Monday, May 29, 2017


Edit 6/1:  I should have included forgiving others following my reference to "forgiveness" in paragraph 5. Interactive, community-building Christianity is big in my neck of the woods.

Attending an Anglican service at St. Mary's in Bergen I noticed the priest's reference to obeying God as deeply related to causes. The list he gave wasn't a bad one, though it was weighted toward liberal causes as expected.  I was reflecting on the Shelby Steele book, the mild sermonising from Norwegian Air, plus my own store of experience of liberals defining morality in terms of causes, even at church.

I asked myself what conservative or evangelical churches do instead.  How do they define morality? Not in their denominational or constitutional statements, but from the pulpit, in adult studies (maybe even children and youth studies), at their gatherings?

I know what we do at my church, and have heard a few dozen preachers from my denomination. We have denominational publications, which I scan. I have some old experience from what parachurch ministries used to be popular, and a smaller amount from the present day. I get secondhand information from people I talk to and people I read.  That's a limited sample, but from that I am going to make a guess.

There are a few common categories. We try to find Biblical understandings and weave them into the following:

We talk about Christianity as it is lived by the individual - the need for forgiveness, for repentance and confession, for prayer. We talk about suffering and whether it has meaning and in that context talk about Christians who have had very hard lives and what they have to say. We talk about learning, and faith. Loving others, and examples of this.  Hope - well, we don't mention that so much, actually. We do talk about discouragement, perseverance, redemption.

We hear preaching about Jesus, and who He is and is not. We talk about the pieces of his life and how they fit together and into history. Incarnation, healing, teaching, death, resurrection - what are the commonly-held doctrines and what are the odd ideas that aren't true but won't go away.

We do talk about causes, but not so much directly from the pulpit. Covenanters don't talk much politics directly from the pulpit, but there's some in the narthex and adult studies. (FTR, the clergy tends a bit liberal, the laity a bit conservative.) The causes don't have much to do with raising awareness, however.  Food or clothes or comfort has to change hands.

I have presented this as generally preferable - hardly surprising, seeing that I prefer it myself - but I am aware that the criticism of the conservative churches has been the neglect of larger justice, such as prejudice, even as everyday lives were being lived in kindness.  It may also be that political and social causes are much bigger in churches in other parts of the country and I am in a New England bubble.


james said...

Some churches seem to draw inspiration from the sections of the Bible that address collective reward and punishment: the whole land punished for the sins of its people, even though undoubtedly some were not partakers in it. If the Church is the New Israel, you can sort of see it; or if the nation is the New Israel. Still, collective judgement doesn't seem to be a big theme in the New Testament--separating sheep and goats for accurate judgement, yes.

Sam L. said...

Prejudice, though, is often wielded like a sword or a spear, at that which the wielder wishes to attack. For his/her own reasons.

read it said...


Morality is the Ten Commandments.

Before you say you know that, you should see clearly the distinction between the Law and the Gospel.

Anyone can behave morally because the Holy Spirit can use anyone, even the unwilling, for the benefit of the neighbor.

Christianity is defined by God's work to forgive, not human work to please God which can't even be done but that God himself causes it.

Most concise intro to Christianity is the small catechism.

Probably the best thorough treatment, the large catechism.

Profoundly useful is Martin Luther's Bondage of the Will and C.F.W. Walther's Law and Gospel (new reader's edition is great)