An article in the Sunday NY Times discusses the attempts by evangelical/fundamentalist churches to become "relevant" by morphing into cafes, yoga studios, movie theaters, whatever.
According to a recent report by the Pew Research Center, the percentage of Americans who are not affiliated with any religion is on the rise, including a third of Americans under 30. Even so, nearly 80 percent of unaffiliated Americans say they believe in God, and close to half say they pray at least once a month.The “spiritual but not religious” category is an important audience that evangelical leaders hope to reach in a culture that many believers call “post-Christian.”So they arrange meetings in movie theaters, schools, warehouses and downtown entertainment districts. They house exercise studios and coffee shops to draw more traffic. Many have even cast aside the words “church” and “church service” in favor of terms like “spiritual communities” and “gatherings,” with services that do not stick to any script...For new leaders coming out of seminary, “the cool thing is church planting,” Mr. Bird said. “The uncool thing is to go into the established church. Why that has taken over may speak to the entrepreneurialism and innovation that today’s generation represents.”..,That strategy, blending religion with everyday activities, disarms people put off by traditional notions of church, said Scott L. Thumma, a professor at the Hartford Institute for Religion Research.“It’s pretty low risk to wander into a bar or movie theater or hotel,” Professor Thumma said. “It ends up delivering the message of relevance: we’re just like you, we’re struggling, we might have a beer together — and our faith is also relevant.”
Disarm, indeed. There's a lot to criticize in the article , and it's trivially easy to criticize as well. You have incredible arrogance: "Jesus went out of the synagogue, and therefore we should..." "The uncool thing is..." You have this idea that you should be "low risk" and "disarming" to people. And their "faith" is "relevant."
Yeah, true true true...and...what of ourselves? There is a value irrelevance, kind of like a mathematical proof. Many times you start out with several lemmas, which don't necessarily seem related at first. Usually, there is a "bridge" built with other intermediate steps between these lemmas, which, applying other axiomatic principles or lemmas leads to the final proof. But sometimes, a proof can be constructed with seemingly unrelated lemmas, and the final proof just falls into place, kind of like an "Aha!" moment in print.
You have bills to pay, demands to other people to be met. It doesn't always seem relevant to wash the dishes or do the laundry - some demands on time and wants will always seem contradictory to one another.
Being at peace with that can be a real pain in the butt. To be in reaction to the fact that others are not at peace with it is also a want that is contradictory, etc. etc.
It used to be important to me to point out how all those other folks "were wrong" and I was...etc. But...it's not as important as it used to be, partly because I realize that my reaction to the above is a pointer to my own inauthenticity. And I can be pretty inauthentic and hypocritical.
Don't get me wrong. It's important to attempt to see things and do things as they are. But as they are, the illusions of others are important only to the extent that transcending all beings dukkha should be done expediently.
Let them have their movie theaters and coffee houses. I want to help us here. I want to help me as well as you. If that here is in a coffee house, and it's in an emergent whatever, there it is. I won't be oppressing people there because of their beliefs or not, and won't countenance others' oppression likewise. I will help you if I can, or at least I intend to.
So today that means some odd yard work. It's the day before New Years' Day. Stuff has to be removed.