’ personal opposition to same-sex marriage—mainly expressed years ago, prior to the Obergefell decision—amounts to “a legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior.”

    The company has no record of discrimination against employees or customers on the basis of sexual orientation; the objection is that merely disagreeing with the LGBT agenda for religious reasons justifies a government boycott. The city council’s retaliation against Chick-fil-A was apparently prompted by a campaign led by the Soros-funded activist group ThinkProgress, as punishment for the personal views of company founder Dan Cathey, a devout Christian. City councilman Roberto Trevino, who sponsored the motion to ban Chick-fil-A, bragged afterward that blacklisting a company for its owners’ religious beliefs “reaffirmed the work our city has done to become a champion of equality and inclusion.”
    __________

    Maybe Chic Fil A should “rebrand”- dryly

    • Thing is, I get grief from other Christians frequently because I have been to Chick-fil-A maybe twice in my entire life. I am always asked why I don’t go there (because it is assumed that as a Christian, Chick-fil-A should be the fast food of choice). I don’t have anything against the restaurant per se, but it simply isn’t a place I go. So why the blow back from other Christians? I don’t get it.

    • thatotherjean says

      Is it not possible that, apart from religious considerations, the people who manage an airport that operates seven days a week would prefer a restaurant that is not closed on Sundays?

      • john barry says

        thatotherjean. That would be the logical reason to oppose any restaurant that is closed on any day. However it is pretty clear that in this case and in many other locations it is the religious views of the restaurant that is the issue.

        Suzanne, I guess your Christian friends feel a need to find out where others dine. I do not eat at Wendy’s or Hardy’s and absolutely no one cares even when I go out of my way to tell them. As the young ;people say or use to say ,they need to get a life.
        I love Scottish food and am not ashamed to tell my friends to try McDonalds, a fast growing, trendy chain that offers a burger with a secret sauce. It is like a murder mystery theater event trying to guess what the sauce is. Even my lover of snobby food wife has conceded that my Scottish restaurant makes the best French fries, once again showing I am a lover of international food. I remember when the small chain use to post how many hamburgers they had sold but they lost count.

  19. john barry says

    Things will never change if we do admit and accept that they have changed. I do not know how you quantify objectively all the examples cited above. Do white people get stopped for speeding ever? Do white people get asked to leave if they are loitering? White people are more liable to get shot by cops than black people. Personal finance issues are pretty clear cut and banks were more than willing to give loans to minorities and still do. This is the old Eddie Murphy SNL skit updated that keeps us living in the past.

    Wealth and income opportunity is narrowing the privilege gap as well as the change in attitude of people. If we are going to live in the past we will repeat the past.

    Kathy Ireland, when she was SI swimsuit cover, snubbed me at an event years ago because I am white, that can be the only reason for her to ignore me that I can think of.

  20. May I point out that the comments are now illustrating exactly what I am talking about? We’ve moved from discussing a life of humble service to criticizing and arguing with one another’s perceptions of politics, racism, and American identity. If I directed a non-Christian friend of mine here to this site, as a place where Christians discussed their faith, would they see anything different from the polarized news stations and political debates that cover the same old ground with increasing — and repetitive — vituperation? I point this out as the chief of sinners myself, but iMonk is often one more example of the necessity for a different way to present and live our faith.

    Peace be to all of you.

    • I agree that we must strive towards lives of humble service. But when arguments arise for continuing the same failed assumptions and beliefs that brought us where we are… I cannot remain silent. In this day and age, silence is assent.

      • flatrocker says

        Isaiah 53:6-7

        And thank you to Damaris for this reminder.
        Maybe in this day and age, a walk in silent humility is what we all need a little more of.

