Which version do you have in mind?
Posted: 30 March 2005 02:38 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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I posted this as a comment, but I think it deserves to be a topic:
         
I guess what I'd have to ask Champion, Time Mag., and Newsweek, is exactly which version of Christianity do they have in mind?
 
It’s virtually impossible to come up with a definitive count of the number of Christian denominations that exist today, each with its own version of what it means to be a Christian, each opposed to all the others. Some of these denominations have gathered under organizational umbrellas based on the assumption that they have more in common with each other than they have differences, but each is determined it has the one and only God-given truth. 
 
For example, the National Council of Churches lists 36 member denominations. These tend to be the older, more established, mainline churches. Except for the Roman Catholic church which stands alone and doesn't belong, of course, since it considers itself the one and only true faith. Even though there are vast theological differences between them, the members of the National Council are attempting to engage in a dialog to reconcile those differences. The National Council is also more or less under the umbrella of the World Council of Churches, which has 347 member denominations. 
 
The National Association of Evangelicals, with its 52 denominations, is by no means the only Evangelical organization. The National Association of Radio Evangelists has split off from them, but they often overlap. There is also the Mission America Coalition, with 81 evangelical denominations, which grew out of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization. In 2003 the National Association of Evangelicals and the Mission America Coalition began to work together towards common goals. And there are undoubtedly countless other clusters of loosely Evangelical and/or Pentecostal organizations, for example the official Religious Right, plus many independent denominations, large and small. 
 
The strength of the Evangelicals, at least of those Evangelicals who support the right wing of the Republican party, received a tremendous boost from the 2004 election, but they by no means represent all Evangelical denominations or necessarily even the majority of them. One big problem is that good old split between those who believe in Salvation by Faith and those who believe in Good Works. So it goes. 
 
At the ultimate extreme, denominations with one or more members, or that don’t even exist yet, we have the World Council of Independent Christian Churches. This organization exists for those who wish to step outside existing denominations and start their own. This is neither a joke nor a con. They offer ordination at a very reasonable cost, and their chaplaincy program, which is actually accepted by the Department of Defense, can certify you as an acceptable chaplain for any of the armed services. No particular education or training in Christian theology is required; only a ‘calling” to do this. You, too, can start your own Christian denomination if you feel that God is "calling" you. The problem is that there doesn't seem to be any reality testing involved to determine that no self-delusion or wishful thinking is involved in your decision. I guess that's between you, God, and anyone you can convince to join you.
 
There is no indication that either the World or National Council of Churches hate the Evangelical denominations; in fact, some Evangelical denominations belong to them, but the National Association of Evangelicals despises the World and National Council of Churches, considers them spawn of the Devil, based on the debate between those who believe in Salvation by Faith and those who feel that Good Works are also necessary. An interesting footnote is that the hatred of "liberals" dates back to the Evangelical notion that the mainstream churches, which tended to be devoted to the "Social Gospel" as a means of bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to earth (yeah, they meant that literally) and thus did good works during the 19th and 20th centuries like prison reform and establishing public schools were all "socialists," "liberals," and "commies." That explains a lot of our present administration's determination to destroy most of the social progress of the past couple of centuries; they hate the "social gospel." Us poor old ignorant Seculars haven't quite grasped that fact yet and think that particular brand of hatred is directed at us. Not so—they have quite a different kind of hatred reserved for us. As Christians, they sure do indulge in a lot of unchristian hate!
 
So, folks, just exactly what do you have in mind when you tell me to become a Christian? Do you want me to join you in some sect in which there will then be exactly two members? If I do, will just the two of us end up sitting at the Right Hand of God after the Rapture, looking down and sneering at the Unbelievers who didn't listen to you in your ultimate wisdom? Should I become an Evangelical and hate the mainstream churches? After all, the Episcopalians now have a GAY BISHOP! Dear God, why haven't You stricken them yet? Should I join a mainstream church and look down on the others with benign tolerance? Or what exactly do you have in mind?

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Posted: 30 March 2005 06:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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A few months ago, I went to the Universal Life Church web site, paid my 5 bucks, and was ordained a minister.  I got the idea from J. Hugers web site.  Turns out it is official enough to allow me to legally perform a marriage ceremony in any state, as long as I have my credential validated, and that is exactly what I plan to do in May in Berkely CA for my stepson and his girlfriend.

For a few more bucks, I could get an (honorary) DD.  Personally, I think that would look great on my resume, especially where I live.

Anyone want to join my church?  We dont worship anything, we just kind of sit around and be happy.

MJ’s post brings up a point that has been mentioned in many posts by many people:  If there was a god, why would he permit so much confusion?  Why would he not send some sort of “sign” to the 346 denominations in the world concil of churches who dont “get it?”  If I had worshippers, I would want to be worshipped in the proper manner, wouldn’t you?  Of course you would.  On the other hand, perhaps god isnt that choosy.  “Call him anything, but call him ofter” kind of guy, I guess.

