Christianity vs Churchianity: The Religious Stereotype

I can’t remember if it was my dad or my grandpa who coined the term, but it is one of my favorites of all time.  Churchianity. It is the form of Christianity that has been so construed beyond it’s original purpose that the building has become more important that the Church (capitol “C” being the people themselves). It is the religion rather than the faith.

On a personal note, I am a Christian. I have faith that Jesus was the son of God, and an example to follow. That his teachings were not of an establishment, but of a true love for  humanity, and a want and hope to redeem it. If not for his love for humanity, why would he say, when on the cross, Jesus said to God, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” Luke – 23:34.

Major Branches within Christianity (via Wikipedia)

Major Branches within Christianity (via Wikipedia)

I have read several parts of the Bible, yet not the whole thing, I guess it is a goal of mine to see what all really is included. I have my own interpretations, just as the original authors had theirs. Yet, it is the interpretations that have created this monster known as religion. Here’s a great example, within Christianity alone there are approximately 38,000 different denominations, some big, some small, including both protestant and Catholic variations. Each of these “denominations” (the Catholic church considers itself “pre-denomination”, but for the sake of this post, it’ll be included), has it’s own methods, rituals, focus, and rules. Yet they all have one thing in common, belief in God and Jesus. On the other hand, they sometimes look like squabbling siblings.

1.21 jiggawatts (A little history lesson)

Let’s go back in time for a moment. One of the biggest problems with religion is dogma and naivety. You see, when Christianity was first founded, and headed by the Apostles themselves, it was persecuted severely. Simply because Christians (then known as Jewish Christians) did not pay homage to the Emperor of Rome as divine. Because of the sporadic, yet severe persecution, an organization of individuals was needed.  This was the first steps towards the establishment of Christianity.

At first these groups of Christians were very sparse, with little linking them together outside of their similar beliefs and leadership of the Apostles. It was at this time that New Testament canon aws becoming a more primary source of doctrine. Yet following the post-Apostolic age, despite the continuing diffusion of ideas and practices these groups began to unite, eventually becoming a favored religion in Rome by the end of the first century. This unification also lead to a separation from Jewish beliefs.

By the early second century this loose conglomeration of believers began to coalesce into what could be viewed as the Christian Church. Positions and heirarchies began to form; episcopos would become bishops, presbyters and elders would become known as priests, and deacons began to appear as leaders of the sick and poor. This further expanded into the third century, when Constantine first held the First Council of Nicea in 325, following the end of most persecution against Christians. This council was a difinitive moment, in that it was a council set forth to attain a concensus for all Christians.

Now let’s move forward a bit, further after the establishment of the religion and continued tweaking and changes in power and heirarchy. By the sixth century, connections to the original Roman empire were nearly nonexistant, and what was once the Roman empire had covered most of Europe and transformed into the Byzantine Empire. It was at this time that the Eastern and Western Empires had begun to split. With constant barbarian invasions plaguing the Western Empire, it began to fracture. The further north and west you went, the more diverse the Christian practices had become. An example of this being Ireland, having cultivated its own form of Christianity, known as Celtic Christianity completely independant of the rest of the “world.”

Christianity had grown up and evolved into a solid religion. But with such a large influence, came power, and as Uncle Ben would say, “with great power comes great responsibility.” It was here that Christianity had become much more than just a belief, but an Establishment.

When Naivety Leads to Death

Now we start to get to the meat of the subject. Around 1009 Fatimid Caliph al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, had ordered the destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This was the church built upon the hill where, historically, Jesus was crucified. I could only imagine the anger that this attack had created. By 1039, after paying exhorbitant sums be paid, al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah’s successor allowed the Byzantine Empire to rebuild the church. The damage had already been done though, and a deep seated anger was now present among Christians across the Byzantine Empire.  This is where I begin to see the naivety, or at least forgetfulness of what Christianity is. You see, the leaders of the Byzantine Empire began to realize the power that the bishops held. They began to realize the klout they had with the populous, and more often then not would work with the clergy to appoint someone loyal to them in the position of a bishop. This all leading to what is now known as the Investiture Controversy. A belief that the King of a nation had the “divine right to the lands and all within” was finally pushed away, but now with loyal bishops, it may not have been needed.

Not only did power provide responsibility, it also invited corruption.

Between 1095 and 1291, the leaders of the Byzantine Empire made a call for help in reestablishing access to Jerusalem from the Muslim Seljuk Turks. Jerusalem was considered Holy land to both Christians and Muslims (likely a topic for another post, as both religions, again, are interpretations of the same events). Because of this, the war that was on a very personal level for all that were involved. Because of the klout that the bishops held, and the general illiteracy and naivety of the populace, emotions were easy to stir.

Needless to say, this lead to several Crusades. These Holy Crusades decimated generations of both Christians and Muslims, at the whim of both the crown and the clergy. It is a very dark spot in the history of Christianity. Not without its merits, but also not without its problems.

Modern Day Naivety

Now, we’re back to the present day. There is a silent minority within Christianity. These are the believers who still realize the original purpose of Jesus’s teachings.  You see, knowledge is much easier to attain now-a-days, while common sense seems to be far more lacking… but knowledge isn’t always “the cool thing.” However, naivety appears on both sides of an argument when looking at this subject.