    • Burro (Mule) says

      The advice that your husband gave on Saturday by way of Thomas Carlyle was so money that it bears repeaitng here in this context

      “What is to be done? allow me to reply: By thee, for the present, almost nothing. Thou there, the thing for thee to do is, if possible, to cease to be a hollow sounding-shell of hearsays,egoisms, purblind dilettantisms; and become, were it on the infinitely small scale, a faithful discerning soul. [D]escend into thy inner man and see if there be any traces of a soul there; till then there can be nothing done! O brother, we must if possible resuscitate some soul and conscience in us, exchange our dilettantisms for sincerities, our dead hearts of stone for living hearts of flesh.

  21. john barry says

    Damaris, your fine well written article conveyed your viewpoints in an excellent manner. It seems to me almost everyone who commented agreed with your premise. I do direct my conservative, traditional Christian friends here and people I feel would like to learn more about how people can have different views of how to live day to day Christianity but respectfully disagree with each other. Honestly , I do not pick up any abusive or mean language, but that is because most of the people here agree with me as the above comments demonstrate.
    I am no expert on internet communication as this is the only site I visit regularly and comment to. Even though many here have different views on faith , religion and secular issues , I find a common thread , they are good , decent believers in Christ or in some cases just good, decent people, all add to the mix. I also have to say for the most part it is a natural flow of thoughts and conversation.
    You certainly are a skilled communicator and you made me and I am sure others think and reexamine our actions and how the image we convey to others.
    As a Christian, as a person, as an American and as an individual I find Imonk site from Chaplin Mike , all the contributors to be worth while to read and perhaps learn.
    So thank you for your work. Part of the appeal to Imonk to me is its knowledge, viewpoints and comments presented in an entertaining and relevant manner. Personally I have learned much from this site and I like the give and take of sincere people , who honestly but mostly respectfully state what they believe.
    However , I must agree with you, I personally am one poor representative of my faith but I am working on it and you helped. Thanks

  22. I think there’s an element missing from this discussion (sorry if I skimmed too fast):

    No doubt many people are engaged in political rear-guard action because of a desire to ‘win’ the culture wars. But I think there is also a validity to fearing that a continued dismantling of everything Christian about our society will end in tears. And it astonishes me that so many people here seem to be almost cheering that revolution on.

    It’s a bit trite to say that “(insert country of your choice) was never ‘Christian'”. Sorry, but to me that’s late adolescent-style thinking – on the level of “buildings can’t be Christian, only people can be Christians”. Our societies were massively influenced by Christianity during 2000 years, and Christianity was influenced by thousands of years of Judaism before it. You can’t just toss all of that out blithely with a shrug of the shoulders.

    Now it may well be (probably is) that there is little to nothing we can do about it on a macro level (thinking that we know what’s best of society and actually have any influence is a strange malady which seems to effect people on every side of whichever divide), but one can still sincerely bemoan it, that does’t make you a fundamentalist moron.

    • Our societies were certainly “massively influenced by Christianity during 2000 years”. That Christianity, and Christendom, has not always or even mostly been Christ-like doesn’t mean we get to disavow it as non-Christian, for exactly the reason you give — such a disavowal in on the same level as “buildings can’t be Christian, only people can be Christians”. That serious imperfections exist in our common Christian history doesn’t undo the fact that it is our history. But that doesn’t mean that everything about Christianity down through the millennia, its societal, cultural, and religious productions, were good or should be continued, including even some aspects of its building projects. There were some good things that it would be a shame to lose, and maybe we have lost some of them already; but there are also things that we should rejoice to see perish. Among those things that we should not be sad to see go is the Christian cultural hegemony that has prevailed for so long, and that excluded and suppressed so many minority voices for so long: pagan, Jewish, “heterodox” Christian, etc. Much of the cheering that you decry among commenters here is at the demise of this violent hegemony, not all of the values that existed under it.

      • Although, given recent current events, it is an open question whether that Christian religious hegemony is actually dying, or reasserting itself in a revolutionary way that may lead to a place not altogether unlike the place that the 1979 Iranian Islamic Revolution led that country.

      • Burro (Mule) says

        Much of the cheering that you decry among commenters here is at the demise of this violent hegemony, not all of the values that existed under it.

