The myth of the Christmas myth

It’s still Christmas, there being 12 days of that season, so thanks to Truth Unites. . .and Divides for posting in the comments to another thread this video from Rev. Hans Fiene at Lutheran Satire.  You all need to see it:

Thrivent is fair and balanced about abortion

Thrivent is the made up name for the merger of two Lutheran institutions:  The  Aid Association for Lutherans and Lutheran Brotherhood.  These were “fraternal” organizations that sold life insurance, IRAs, and other financial services exclusively to Lutherans.  (There are equivalent groups for Catholics and, I believe, other churches.)  In return, the AAL and LB funded programs for congregations, did matching fund donations for various charities and ministries, and became staples of the Lutheran sub-culture.  (Every congregation had a chapter with annual meetings and fun activities.  Church dinners and pot-lucks nearly always had AAL or LB napkins and paper cups.)

A few years ago, the two competing organizations merged and gradually started going more corporate.  This past year, Thrivent members voted to drop its exclusively Lutheran identity, offering its services to all Christians.  That was controversial, but it passed.  Recently, the word got out that Planned Parenthood is one of the charities that Thrivent is willing to support for a major philanthropic program .  That sparked a furor among members of the pro-life Lutheran denominations (LCMS, WELS, ELS, and some smaller associations and independent congregations), though the fraternals have always been pan-Lutheran, with ELCA members as well, and Thrivent now must cater to “all Christians.”  But, being responsive to its constituents, Thrivent has just announced that it will no longer be willing to  funnel money to Planned Parenthood.  But it has also suspended funding for pro-life organizations as well! [Read more…]

Post-Christian vs. non-Christian

“Post-Christian” does not mean the same as “non-Christian,” observes John O’Sullivan.  A “post-Christian” society is one that seeks to maintain the cultural legacy of Christianity–such as human rights, benevolence, the institution of the family–after the religious beliefs that created and supported this legacy have been abandoned.  In their place, post-Christian societies try to substitute laws, regulations, bureaucracies, and secular ideologies, all of which fall short.

The British journalist develops these ideas in an address to the Transatlantic Christian Council in Brussels, excerpted and linked after the jump. [Read more…]

Harold Camping dies

Radio evangelist Harold Camping has died at the age of 92.  Best known for predicting that on May 21, 2011, Jesus would come back, Camping’s most harmful teaching was that all church bodies were heretical and that people should just listen to his radio broadcasts instead of going to church.

Longtime readers of this blog might recall some good discussions we had about Mr. Camping’s predictions and his theology, including with one of his followers.  (See, for example,  here, here and here.)

[Read more…]

Church government by the pastor

Continuing our earlier discussion about denominations and non-denominations, we need to consider another factor:  church government.  Some denominations define themselves not by their theology but by the way they are governed.    Presbyterians have a system of elders (presbyters, in the Greek).  Episcopalians have bishops.  Congregationalists have voters.  Other denominations have some variation or combination of these three basic structures.  But non-denominational congregations tend to have a different approach to church government that I think is unique in church history. [Read more…]

Churches, sects, denominations, and non-denominations

Sociologist of religion Peter Berger (an ELCA Lutheran) discusses the phenomenon of the Sunday Assembly, which we blogged about yesterday.  He said the fact that atheists too are gathering together following the pattern of religious activities demonstrates the almost universal human need to worship (or the equivalent) and to join together with others who hold common religious or philosophical convictions.

In the course of his discussion, he draws on older sociologists who distinguish between different kinds of religious institutions:  a church (which a person is born into) and a sect (which a person chooses to join).  Such a distinction, it seems to me, grows out of the European state church.  American religion, according to Dr. Berger, has added the concept of the denomination, which a person may be born into or choose freely to join.  Dr. Berger further says that denominations of one sort or another–in the sense of “a community of value, religious or otherwise,” have become inevitable in America, extending even to atheists.

After the jump, read his argument and some questions I have about “non-denominational” churches.  [Read more…]


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