Monday, February 27, 2012

Curing the Plague of Churchianity

Someone wiser than I once suggested that in many churches, what is needed is not a long, skillfully-delivered, scripturally-based sermon following a passionate time of worship but rather a short admonition. She imagined God wanting a pastor to simply stand up and declare, "Brothers and sisters, God's word to us today is 'Love your neighbor as yourself and love your enemies.' Go now and immediately put this into practice. There's no need to return next week unless you have completed the assignment. You're dismissed." That would be the extent of the service.

As I've written in my chapter on church, Save the Ales (from the Church), churchianity--the practice of making the demands of the institutional church more important than loving others--is a plague on evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity. Richard Beck made a similar point when he lamented how church and religious rituals (and I would add, believing the right doctrines) have supplanted the most basic Christian practice: being decent human beings. Rather than focus on what really matters, followers of churchianity put more stock in "church attendance, worship, praying, spiritual disciplines, Bible study, using religious language... and arguing with evolutionists..." (This is the short list). The outcome? As Beck says, churches become "jerk factories."

Churchianity rears its ugly head when we hear of spiritual abuse in denominations like Sovereign Grace Ministries and the Seattle Mars Hill church. I recently read the Mars Hill membership covenant and was shocked how lopsided it is. Members promise to "submit to church leaders, doctrine, discipline, and the authority of scripture," "not function as a member of another church," "commit to the mission of the church," which is to "make disciples (get other people to do the above) and plant churches" (get even more people to do the above), and promise to practice a long list in a behavior code having to do with sex, not living together before marriage, and refraining from pornography, alcohol abuse, and drug use. There was not one word about loving one another or loving the unlovely.

I'm not pretending that none of the things in their covenant are important, but that it's emphasis is on things only the church and its leaders can control (how they do church discipline, decide what's right to believe, decide what part of the Bible is authoritative, which interpretation to believe and which to ignore, what moral practices to follow, etc.). Churchianity is primarily interested in controlling others and empire building, not loving our fellow man, promoting social justice, and allowing people to govern themselves through Christ's superior law of love. These are the only cure for the plague. I welcome your thoughts.


Kerry Miller-Whalen said...

"it's emphasis is on things only the church and its leaders can control". An astute observation, Michael!

I have a theory that our need (as an institution, at least) to control what people think or believe, is based in a deep distrust of God's ability to run the show Himself!

There's a challenge!!

Michael Camp said...

Kerry, You're onto something. I agree. It's based on fear not faith. Institutionalists fear freedom for the individual and don't trust God to lead individuals to make loving choices. So, it must be imposed from above.

It's also ironic. In US politics, conservatives--a huge block being Christians who support such institutions--are always rallying around the cry for freedom. But in their churches, they squelch freedom.

FT said...


When certain conservative Christians talk about freedom, it's usually about "freedom to starve". Hey you don't have government healthcare---but you have your freedom!!! Kind of perverse, don't you think?

Michael Camp said...

Yeah, you're right. The leaders are free to contol others and the followers are free to put themselves in bondage!

Narrow Way said...

Very good, it;s common , until we address the real thing it will keep being repeated,let's go back the eclesia the early mss changed from ecclesia, to a hiearchal term destroying the priesthood of the believers, to mere specators by or before 200Ad it was already takening place, as the ego grew, so did it limiting others a decree by the sophists to suppress the spirit to themselevs in 250 AD as exclusive, carthage, only to the leaders, just a start,next we come to laity and clergy another pagan addition, walker from the greek magicans well quoted from the works of Walker in the early 1900's and Anagus, Hopwood, no longer bore any likeness to the early body.

The age of hierophants is in motion, ancient historian from syria and the other Ireanous stated by 300Ad they had the forms but the spirit was no longer present nor the power there of.

the form never left nor people returned to it;s Spirit led nature but into human overlords grips,,and often twisted as you mention are born out of early corruption and stayed with us today the words used in the scriptures supporting the non truths and false hiearchies still there..

getting back is not hard, just got say enough all the history is here take the time get set free great article blessings, it;s time to be truthful, I was surprised how much was hidden from the people, once I dug wow, must be money power does thsoe things control.. evil,

Narrow Way said...

Hi well said, the travesty is his beautiful body is torn up by this type of ego...Let love rein over the destructive profiling agendas born out of legal spirit..

No greater damage has been done by doing this. Imagine if we all helped one another without divide, like they once did, a love he freely given us to share and care... as he is without change. 1 Corinthians 1-4 who we become, let us believe and act on this. Wonderful articles, let's be different like more him...blessings