When I saw Diane Butler Bass's new book, Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening, I was excited that, again, the ideas I espouse in my book, particularly the Save the Ales (from the Church) chapter, are being embraced and promoted by others. Diane brings up a great point I want to share.
Dogmatic or traditional spiritual paradigms set up a process for people to go through to become part of the "church." People have to believe certain doctrines, then behave a certain way--i.e., follow the behavior codes and rituals of the church--whether it's traditional or contemporary--before they can belong in the community. This is the Believe, Behave, Belong approach and is almost universal in conservative churches. To become a member of a church, one must adhere to the church's statement of faith or even sign a covenant or theological statement (Mars Hill and Overlake are two examples in Seattle). One must believe the right things and then behave the right way. No one can truly belong until they jump through the right hoops.
Diane reminds us, that this is ass backwards. Taking the example of Jesus, the new spiritual paradigm is Belong, Behave, Believe. On the basis of love, everyone belongs right from the start. Doctrines, as important as they might be, are not paramount. Heretics are welcome. Once you belong to a group practicing Jesus' love ethic, the right behavior gradually emerges. It does not need to be imposed through law. Moreover, when acts of love fulfill the rulebook, behavior need not be strict and narrow. Outcasts are welcome. If they like what they see, they begin to emulate love. Finally, only after belonging and behaving does believing come. People have been loved, are learning to love back, and once they have, they are able to articulate what they believe. And it doesn't have to necessarily fit the offical party line. Iconoclasts are welcome. No need for clones.
Now, Diane used great illiteration for this lesson, but forgot the critical fourth part of the equation: Once you feel like you belong, you behave accordingly, and form a personal belief, you're ready for a higher level of fellowship: Brewing! As in enjoying craft beer, that is (well for some of us, at least). Actually, it should come first. I'd say brewing is crucial to making friends and letting them feel like they belong. So, here's to Brewing, Belonging, Behaving, and Believing. Cheers!