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Lexilogio

Extremists, beliefs and principles

A few interesting things have been mentioned on recent discussions.

On the news thread about Pentecostalists, Jim pointed out that most do not ask adherents to stop taking medicines, for example.

Which got me thinking.

All religions, and all branches of Christianity have their spectrums, from the:

nominally members.....twice a year......once a month....regular attenders.....active church workers.....passionately faithful.....literalist....extremist

I'm sure others may have slightly different takes - bear in mind my descriptions are based on personal experience. I have seen this in Cof E, Episcopal, Catholic, Methodist, CofS, Wee Free (slap my wrist! Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland) - and being the type of person who gets into religious conversations with friends, I've also come across it in Jehovah's Witnesses, LDS, Baptist, Reformist, Greek Orthodox, Sikh, Islam, Judaism....in fact you even see it in vegetarians, but that is possibly another thread (or string of spaghetti...)

I've stepped down from active worker to regular attender.

I get irritated by both the nominals and the extremists. The extremists because they can be actively psychologically harmful to others in the church. No one else is good enough, accusations fly - you can end up with considerable bitterness and divisiveness.
The nominals irritate me because I personally find it goes hand in hand with ignorance. They call themselves x or y - but have absolutely no idea about the Bible, the stories, or central principles of their particular "faith". In fact most would have no idea what actually separated them from another branch. It particularly annoys me because I hear this group in political / religious fights: we don't talk to them because they're Catholic. (Really? And how exactly does that make them different to you?)

On religious boards we tend to assume the extreme in others, rather than accepting they may be more mainstream. And I sometimes wonder - if we actually mapped out the similarities and differences on a spreadsheet - how many differences there would actually be (apart from the name and organisation hierarchy).
The Boyg

Re: Extremists, beliefs and principles

Lexilogio wrote:
All religions, and all branches of Christianity have their spectrums, from the:

nominally members.....twice a year......once a month....regular attenders.....active church workers.....passionately faithful.....literalist....extremist


I wouldn't disagree over the existence of the spectrum but I think the position of the peak on the bell curve distribution of the membership along the spectrum can vary widely from organisation to organisation.
Lexilogio

Re: Extremists, beliefs and principles

The Boyg wrote:
Lexilogio wrote:
All religions, and all branches of Christianity have their spectrums, from the:

nominally members.....twice a year......once a month....regular attenders.....active church workers.....passionately faithful.....literalist....extremist


I wouldn't disagree over the existence of the spectrum but I think the position of the peak on the bell curve distribution of the membership along the spectrum can vary widely from organisation to organisation.


Agreed. And newer organisations, with newer converts tend more toward the extreme end than others.
Ketty

Lexi, I'm not altogether with you on your opening premise.  If we're 'going for God' then our church attendance is important, of course, but I would say it's not a particularly safe measure of our passion for Him.  The phrase a 'nominal christian' just does not compute with me: surely, He's either at the centre of all we are and all we do, or He is not?
The Boyg

Re: Extremists, beliefs and principles

Lexilogio wrote:
The Boyg wrote:
Lexilogio wrote:
All religions, and all branches of Christianity have their spectrums, from the:

nominally members.....twice a year......once a month....regular attenders.....active church workers.....passionately faithful.....literalist....extremist

I wouldn't disagree over the existence of the spectrum but I think the position of the peak on the bell curve distribution of the membership along the spectrum can vary widely from organisation to organisation.

Agreed. And newer organisations, with newer converts tend more toward the extreme end than others.


Hardly surprising. A new, small organisation is likely to be populated by the most active and committed to the cause whereas an organisation has to be large and well established in order to cultivate a sizeable number of nominal members.
Lexilogio

Ketty wrote:
Lexi, I'm not altogether with you on your opening premise.  If we're 'going for God' then our church attendance is important, of course, but I would say it's not a particularly safe measure of our passion for Him.  The phrase a 'nominal christian' just does not compute with me: surely, He's either at the centre of all we are and all we do, or He is not?


Ah, but I'm not convinced all are "going for God".

What I see is a spectrum which starts where church attendance is more a societal thing, with an element that they believe in God, but more as a vague conceptual entity than a sentient power.

I think belief really comes in with the once a month group - belief as you recognise it. Even then, it is a sliding scale, where a portion are going due to belief that they should do more, that God is a part of their lives, but there are still some who are doing it for other reasons. For example, I see people who attend because they have to in order to get their kids into the faith school.

So I see belief as a sort of bell curve towards the latter end. I think it tails off again in the extremist end. Now I use, "I think" here, because its difficult to judge - but when you see the really manipulative extremists, I don't think their belief centres on God, but on a political / cultural view of the organisation. I think that the belief in God has started to be replaced by a belief in a system they think everyone should adhere to.
Derek

Lexilogio wrote:
Ketty wrote:
Lexi, I'm not altogether with you on your opening premise.  If we're 'going for God' then our church attendance is important, of course, but I would say it's not a particularly safe measure of our passion for Him.  The phrase a 'nominal christian' just does not compute with me: surely, He's either at the centre of all we are and all we do, or He is not?


Ah, but I'm not convinced all are "going for God".

What I see is a spectrum which starts where church attendance is more a societal thing, with an element that they believe in God, but more as a vague conceptual entity than a sentient power.

