Whither Christendom

God or the Girl is on right now (TiVO) — and believe it or not, it is actually pretty good (and the title really doesn’t describe the show). It’s a very respectful glimpse of three young men who are all struggling with whether they should become priests.

The contrast between this respectful treatment and these “we don’t discriminate, we don’t care what you believe, come to our church” commercials is striking — and led me to this blog entry.

It seems the Christendom has divided into two halves: The churches that hold to their convictions, and the churches that seem to see themselves as large group therapy sessions.

In the first group, we have Roman Catholicism, Eastern (and Oriental) Orthodoxy, the LDS, and the conservative Protestant churches. In the second, we have the so-called “mainstream” Protestant denominations.

Even though all of the churches in the former group don’t necessarily share the same theology, they are all similar in one important way: They see themselves as communities of faith, while the second group see themselves as communities of … well, what?

When we gather for the Mass or Divine Liturgy, we do so as a community of believers. We recite the Nicene Creed to confirm our belief. We pray the same prayers together, because we are a community of believers. The Eucharist is the celebration of our community, where all who profess the faith partake of the Body and Blood of our Lord. We gather to worship as members of a community that goes back to the beginning of Christianity — this is why we have an order for the Mass or the Divine Liturgy, one that changes very little over time. On any given day, the Mass or the Divine Liturgy is the same all over the world; we are not just a community in our own parish, but worldwide.

Yes, the Roman Catholics have moonbat clergy and members who want to change the church into a Unitarian Universalist clone (note that the Orthodox do not), but the church is not a democracy, and the Benedict XVI is starting to stand firmly against it. The Anglican Communion is being torn apart by the same factions, though without a rigid hierarchy, the Anglicans may very well split, especially since the Anglicans long ago dropped doctrinal allegiance from their priority list. And I’m not trashing the Anglicans; I feel a great deal of sympathy for Anglican believers and the situation in which they find themselves. Nor is the problem one of a single issue, such as the ordination of women; these “issues” come in constellations, and always with a watered down, feel good, build your self-esteem and be included theology.

This is why ecumenism is such a thorny issue for the former group, yet comes so easily to “mainstream” Protestants. It’s a matter of belief. Doctrine. Theology.

From the former perspective, ecumenism is difficult enough with churches in which you are in near total theological unity: Rome and Orthodoxy, for example. It is difficult because there are no “picky” points when it comes to doctrine. One phrase added to the Nicene Creed (the filioque) can block unity until one side moves.

But how do you unify with a church that requires very little in the way of belief from its members? Community cantatas and prayer services are all very well, but the ultimate goal of ecumenism is full communion, and if you commune because you are part of a community of believers, how then do you allow non-believers to commune?

All of the former churches know exactly who they are, and exactly what they believe. The latter churces not only do not know, but do not care, or see why it should be an issue. And indeed, if you have redefined yourself to be some kind of social club, where faith and doctrine have taken a back seat to inclusivity and political correctness even to the point that you no longer care if your clergy believe in the Divine nature of Jesus Christ, why would you care about faith?

I’m not a big fan of Protestantism when it comes to faith and theology. However, I have the utmost respect for the Protestant churches who have refused to water down faith in favor of “inclusion,” and like Catholicism and Orthodoxy, have drawn a line in the sand and state, “This is who we are and what we believe, and we don’t care whether you approve or not.” However much we may differ on matters of faith, we both belong to communities of believers.

It is not the purpose of the Church to make you feel good about yourself, improve your self-esteem, give you warm fuzzies, make you feel included no matter what, or validate you. The “mainstream” Protestants have lost sight of why the Church exists, and have nothing to offer congregants they can’t get watching Oprah on TV.

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