The reconciliation of opposites?
I read two different blog posts this morning, and was struck by the contrast between them.
In one Tom Smith writes about ubuntu:
The church is so often like a medical scheme that screens those out who will be taxing on comfort. We become friends … to a point. Yesterday I had a wonderful response to the post on Ubuntu (the response was on facebook) …
And in the other, Ben Myers visited a popular megachurch, and described the core message thus:
As for the preaching, it was motivating and highly inspirational: the sermon’s title (sorry, I’m not kidding) was “Ten Kinds of People That God Can’t Help.” The main idea was that you should “invest” your time in positive happy friends, instead of making bad investments in friendships with hopeless, unhappy people: “Why are you trying to help people like that when even God can’t help them?” The sermon’s best one-liner: “The Bible isn’t a book about God’s love for man; it’s a book about man’s love for God.”
So where do we take our lead from, the Zeitgeist or the Heilige Geist? And how do we tell which is which?
As for the best one-liner — “The Bible isn’t a book about God’s love for man; it’s a book about man’s love for God” — I am reminded of the debate about whether Christianity is a religion or not. There can be no doubt about where Hillsong (the megachurch described by Ben Myers) stands on that. If religion is man’s search for God and Christ is God’s search for man, the Hillsong is undoubtedly on the side of religion.
Ben Myers’s description of megachurch worship also throws new light on something else — when we had a group of visitors who were interested in the emerging church movement at Vespers at St Nicholas Orthodox Church in Johannesburg, one of them, remarking on his observation of Orthodox Vespers, said that there was “nothing digital”. Ben Myers’s impression of megachurch worship was that it was nothing but digital:
The Protestant reformers used to complain that the Roman Catholic priest was “doing worship” for the whole congregation, standing in their place and performing everything on their behalf – and a similar complaint is often made about today’s Pentecostal megachurches. But I think the function of the screen raises a much more interesting problem: not merely that the congregation is worshipping vicariously through the onstage performers, but that the entire worship event is actually taking place onscreen.
Christianity is not a religion but a relationship.
It has been repeated so often that it has become a cliche. But religion seems to be remarkably persistent, and the relationships to become more and more attenuated, excluding the people that even God can’t help, and finally being reduced to digital images on a screen.