Elsewhere: Christian church shopping

When catechumens and candidates continue their journey into RCIA, they are received by the Rite of Welcome. The ceremony is beautiful and quite simple with only two questions asked of those entering. The first question is “what do you ask of God’s Church?” to which they respond faith. The second is “What does faith offer your?” to which they respond eternal life.

In the last three weeks I have written about the Church in the road trip of life, the communion of saints, and only Catholics go to heaven? The Church is the Communion of Saints, the Body of Christ, and our guide to faith and eternal life.

Jesus did not institute thousands of independent churches, all teaching a different “truth,” from which we may shop according to our preferences. He create one, from which the others formed out of heresy and schism. Some remain closer to the teaching of His Church while other “progressive” ones stray wider and wider. If it were not so serious, it might be comical:

Once again, Father Longenecker provides great insight into the whole “church shopping” mindset:

Riding up through the hills of upper South Carolina you can’t help but notice the huge number of churches. Every mile or so there’s another one: Pebble Creek Baptist, Maranatha Church, Heritage Church, New Spring, Rocky Rill Baptist, Beaver Run Baptist, Calvary Baptist, Assembly of God, Church of God, Disciples of Christ, Christian Disciples…the names and numbers are bewildering and ever multiplying.

It’s the Protestant principle run riot. The irony is that while the non-Catholics say, “It doesn’t really matter what church you belong to” they seem to think it pretty important to keep breaking up with one church to go and start another one. If it doesn’t matter what church you go to why not go to the one on the nearest corner? The second problem with this commonly held view is that it only takes a short jump from “It doesn’t matter what church you go to” to “Well it doesn’t really matter if you go to church at all.”

Indeed, in a conversation with some good non Catholic folks not long ago they said, “Our teenaged daughter tells us that she doesn’t want to go to church and doesn’t need to go to church because she already has a relationship with Jesus in her heart.” They didn’t have an answer for her, and of course cannot have an answer because according to the Protestant theology they follow there is no such thing as ecclesiology and their daughter is right.

The only thing that remains, therefore, for non Catholic Christians is to make church attractive to people. If they don’t have to go to church, then they should want to go to church and the only way to make people want to go to church is to offer something they want. So we find that the non-Catholic Churches are extremely competitive. They offer a vast range of services and pastoral care and ‘outreach opportunities’. Now, there’s not problem with that necessarily except that what results is the commercialization of Christianity.

The temptation is there to water down the gospel, keep people happy and never challenge them. The worship becomes more and more entertainment oriented. Sentimentality sweeps over. The people want a ‘feel good’ experience and the pastors do everything they can to provide that lest the consumers get tired of what’s on offer and shop around for something they like better.

Read his whole essay here.

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Comments

  1. Thanks for this post and the reference to Fr. Longenecker's essay, which echoes my own experience in the Protestant forest of churches – all the diverse and competing factions in Protestantism begin in religious zeal and fervor, but end up bringing about moral and doctrinal relativism, and then religious indifference – if one looks at the oldest Protestant groups, the Lutheran church, Anglican church etc. one can see the fate of the Protestant movement – The evangelical groups were formed in reaction against this eroding in those original groups, and are staying ahead of the landslide, so to speak, but it is fast on their heels – they will either eventually have to find refuge in the Catholic Church or find themselves the small conservative element in another liberalized denomination like the American Episcopal church, where their voices will not be heeded –

    I don't know why ardent Protestants don't look at the condition of Christianity in the countries where the Reformation began: Germany and England, and make note of the current general religious indifference and moral laxity that is rampant there – those countries are a hundred years or so ahead of America in the Protestant timeline, but our country is quickly catching up – it is the inevitable result of the facturing of Christianity that took place at the Reformation –

    —todd

  2. Unfortunately, many Catholic priests also "dumb down" the faith. It's been a while since I've heard mention of sin or of our broken nature or of the need for conversion and confession. Rather we seem to hear rather tepid calls to be nice to one another.

    Sigh.

  3. Todd – You make good points. I think the overall answer to your question is momentum. If they could step back and take an objective look, we would be flooded with even more RCIA candidates.

    Sue – like everyone else, priests vary widely in how they approach their responsibilities. I prefer solid teaching all the time regardless of any offence it may cause. Lacking that, I know that Holy Mother Church will (as always) survive and flourish sometimes in spite of itself.

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