Statesboro, GA, USA
This post is a continuation of another direction from the thread "reassurance"
It's not totally my idea, I followed Interloper's lead who wrote "That excerpt of your (Local Rebel's) response to Stephanos really should be visited in another thread. we could spend a lot of time on that "
This is for those interested in going this direction. If not, carry on you patriots!
Here is Local Rebel's response
The one part though, Stephanos, where I'd draw distinction is in regards to our spiritual status as a nation. We indeed, are not, a Christian nation and have not been one for quite some time -- even though about 80% of the population purports belief in Christianity -- it was Bloom, in his work 'The American Religion' around 92ish who characterized us as a 'Post Christian' nation that by and large has a greater faith in the pre-Christian notions of Gnosticism rather than the institutionalized 'religion' of Christianity -- so what you'll find, inside and oustide the Bible Belt, is that people do indeed believe in personal God... which is why more and more are finding the Church experience irrelevent -- not to mention the contortions of logic required to transpose the faith language of anachronistic rituals of 'flat earth' ideology and paradigms into what has obviously, not, been a flat earth for some time now.
In order for a society to become unchurched it really requires a greater inner spirituality -- not a weaker one. People have indeed taken it to a more personal level.
And this was to be my response (though more appropriate to an entirely separate thread):
I am glad that we see alot alike concerning this patriotism issue. But the idea of American being a "post-Christian" nation brings alot to my mind. Firstly, your referring to this new blend of spirituality, you mentioned Gnosticism. Take a closer look at the roots of Gnosticism and you will find that they were far from being free of any "flat earth" ideas. They had very elaborate doctrines (though varying with different groups) concerning creation, God, and nature. To name a few...1) An ineffable Deity who is pure Spirit 2) a dualism between spirit and matter which made a chain of subsequent beings (called the Pleroma) necessary for God to "touch" the material world in creation. 3) A belief that all matter is essentially evil while spiritual things are good, due to a "split" in the Pleroma. My point here is that they believed very definite doctrines... at least Gnosticism after the 1st and 2nd centuries did. The earlier Gnostics were more Eastern in thought, dualistic, and or pantheistic. So If you say that the new sprituality embraced by most Americans is more akin to the earlier forms of Gnosticism, you really have to do away with a personal God with any definite attributes ... because in the end it is all naturalism. The claim that God is everything is just as naturalistic as the claim that God is nothing, because both deny God any uniqueness apart from nature. So that any expression of nature ends up just as divine as any other. If you say that our sprituality is more like the later gnosticism, you get into the far-fetched elaborate doctrines with a bit of Christian lingo thrown in just to be safe. But even now many are going back to the Eastern thought and doing the same thing with the Christian lingo...
I know that the institutionalized expressions of Christianity have failed miserably and in many ways. One example is how the Catholic Church was slow to see that Galileo was not a heritic by teaching that the earth rotated around the Sun. But these things seem to be what the minds of men imposed upon the genuine revelations given by God. God is not so dogmatic (or at least not ignorant) as men in these ways. God always knew the Earth was not flat. He created it. But there are certain doctrines of Christianity which are not of human origin and cannot be disposed of while still hanging on to the buzzwords and more abstract doctrines of Christianity, like "God is love" or "God is Spirit". What about Jesus Christ crucified for our sins on a Roman cross, buried and bodily ressurected in three days? (a fact which even his disciples could not fathom, much less expect, or create as a "teaching".) What about the only saving relationship to God being through faith in Christ. These summarize what Christianity is at the very core (apart from all the additions by the "church" world). And to dispense of them, is to dispense of Christianity. Without these doctrines, you are always forced to go back to a spirituality that ends up embracing pantheism, polytheism, dualism, or atheism (or some mixture of these), even if some Christian language is grafted in.
I'm not even in a discussion here as to what is right or wrong in matter of belief. I am just clarifying what is "Christian" and what is not. There is no such thing as an "improved Gospel", or an "more enlightened Christian Spirituality". Either it's cardinal beliefs are believed or not. I am not here to condemn any who do not believe in Christ. I am just asking them to be honest that they are not Christians if they are not. It's fine if certain things about Christianity are attractive to you even while you are miles away from becoming a Christian, but follow them to their conclusion. We'll all be forced in one path or the other.
This is what I meant by a "personal" God... A God who is a person, ie having distinctions... preferring one thing to another, saying one thing and not another. When you say that people have taken spirituality to a more personal level, I agree. But I have found mostly this is because their "god" has shifted from an outward ritualistic religion, to an inward one where the self is discovered to be God. Most of the new age doctrines (and Pantheisms) end up here. It goes something like this... you discover your own divinity, power, enlightenment, godhood, etc... You realize that the sum of all things that all religions have been "really" saying is that we have access to the wellsprings of Divine being inside. It's not a matter of sin and salvation anymore, it's a matter of remembering who we are in the circle of life. Of course that is more "personal" than mere church experiences because you are now at least worshipping a personal being (albeit the wrong one according to Christianity). That is why real Christianity would agree with you in saying that a mere churchy thing is quite irrelevant. By the way, I wholeheartedly agree! I don't relish all of the formalisms of religion in the name of Christ or anything else. There is the need something more "personal". But God is Christianity's answer to this need for a personal spritual experience. And God does not equal church. You are called to experience him as an intimate being, even to the point of calling him Lord, Father, Savior, Friend. But such words are irrelevent in self worship, because the god worshipped there has no identity apart from yourself.
I am just trying to make some distinctions as I see them. Just to induce some different thinking if nothing else.
[This message has been edited by Stephanos (edited 10-25-2001).]