I think belief really comes in with the once a month group - belief as you recognise it. Even then, it is a sliding scale, where a portion are going due to belief that they should do more, that God is a part of their lives, but there are still some who are doing it for other reasons. For example, I see people who attend because they have to in order to get their kids into the faith school.

So I see belief as a sort of bell curve towards the latter end. I think it tails off again in the extremist end. Now I use, "I think" here, because its difficult to judge - but when you see the really manipulative extremists, I don't think their belief centres on God, but on a political / cultural view of the organisation. I think that the belief in God has started to be replaced by a belief in a system they think everyone should adhere to.


 
Jim

The terms "Church member" and "Christian" are not necessarily the same.
At least, they weren't in my case. I was an atheist - and a member of the CofS at the same time. Well, joining the church was 'what you did'; and, anyway, to be a Boy's Brigade Officer, you had to be a member of A church.

So I was.

I parroted the words - they had as much meaning for me as a label on a cornflakes box. I did the Communion stuff and never darkened the doors if I could help it. That was, of course, before I had an encounter with God in Christ which exposed my duplicity and swept my atheism away with all the rest of the detritus.

I suspect that the purely 'social element' - the 'Sunday Christians' in the mainstream churches, which always numbered in the majority, have gone. What is left are committed believers.

As for extremists? Whether in a tiny Assembly or a mainstream denomination, I suspect they cling desperately to the core of their institution without daring to get their spiritual feet wet. It is only in exploring our faith that we grow in it. Some of the extremists are, regrettably, still children.
Ketty

Jim wrote:
The terms "Church member" and "Christian" are not necessarily the same.


They certainly are not the same.  I'm sure a significant number of 'pew warmers' are not Christian.  The hope is that one day they will be.  
Lexilogio

Jim wrote:
The terms "Church member" and "Christian" are not necessarily the same.
At least, they weren't in my case. I was an atheist - and a member of the CofS at the same time. Well, joining the church was 'what you did'; and, anyway, to be a Boy's Brigade Officer, you had to be a member of A church.

So I was.

I parroted the words - they had as much meaning for me as a label on a cornflakes box. I did the Communion stuff and never darkened the doors if I could help it. That was, of course, before I had an encounter with God in Christ which exposed my duplicity and swept my atheism away with all the rest of the detritus.

I suspect that the purely 'social element' - the 'Sunday Christians' in the mainstream churches, which always numbered in the majority, have gone. What is left are committed believers.

As for extremists? Whether in a tiny Assembly or a mainstream denomination, I suspect they cling desperately to the core of their institution without daring to get their spiritual feet wet. It is only in exploring our faith that we grow in it. Some of the extremists are, regrettably, still children.


I agree. In fact, I know someone who calls themselves a "Christian Atheist" - because they go, but don't believe. The word, "Christian" there is used as a cultural description, as opposed to a religious one.

Social Christians have reduced - its acceptable, even mainstream, not to attend. So the social only group tend to be the Christmas and Easter only brigade, along with weddings and funerals.

Which brings me to the sermon this morning. The vicar suggested that anyone who doesn't make an effort to attend weekly cannot call themselves Christian. It was an interesting, provocative statement. I'm not sure I'd wholly agree - as there are those who believe, but who don't necessarily go to church. But I do think we are called to "gather in his name", and build sharing, worshipping communities.
northernstar

"Christian atheist" is an oxymoron, you either believe in a non existent deity or you don't, not something that would confuse me!
Jim

Agreed, Lexi.
As Keith Green put it:

"Going to church doesn't make you a Christian.
After all, going to MacDonald's doesn't make you a hamburger."

Now THAT's theology.
Derek

Lexilogio wrote:
Jim wrote:
The terms "Church member" and "Christian" are not necessarily the same.
At least, they weren't in my case. I was an atheist - and a member of the CofS at the same time. Well, joining the church was 'what you did'; and, anyway, to be a Boy's Brigade Officer, you had to be a member of A church.

So I was.

I parroted the words - they had as much meaning for me as a label on a cornflakes box. I did the Communion stuff and never darkened the doors if I could help it. That was, of course, before I had an encounter with God in Christ which exposed my duplicity and swept my atheism away with all the rest of the detritus.

I suspect that the purely 'social element' - the 'Sunday Christians' in the mainstream churches, which always numbered in the majority, have gone. What is left are committed believers.

As for extremists? Whether in a tiny Assembly or a mainstream denomination, I suspect they cling desperately to the core of their institution without daring to get their spiritual feet wet. It is only in exploring our faith that we grow in it. Some of the extremists are, regrettably, still children.


I agree. In fact, I know someone who calls themselves a "Christian Atheist" - because they go, but don't believe. The word, "Christian" there is used as a cultural description, as opposed to a religious one.

Social Christians have reduced - its acceptable, even mainstream, not to attend. So the social only group tend to be the Christmas and Easter only brigade, along with weddings and funerals.

Which brings me to the sermon this morning. The vicar suggested that anyone who doesn't make an effort to attend weekly cannot call themselves Christian. It was an interesting, provocative statement. I'm not sure I'd wholly agree - as there are those who believe, but who don't necessarily go to church. But I do think we are called to "gather in his name", and build sharing, worshipping communities.


Matthew 18:20


For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

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