Meditation - Jim Holmes

The New York Times last week had two articles about religion in America.  One is about the conflict between the Pope and conservative bishops who have seemingly aligned the Roman Catholic Church in this country with evangelical Protestants and with the Republican party.  Conservatives accuse the Pope and his supporters of diluting doctrine and wrecking the Church.  Yet one American cardinal who supports the Pope said, "We should speak in a way that invites people and creates a sense of unity in society," as opposed to stripping the poor of health coverage and giving assent to the gun rights lobby.

The other was an article entitled "Trump Can't save American Christianity."  The author, Rod Dreher, says, "The truth is, Christianity is declining in the United States.  As a theologically conservative believer, I take no pleasure in saying that.  In fact, the waning of Christianity will be not only a catastrophe for the church but also a calamity for civil society in ways secular Americans to not appreciate."  He posits that the faith that American Christians profess is "shockingly thin," meaning that they have strayed from the historical doctrines of biblical Christianity to "feel good, vaguely spiritual nostrums." 

In both articles, there is seen a call by some to return to orthodoxy (right opinion) as a way of strengthening the Church.  Some say that if the Church returns to the beliefs as defined by the early Church, then it will be stronger, and perhaps it will entice people who have left to return and will be more attractive to those with no prior connection.

I myself am not sure that there is any such thing as orthodoxy because the beliefs and teachings of the Church throughout its history have varied greatly.  Yes, there is the Bible, but how we view its words have been and are a cause of division among Christians as well as sign of unity.  Yes, there are the creeds, but the understanding of the creeds varies widely, from those who are literalists faithful to a particular translation to those who see them only as historical documents.  Look at the Athanasian Creed or the Thirty-nine Articles (found in the back of the Book of Common Prayer) to see examples of how understandings change.

I find orthopraxis (right action) a more compelling way to see the strengthening of the Church.  Teaching and modeling Christ by loving, forgiving, extending mercy, feeding, healing are the hallmarks of a Church which I think is faithful to our heritage, and ready to engage the world which we are called to serve.  In the third century the theologian Tertullian described the Christians in Rome by saying, "See, how they love one another."

Let it be said of us that we not only love one another, but that we love our fellow human beings and all of God's creation.