At one time, decades ago, common sense was what you worked with.  It wasn’t book smarts, it wasn’t degrees, it was experience and values. However, this also lead to a more happy-go-lucky populous, a society where “ignorance was bliss.” This too was taken advantage of, and created the stereotypes that are so feverishly held onto today, and used by religious or even political opponents.

Let’s look at a few examples:

“To be a Christian, you have to go to church whenever the doors are open.”

Well…. not really, at least in my eyes. There is an old saying (though I’m not sure how old), “Go to church on Sunday morning, and you love the church. Go to church on Sunday Night, and you love the preacher. Go to church on Wednesday night, and you love God.” I wholeheartedly…. disagree.

There is a need to go to a church building, and worship with other believers, it is a way to help support your own beliefs, and your own feelings, as well as those of others; however, a building is not where God resides. It is my belief, that he resides within us. Within our feelings, within our thoughts, within our actions. Because of this what we do, and how we act, is how we are representing God, not how many times we are sitting on a church pew.

In contrast though, I do not believe that the church is not needed. There are great things that the church building, as well as those who reside within it have done. Locally, several churches banded together to create an “Emergency Services” building, a combination of a thrift store, and a central location to assist families that needed help. Be it financial, food, or clothing. Another example being the many things that the religion, and churches, had done to preserve history, and science.

If not for catholic monks, most of written history would likely have been lost, or even further construed by word of mouth. The “scriptoriums,” present in many monasteries, provided a place for monks to work in peace and transcribe texts. This lead to the same practice by secular book stores, again, preserving history, as it had not been before.

If not for the works of a muslim scientist by the name of Alhazen on the need for consistent and controlled experimentation, and further expansion by the likes of a friar named Roger Bacon, who pushed for individual verification, the Scientific Method, as we know it today, may have never existed. However, even these things would be fought by a naive establishment, until much later.

Christians are bigots and haters.

One of the most hated words in my vocabulary… bigotry. It is used to denote a person, despite any evidence or history, as one who hates a certain creed or sexuality. More often then not it is used against anyone who believes in Christianity. Generalizations and stereotypes have become the norm in today’s society.  One person links something, on the web, and it is instantly associated with an entire group of people, in Christianity’s case, all approximately 2.2billion of them. The problem is, some of the stereotypes are very true, but not for the majority, yet that is ignored.

Our current society is slowly becoming a binary thinking organism. Either it’s all or nothing, there is no middle ground. Though, those of us who realize that there is middle ground, and realize that the thought process of all or nothing is asinine are ignored.

To some extent, I blame politics.  There are members of congress, on both sides of the partisan wall, that have somewhat extreme views, if not extreme, at least passionate views. Because of these individuals, media, and those who follow politics take the words they use and label those who happen to share the same religion, as one and the same.

This includes social issues such as sexuality, religion, poverty, etc.

On a personal level, I am a mostly middle ground type of person on social issues.

  • I have seen what people go through when in poverty. Yet, instead of whining about it, I’ll try to help those that I can. I also realize that there are those that simply cannot work, and then there are those that simply will not work. But that’s a whole other article.
  • I have had friends who were not heterosexual, yet I did not hate them or condemn them. My personal belief is that what happens in the bedroom is not my problem, and to some extent the government should have no say. However, with the current tax code, and the benefits of married couples, this gets muddled. My view continues to be that until it is scientifically proven, via consistent and verifiable studies, homosexuality is exactly that… a sexuality. There has been no evidence leading to genetic predisposal. The closest being effects of hormones in higher than normal amounts while in the womb, yet this has so far only been observed in women, and not been proven to be the final effect of their sexual orientation. Lastly, it is my belief that it is still an environmental, situational, or conscious choice. However, I have nothing against them, what they do in their bedroom, is not something I’m going to dig into, and in turn am not going to condemn either. I’m not without my reservations of the acts, but hey, I’m a straight guy.

When the “church” becomes more than a building

This is primarily what I’m going to be getting at. The most noticable, visual, and verbal parts of Christianity have moved far beyond what Christianity is about, yet preach it as gospel. The televangelists, some of the “new” evangelists, and “Fort God’s” have become what the public views as Christian. The big massive churches with thousands of members (one of the things I am not a fan of is “members”).

These visual components take a single verse from a single chapter, and write a sermon, ignoring any of the surrounding context.  They then take it as literal and spread it to those who are not willing to research it for themselves. These buildings become symbols that athiests (not all atheists, as true atheism is the utter lack of religion, and not the reprimand of religion) and political opponents, left or right, drool over. They have been labeled as the “Christian Conservatives,” which is absolutely false.

These mockeries of Christianity, have become businesses. Just as Jesus said in Matthew 21:12:

12Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13“It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’e but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.’f

14The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.

Some of these “leaders” are exactly what Jesus saw while he traveled. It is these “leaders” that have created a false stereotype, unbeknownst (or worse yet, known) to them, that have given the rest of Christianity a black eye.

I want to finish with this. We are not here to tell everyone what they should believe. We are here to help those in need, who truly cannot help themselves. We are here to spread the word of God, not force it. We are here to be knowledgable of what we believe in, not naive and ignorant. We are here to learn and better ourselves, not to limit ourselves because a preacher said so. We are to learn from preachers, priests, pastors, and leaders, but not blindly follow. We are here to guide, yet to leave decisions to that of the individual. We are here to live with the consequences of our decisions, and not to lay blame on others for what we could have prevented.

We are here to have faith.