16 June, 2007

Christianity Uber Alles

Christian unity may be its own worst enemy.

Over a century and a half ago a gentlemen wrote the famous words, "Deutchland, Deutchland uber alles." By translation they mean, "Germany, Germany over all." A little over a hundred years later Adolf Hitler grabbed hold of those words, and misused them to reinforce a nationalist fervor that the world came to regret.

Hitler sold that song as meaning that Germany should rule all of Europe and the world.

The original author meant something very different, and something pertinent to the discussion of Christian unity. At the time the lyrics were written, Germany was a collection of 30 states. The song was an encouragement to the heads of those states to value the federal nation of Germany over needs of the scattered states. The idea was not that Germany should be greater than France, but that Germany should be more important than Prussia or Hanover or Hesse.

Even so, in our time the cry is going out to value Christianity over Baptistry, Methodism, Catholicism and Orthodoxy. Unity Uber Alles.

I could be less excited, but I don't know how. :-(

It causes me pain to oppose this movement, but I do. I know we have one Lord. I wonder out loud why we have 20,000 churches? And even I wonder why I find myself opposing the attempt to put Christianity above denominational fifedoms? I think I hate denominations as much as anyone, so why would I advocate their continuance?

Let me give you my scariest explanation.

According to adherents.com, there are 1.9 billion Christians, 1.1 billion Muslims, .8 billion Hindus and .3 billion Buddhists. That's over 4 billion religious people (leaving almost 2.5 billion people on the other side.) I see those numbers and I ask myself what makes the Western religious people Christian, as opposed to just religious and Western?

I think everyone here will allow me to postulate that there is no spiritual truth in Hinduism or Buddhism, and only the vaguest shadow of truth left in Islam. I can grant there is some spiritually real stuff happening to those people, but it's all spiritual lies. YHWH is not interacting with those people in any saving way. And yet there are 2.2 billion people adhering to their religions.

The conclusion I reach from that observation is that people need to cling to religion. People want religion, benefit from it, and will adhere to a religion quite aside from any value it really has. 2.2 billion call themselves adherents of religions that are actively wrong about the story of the universe and knowing God.

So, what's so special about the 1.9 billion that adhere to Christianity? They grew up in Western culture, and adhere to their own home religion. What's so surprising about that? The rhythm of a religion is a soothing, useful thing, and they want to be soothed.

I'm going to do some invalid things with numbers here. I'm not trying to make a mathematical point, but an illustrative one. Across the whole world, 63% of people are religious, even if most may cling to a false religion. Almost 2 out of every 3 people on this planet choose to identify with a religion. In America, that would be 200 million people or so. Americans actually claim to be a little more religious than that. 84% of Americans claim to be Christian, and only 10% to be non-religious one way or another. That would be 250 million Americans who claim Christ. If we subtract out the 2 out of 3 people, or 200 million, who are probably just religious enough to join the national religion, whatever that might be, we are left with 50 million. 80% of people who call themselves Christians are probably doing just that, calling themselves Christians.

I have no idea whether 50 million is a reasonable number. Are there 50 million people who actually know Christ, love Him, keep His commandments, and will be commended by Him at the last day? I don't know. Again, I'm just trying to illustrate a point, not count noses.

I'm not sure that I've really said anything controversial yet, so with that groundwork laid, let me get started. I believe those 200 million religious people are the louder faction of Christianity. When we talk about lukewarm or nominal Christians, we usually end up drifting into thinking about people who "only come to church on Easter." Someone called them EACs - Easter and Xmas - Christians. That group does not frighten me.

I'm scared of the ones who sacrifice their lives and who vanish into monasteries. Many of the world's religious people become priests, and dedicate their lives to their religion. They follow the rules of their faith assiduously. They are wise and famous like the Dalai Lama, and they change the world like Mahatma Ghandi. And they do not know God. They labor in obscurity, and sell everything they own for their god. Some of those 2.2 billion people are seriously impressive people. These religions did not get 2.2 billion adherents by being lukewarm.

And some of these ambitious adherents, these religious people, change the world in the Name of Jesus. Some of the 200 million religious people in America are doing amazing things for Christianity - but they aren't doing the will of the Father on earth as it is done in heaven. They are doing what religious adherents all over the world do. They are making the world a better place by using the tools of their religion. I just don't want to live in their better place. I want to live in the kingdom of God's Son.

Uniting Christianity under the banner of "one faith" is a losing idea when the ones doing it don't know Him. And yes, I do believe that the percentages work the same at the top of the denominations as at the bottom. 80% of the people at the top probably don't know Him. And by that I mean 80% of the top of "my" denomination, not just "yours."

I don't know. Maybe you will call me paranoid, but here I stand.

In my next post, I'll look at the second reason I fear Christians when they unite.


Milly said...

I agree with you on this one. I have never thought that we could unite in one religion. Gee the leader would be a bit scary on this earth. Millions following one man that’s a lot of power for a human.

Even though I attend a CoC I don’t consider myself CoC. I don’t like lines being drawn in the sand. I think in the way of being united my stance is more of peace amongst us. You and I agree on a lot of things and disagree on a few we should still love each other.

Todd R. said...

Hey Kevin,

I haven't been here in a long time. Looking good!

I have a question for you that your post brings up to me--You said that, "I can grant there is some spiritually real stuff happening to those people, but it's all spiritual lies. YHWH is not interacting with those people in any saving way." My question is does God hear the prayers of people who are not followers of Christ? Does God answer the prayers of people who are not followers of Christ? You said that real stuff is happening but that those are spiritual lies--how can they be both real and lies? You mentioned Ghandi, is his life work negated because it is based on a spiritual lie?

I am finding myself disagreeing with your premise but at the same time, I don't want to sound like i'm some kind of universalist. Coming from a Wesleyan background, I'm a big fan of prevenieint grace--the grace that goes before that God uses to woo us to God. I also think to say that God does not interact with people and seeks out people who are not followers of Christ puts limits on God.

Not sure how all that plays out but I appreciate the post. Sure got my wheels turning....