A Lutheran perspective on North American Christianity

From a recent sermon (Lutheran):

… we need to recognize that the religious culture of North America is Evangelicalism.  This culture has its roots first in Puritanism, which is basically Calvinistic, and secondarily in the great revival movements of the late 18th and early 19th centuries.  Evangelicalism puts the emphasis on conversion as a personal decision and the church as a spiritual democracy.  Evangelicalism’s stress on the autonomy of the believer and the immediacy of spiritual experience apart from sacramental means has shaped a religious culture that accents an individualistic faith over churchly life and tends to characterize Baptism, Absolution, and the Lord’s Supper as peripheral to the Christian life.  This subjectivity, coupled with a suspicion of the intellect, has produced a religious culture that elevates heart over head, and emotion over intellect.  Wherever biblical authority is lost, Christ is displaced, and the Gospel is distorted, then our interests have displaced God’s, and we are doing His work in our own way.  The loss of the centrality of Christ in the life of today’s church in North America is becoming more and more common.  It is this loss that allows us to transform worship into entertainment, Gospel preaching into marketing, believing into technique, and living a sanctified life into feeling good about ourselves. God does not exist to satisfy human ambitions, cravings, the appetite for consumption, or our own private spiritual interests. [emphasis mine]

I wish I’d said that.  I often refer to Marshall McLuhan’s concept, “The medium is the message,” which I think is especially true of our expressions of Christianity. How we worship – what we do on Sunday mornings – speaks volumes about our values and beliefs, more so than we realize.  In many evangelical churches – and to be fair, a number of liturgical churches as well – Christ is not in the center of what is being done.  Sticking to the liturgical book masks this somewhat, but many liturgical churches have left the book for newer, trendier liturgies that are severely lacking.  I actually walked out of one such Lutheran service.  Seeker-sensitive or experientially-focused churches, however, have nothing historical to hide behind, so I think the message they convey in what they do is more obvious.

Is this being judgmental?  Yes, definitely.  But, as GK Chesterton said (my favorite quote), “Tolerance is the virtue of a man without convictions.”  Am I positive that I’m 100% correct in my judgments?  Not at all – however, I will believe what I believe until I have a better revelation of truth.  If you’ve got some, I’d certainly like to hear it.

Thanks to Dawn for the quote.

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3 Responses to A Lutheran perspective on North American Christianity

  1. Steve Martin says:

    Thanks for the heads-up on Dawn’s site.

    It looks like a good one.

  2. Steve Martin says:

    I think you gave a pretty accurate assessment (and the pracher did as well).

    We critique other Christians, as well (we like that word better than ‘judge’…we don’t know anyone’s heart and are warned not to judge).

    It is our duty when we see folks leading other folks down the garden path in the name of Christianity.

    Sometimes the gospel is there, but we would like to see that flick of the Bic, turn into a raging bonfire with Christ at the center. No matter the denomination (or non-denom.).

    And it helps us to keep from turning the focus onto ourselves as well, which is always a danger.

  3. me says:

    Coincidentally, concerning my comments about churches that change the liturgy, check out this post by Dawn.

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