Oh hell, it’s all so damn silly!

Pete

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Posted: 30 March 2005 07:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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[quote author=“hampsteadpete”]A few months ago, I went to the Universal Life Church web site, paid my 5 bucks, and was ordained a minister.  I got the idea from J. Hugers web site.  Turns out it is official enough to allow me to legally perform a marriage ceremony in any state, as long as I have my credential validated, and that is exactly what I plan to do in May in Berkely CA for my stepson and his girlfriend.


It’s no good in in New York (JFYI).

I considered my ordination very carefully. After researching my options for a while I came across an eBay store auctioning them off. That made me pretty happy in-and-of itself, but what made this the source for me is that this eBay shop also auctioned off spells (win the auction, they do the spell for you), and not only that, they seem to specialize in penis enlargement spells (bigger market—sorry—the praises lavished upon them in their feedback are pretty amusing).

So with all due reverence I watched one of their ordination auctions and snagged me one, the certificate for which I had inscirbed with my official clerical title “His Supreme Holiness” and which declares that I have all the rights and privileges to perform all duties of a “Grand Exarch.” I’ve been thinking of starting “Southern US Taoism” or something like that—declare ties and all other such non-functional fashion trivialties as against my religion . . . etc.

Byron

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“We say, ‘Love your brother…’ We don’t say it really, but… Well we don’t literally say it. We don’t really, literally mean it. No, we don’t believe it either, but… But that message should be clear.”—David St. Hubbins

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Posted: 30 March 2005 11:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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OK, I give up.  What’s up with the ordinations? What’s the purpose?

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Posted: 01 April 2005 06:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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I was so inpressed by the root post by MJ that I added my own twists without modifying his words:

It’s virtually impossible to come up with a definitive count of the number of Christian denominations that exist today, each with its own version of what it means to be a Christian, each opposed to all the others. Some of these denominations have gathered under organizational umbrellas based on the assumption that they have more in common with each other than they have differences, but each is determined it has the one and only God-given truth.

For example, the National Council of Churches lists 36 member denominations. These tend to be the older, more established, mainline churches. Except for the Roman Catholic Church which stands alone and doesn’t belong, of course, since it considers itself the one and only true faith. Even though there are vast theological differences between them, the members of the National Council are attempting to engage in a dialog to reconcile those differences. The National Council is also more or less under the umbrella of the World Council of Churches, which has 347 member denominations.

The National Association of Evangelicals, with its 52 denominations, is by no means the only Evangelical organization. The National Association of Radio Evangelists has split off from them, but they often overlap. There is also the Mission America Coalition, with 81 evangelical denominations, which grew out of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization. In 2003 the National Association of Evangelicals and the Mission America Coalition began to work together towards common goals. And there are undoubtedly countless other clusters of loosely Evangelical and/or Pentecostal organizations, for example the official Religious Right, plus many independent denominations, large and small.

The strength of the Evangelicals, at least of those Evangelicals who support the right wing of the Republican Party, received a tremendous boost from the 2004 election, but they by no means represent all Evangelical denominations or necessarily even the majority of them. One big problem is that good old split between those who believe in Salvation by Faith and those who believe in Good Works. So it goes.

At the ultimate extreme, denominations with one or more members, or that don’t even exist yet, we have the World Council of Independent Christian Churches. This organization exists for those who wish to step outside existing denominations and start their own. This is neither a joke nor a con. They offer ordination at a very reasonable cost, and their chaplaincy program, which is actually accepted by the Department of Defense, can certify you as an acceptable chaplain for any of the armed services. No particular education or training in Christian theology is required; only a ‘calling” to do this. You, too, can start your own Christian denomination if you feel that God is “calling” you. The problem is that there doesn’t seem to be any reality testing involved to determine that no self-delusion or wishful thinking is involved in your decision. I guess that’s between you, God, and anyone you can convince to join you.

There is no indication that either the World or National Council of Churches hate the Evangelical denominations; in fact, some Evangelical denominations belong to them, but the National Association of Evangelicals despises the World and National Council of Churches, considers them spawn of the Devil, based on the debate between those who believe in Salvation by Faith and those who feel that Good Works are also necessary. An interesting footnote is that the hatred of “liberals” dates back to the Evangelical notion that the mainstream churches, which tended to be devoted to the “Social Gospel” as a means of bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to earth (yeah, they meant that literally) and thus did good works during the 19th and 20th centuries like prison reform and establishing public schools were all “socialists,” “liberals,” and “commies.” That explains a lot of our present administration’s determination to destroy most of the social progress of the past couple of centuries; they hate the “social gospel.”

Then there are Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) of which there are several branches, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Seventh Day Adventists who are denounced as cults by the Evangelicals and mainstream churches alike. Christian fundamentalists, when pressed, will usually state they consider the Roman Catholic Church to be a cult as well. 

