Monday, April 02, 2007

Religion: When religion and politics are one bad mix?

Deploring the American National Council of Churches, Frank Pastore notes that
Between 2001 and 2005, revenue from member denominations dropped 40%, from $2.9 million to $1.75 million. During the same period, non-denomination revenue rose from $800,000 to $2.9 million, a jump of 362%. And in June of 2005, for the first time, outside giving ($1.76) surpassed denominational giving ($1.75), officially making the National Council of Churches financed more from non-church sources than from the people in the pews they claim to represent.

The trouble was - and I watched this over the years - the group had come to represent political positions more and more, and not spiritual ones. Membership (of member denominations) has often dropped, sometimes dramatically, with the former members turning up in storefront churches or traditional basilicas, seeking - and often finding - life change.

I should make very clear at this point that I am NOT claiming that left-wing positions, typical of the National Council of Churches, are bad (and therefore right-wing positions would have been good?).

Not at all. All political positions are an effort to make other people do something. But spiritual growth means changing oneself, not others. If others like what they see and want to change, they are free to do so, but the process is not coercive. Religion should never be politics.

Once upon a time, a clergyman friend of mine was accused of "stealing sheep" (= encouraging people to leave another church and come to his church). He shrugged and replied, "Well, sheep go where they're fed." I guess they would.
Check out The Spiritual Brain: A neuroscientist's case for the existence of the soul by Mario Beauregard and Denyse O'Leary (Harper 2007).

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