The offense of religious exclusivity
This complaint of Mehta’s is not that we think only Christians are saved. Rather, it’s that Christians seem to unnecessarily refuse to associate with non-Christians.
His first example is that fact that the Boy Scouts deny atheists the right to join. In Christian literature, this issue has been presented as one of religious freedom under the Constitution: do Christians have the right to refuse to associate with non-Christians? But Mehta asks,
Why would the Boy Scouts not want atheist boys to enjoy the experiences and traditions associated with the group? Continue reading
Mehta points out that Christianity has many nationally prominent personalities who embarrass the church. He particularly criticizes those who announce that natural disasters and epidemics are God’s vengeance on the U.S., homosexuals, etc.
His suggested solution is simple: when some preacher says something stupid that receives national publicity, denounce him. Make clear from the pulpit that we don’t agree with such things.
I think he’s right. For that matter, I’d think we’d do well to encourage our most prominent leaders to denounce such statements publicly — even on national TV where the issue merits it. The world needs to see that the nuts in pulpits don’t speak for Christians in general. Continue reading
Not paying attention in church
Again, Mehta nails us.
One would think the adults would be role models, listening to the pastor, maybe even taking notes. Instead, what I saw especially in some of the smaller churches were adults who were obviously bored. They were looking through the program, looking around the room, even looking at their watches. Part of the blame rests on the pastors of those churches (they were among the less-interesting speakers). Regardless, I wonder why these adults come to church in the first place.
Can anyone deny the truth in this? Yes, preachers can be boring. Yes, songs can be horribly led. But how we act affects our children’s perception of church. Moreover, if the services are that bad, why don’t we do something about it? Continue reading
Now we get to the good stuff … what churches do wrong. I mean, this is the area where we can learn the most about how to do better.
A Lack of Sensitivity to Nonreligious People
Mehta found many of the things said in church about nonreligious people offensive. He tries to live morally. He is concerned about other people. He certainly doesn’t think of himself as evil.
Some churches read passages that refer to those outside Israel or the church as the enemies of God. Comments were made about the unchurched that assumed them to be immoral. The common assumption was that those outside of Christ are bad people. Continue reading
Energy level and passion
Mehta noticed that churches vary greatly in energy and passion.
The churches I enjoyed the most had a buzz of excitement that was noticeable from the moment I walked in the door. …
The positive feeling I picked up came from other churchgoers. It stands out when you are around people who look forward to coming to church, people who are glad to see one another. That vitality brushed off on me.
Mehta notes that architecture and technology aren’t the source of this enthusiasm. He found it in both plain and beautiful buildings. In particular, he considers community service as helping to generate this kind of enthusiasm. Continue reading