Saturday, January 24, 2009

Shameless Society and Sin?

I'm reading an interesting book by a professor who is comparing early Methodism with life today. Actually his writing is more of a critique and corrective to Methodism today than anything else. While that might bore you to tears, he does get into a subject that could create some discussion.

The prof gets into some broader issues about society, and how that tends to shape religious folk more than anything. Said another way, Methodists (and any other group for that matter) replaced our earliest historic peculiarities which made us different with a "bland acceptable almost civil religion." So the focus becomes upon us, people like us, and the national or cultural status quo in our religious thinking and practice.

Now this is where the argument gets interesting. The challenge is how a religious group conceptualizes and practices their need of God, and then how this is revealed as the group defines their theology/doctrine, e.g. say their understanding of sin. Notice how various groups define sin in different ways that matches their position in the nation and world. If we are so enmeshed in our society, culture, or subculture that we can't take a step or two away from it for a realistic view we may totally abandon a way of thinking or living, even if it is a historical and primary tenet of our religious heritage.

Here's the striking passage in one section of the book which brings this all home. Dr. Scott Kisker in "Mainline or Methodist?" writes:

"Americans will do anything, say anything, consume anything in the pursuit of the measures of worldly happiness. We are not a shameful society. We are more accurately a shameless one.

"People in societies defined primarily by consumer capitalism are not walking around wondering what they can do to win the approval of an angry God. We live in a culture of entitlement. We simply assume, no matter how we live, that God should accept us.

"Even when people recognize they are not living how they should, the offer of God's forgiveness and acceptance has very little impact. People are more likely to think, 'Why wouldn't God forgive me? My sins deserve forgiveness as much as the next persons. Of course God loves me. I'm lovable.'"

I'm curious how this strikes you. What are your thoughts on the topic/s?

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