        There is always a hegemon, and they are almost always violent. A case can be made that the nosegay of Christianity has made Western hegemonies more merciful and more tolerant of minority viewpoints that they otherwise would have been. Certainly the Cheka was King Stork to the Okhrana’s King Log. I think that what JohnBarry was trying to point out, and almost nobody heard what he was trying to say is that in the post-war West and especially in the US, the average citizen has had a long run of not having had to worry about a Cheka-like organ enforcing its hegemony, and that this is a historical exception, not the rule, and one for which we should be grateful.

        The entertaining of the professionally butthurt is exclusively a luxury of wealthy and successful hegemonies. Those which are embattled and endangered have no resources to spare for them.

        • I would argue that whatever post-War II “tolerance” that existed on the part of the American hegemony was centered in exploding American affluence combined with Enlightenment derived ideas about the expansion of the democratic franchise and civil rights, and was not really religious in origin. That post-War affluence was a historical singularity and one-off; we will see whether the values of non-coercive hegemonic tolerance that it fed will survive the coming environmental/economic collapse, or if the more inhumane religious energies of our Christian history will reassert themselves in a manner not completely dissimilar to the Iranian Revolution. Time will tell, and a relatively short amount of time at that.

          • It was not too long ago in historical terms that men and women were being hung, drawn, and quartered and burned at the stake under the authority of Christian princes and kings in Europe; it is not too long ago in American history that men and women were being whipped to death for trying to escape slavery under colonial, state, and federal authorities that claimed Christian authority to do so. And the crimes for which these inhumane punishments (they were really crimes themselves) were inflicted were often not even what we now consider capital ones; in Christendom right up into modernity, practicing witchcraft, practicing the old religions, could result in you being executed by the pious Cristian authorities.

            • Headless Unicorn Guy says

              Not just “Witchcraft” (as defined by Witchfinders-General and “pious Christian authorites” paid by a cut of the take).

              In the 100-year-long bloodbath of the Reformation Wars, any WrongThink Theology that differed from the Utterly Correct Theology of the “pious Christian authorities” du jour in your barony (subject to change without notice) would get you and your family burned for Heresy.

              And the current crop of Dominionists (including Veep Pence) look longingly to restoring that with themselves as the Pious Christian Authorities. DEUS VULT!

              “Targaryen, Lannister, Baratheon — every Great House tries to stop the Wheel forever with themselves on top.”
              — Tyrion Lannister, Game of Thrones

              • Yes, the Christian rulers of the various states seemed to show even more zest for killing other kinds of Christians than non-Christians.

  23. Not that anyone is paying any attention at this point, but I’d like to suggest a book on humble service I’m now reading, which is “If You Love Me: Serving Christ and the Church in Spirit and Truth,” by Matthew the Poor. (Matthew the Poor was a Coptic monk who died in 2006.). It is excellently profound and although I haven’t finished it yet, I highly recommend it based on what I’ve read so far.

    This, from the “Introduction” gives the flavor of his writing:

    “Religious instruction, even when offered in a spiritual manner, tends to focus on the cultivation of the mind, the interpretation of the Bible, the deelopment of religious exercises such as hymnology and prayer, the refinement of preaching skills, and the accumulation of bits of knowledge in history, tradition and theology. The end result of this process is often a self-admiring contentment and a feeling of superiority over others in spiritual matters.”

    He goes on:

    “Christian service, in contrast,focuses on the catechization and reproof of oneself, mastery of the bodily desires (to free the spirit from its bondage to personal whims and tendencies), and the adoption of a warm and constant state of repentance in order to receive God’s grace, The end result of this process is usually self-abandonment, the surrender of oneself to God, the forging of an open and honest relationship with others, and a constant and reverent engagement in worship.”

    His line about “a self-admiring contentment and a feeling of superiority over others in spiritual matters” is a great summary of what Damaris describes here, as is his description of Christian service.

    Evidently, “servant” and “service” are centrally important concepts in the Coptic Church.