Turn Your Faith Journey Into A Faith Career (Part 8) - Church Dogma
Many people who say they would never become religious or who believe that religion has caused all the problems of the world, are not opposed to the character of Christ, but to church dogma. Most people who view the separate qualities of Christ, his faith, his love, his compassion, his self-sacrifice, see nothing with which to condemn him. At best people might disagree over his declaration of divinity or the idea of his resurrection. But in terms of the social charter he proposed, it would be difficult to oppose it without also opposing two thousand years of beneficial social reform which has occurred as a result of Jesus' teachings. But it is the spin on Christianity adopted by nearly all establishment religions which puts most people off coming to Christ in the first place.
Perhaps something simple such as the association of church with Sunday mornings, or the hypocritical piety of the congregation, or the patronising manor of the pastor, or the old fashioned hymns, or the new jazzy hymns, or the lighting of candles, or the beatification of icons, or the lack of icons, or the arrangement of pews, or the absence of pews, or stained glass windows, and so on and son, have all at some point or another been a bone of contention among congregations. Then there are the more serious concerns such as the difference in ritualistic belief; whether to have a Pope or not, what importance to give to Jesus' mother during our prayers, whether to idolise the saints, whether to have full or partial submersions during baptisms, or no submersion at all, at what age to hold the baptism, whether at the beginning of the service or the end; what form communion should take, how long should the communion service be and how frequent, who should be allowed to take communion, who should be allowed to attend church, who should be allowed to lead the service, who should be allowed to be married in church and who not; or whether there should be healing and speaking in tongues, or no such thing. Who should be paid, and who not, and how should the collection be taken, and how much. And so on and so on. There are countless points of dissent. In our own church, a new minister's decision to have a bell tinkle to announce the start of the service caused a huge rumpus!
The above examples all have one thing in common, that the scriptures offer no fixed opinion on any of them, one way or another. Not Jesus, nor Paul, our two main authorities on the church, and certainly not the Virgin Mother, express any opinion whatsoever on specific church ritual. These things come from the men and women of the church itself, and it is these things more than any other which have caused divisions, dissent, and diatribe over the years.
My advice to anyone embarking on a faith career is rise above such petty differences. Find the church which suits you best and accept it the way it is. Neither boast about it, nor castigate others for disliking it. It is human nature to fall out over useless dogma. Live with it, pray about it, and, as Jesus did, keep a respectable distance from it.
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