One a long-time friend: “In fact, I haven’t been to church for the last four weeks.” One met for the first time: “Well, I used to go to church but I … haven’t … don’t … haven’t been for a while – but I still have a faith …”
The Building and Institution of Church.
Our little bus for young folk is known as being “Christian”. And Christian means all “that church stuff” – reading the bible, going to church, being good, accepting as fact God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost/Spirit, accepting as fact all that “stuff” that is “church” that means one is a Christian.
>>> Each “Christian” would disagree (to a greater or lesser extent). Yet someone meeting us for the first time … ? All “that stuff” is real.
Do Muslims have the same problem? Because the Koran was dictated as a transcript – whereas the bible was not even written as one book. Does a Muslim have the same expectations from others as a Christian has from those who “still have a faith”?
So I started a conversation last night: Is the bible factually and historically accurate?
The kind of conversation one doesn’t have on a Sunday during worship … or drinking coffee before or after the service … or during bible class … or in a confirmation course … or anywhere in the building of church really. Yet last night in a car park …
All agreed that the factual and historical accuracy of the bible was pretty irrelevant. That proving the factual accuracy 3000 years later was missing the point. That arguing over the factual and historical accuracy of the bible again and again was not even about having a faith or not. And I was left with this thought …
Is the Building and Institution of Church scared to have that conversation with people like me and you?
Because in the six decades of being around church I have only found that conversation on the internet in a forum like this. And even here I was deemed by many to have gone “off message” and lost my faith. It seems that saying aloud that the bible is (mainly) religious fiction (in the terms of “historical accuracy” we use today) is viewed as “going native”.
Ark and Mel are still going at it. Ark lifted 10 minutes of an hour’s debate to prove a point. I was curious and watched the other 50 minutes: A UK television programme made in 2008. A debate in a television studio which asked: “Is the bible still relevant today?”
And one piece stuck with me …
That when we ascribe divine authority to a text (any text) – that text becomes privileged. And with that privilege comes abuse.
That the bible and koran (and all sacred texts) are used to validate the behaviour not just of believers, but of societies. Used to validate changes of behaviour. Used to validate “bad behaviour” (and good) by extracting “bits” of the text. A text given cultural privilege through divine authority – and with it those extracted “bits”.
Yet the reality is that cultural norms change – and using these privileged texts to validate those changes might be deemed abuse … Slavery was okay and now is not … Same sex relationships were not and now are … Genocide was okay and is now dressed up in different economic factors … And a second reality: That “recipients” of the teaching find more in common with those who “have a faith” (of any kind) AND those who have no faith at all.
Yet these “ordinary folk” still get uncomfortable when talking to a group of “believers” and admitting they haven’t been going to church recently. Still publicly accept the bible as historically and factually accurate. And the Institution and Building of Church continues to nurture that acceptance each Sunday. And I wonder why.
More and more I wonder why.
Here is the full programme.
BTW – the debate below is NOT about “Richard Dawkins” – it is a “multiplicity of voices” being heard.
Which is refreshingly unusual