Us poor old ignorant Seculars haven’t quite grasped that fact yet and think that particular brand of hatred is directed at us. Not so—they have quite a different kind of hatred reserved for us. As Christians, they sure do indulge in a lot of unchristian hate!

So, folks, just exactly what do you have in mind when you tell me to become a Christian? Do you want me to join you in some sect in which there will then be exactly two members? If I do, will just the two of us end up sitting at the Right Hand of God after the Rapture, looking down and sneering at the Unbelievers who didn’t listen to you in your ultimate wisdom? Should I become an Evangelical and hate the mainstream churches? Should I join a mainstream church and look down on the others with benign tolerance?
Will I be expected to put all reason aside and subscribe to dogma and faith which defy all common sense and will you expect me to convert others to this persuasion?  Will you expect me to believe that human suffering is the will of God, given to test faith? Will you expect me to believe that my personal efforts that reaped benefits to my life are blessings from God and will you ask me to believe that cataclysmic natural event (tsunamis et.al.) are actually punishments from God for sins? Will you say that hell is crowded with the un-baptized including infants? Will you tell me that the tenet of our faith needs to be made the law of the land? Will you tell me that Ten Commandment, the first four of which command only homage to Jehovah, under penalty of death, should be display on public grounds and court houses as the basis of our law? Will you say that the American founding fathers were Christians and therefore we are a Christian nation? Will we say that the Testaments are the literal word of God or will we say that they are only the inspired word of God? Will your words encourage me to bomb abortion clinics, assassinate doctors or otherwise do murder in the defense of life.  Or, what exactly do you have in mind?

Question boldly even the existence of God. For if he does exist, he must conform to the homage of reason
- Thomas Jefferson

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Posted: 02 April 2005 01:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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Wotansson, thanks! We’ve still left out the Christian Scientists, the Quakers, and probably plenty of other variations on Christianity.

Thanks, also, for your list of questions. These are very good questions, but I didn’t make my own list for a reason. If one were to go through the list of denominations, the answer to each question could be yes, no, or maybe depending on the theology of that particular denomination. There is a process going on by which every possible interpretation of the “religious” message is being developed. At this point I won’t even call it the “Christian” message because the interpretations differ so drastically that the only similarity in many cases is the use of the word “Christ.” It’s hard to believe that one can use the same rather brief book to come up with so many opposed interpretations, but that’s exactly what’s happened.

Even within specific denominations there are wide differences. For example, the Episcopal Church has its high, middle, and low versions, depending on how formal the service is, and how close the congregation remains to traditional Catholic doctrine, and it manages to do this without splitting up. So far as i know, there aren’t any fundamentalist branches of the Episcopal Church, although this just might be lurking somewhere. The Lutheran Church, on the other hand, does have its fundamentalist versions, but on the whole remains one denomination. The Baptists have managed to split into several widely differing denominations, each insisting it’s the true Baptist church. These are just random examples; there are plenty more.

Although there are exceptions to everything one says about Christian denominations, among the mainstream churches, those in the National Council, the tendency is for the churches to be sacramental in nature; rituals that relate to the different stages of life are important. In the Evangelical churches, the focus is on being “born again” and the splits develop over the extent to which they deny the need for “good works” which follow from acquiring faith. Most seem to be fundamentalists; the Bible is to be understood literally. But it has to be kept in mind that nothing is universally true within the different denominations of whatever “flavor.”

There’s also the problem of predestination, closely related to secular determinism. Not all Christian churches believe in predestination and those that do are quite different from those that don’t. The general idea of predestination is that since God is omnipotent, God knew before the beginning of time who would be “saved” and who would not. Being “saved” or “born again” depends entirely on recognizing one’s “saved” state. It follows from this that if you’re “saved” it doesn’t matter what you actually do or what sins you commit, you can’t do anything God doesn’t want you to do. It’s beyond me how anyone could worship a God one believes would create any kind of creatures doomed from the beginning of time, but this is a common belief.

The extreme version, or perversion, of this, which is very new, only appearing as late as the 1970s, is Dominionism, which seems to be the Bush version of Christianity. The Dominionists feel that not only can they do nothing that isn’t God’s will because they were chosen by God before the beginning of time, so our old fashioned ideas of morality have no meaning to them, but that they have been chosen to rule the world. Their role, as they see it, is to establish the Kingdom of God on Earth by first taking over the US and then the rest of the world, which they will then rule according to the laws in the Old Testament in all their perverse glory. The “Christian” version of the Taliban, determined to take us back morally to the stone age. And, considering that we have nuclear weapons, possibly back to the stone age physically as well assuming we survive at all. If we don’t survive, according to them that’s what God had in mind anyway.

The same thing happens in every religion. Every possible interpretation, every possible psychological variation is served up sooner or later. In other words, every religion tends to develop branches which eventually express the exact opposite of the original version. This is every bit as true of Islam or Buddhism as it is of Christianity. This anyone who calls himself Christian or Moslem or Buddhist should be asked, in my opinion, exactly what he means by this since no two sects in any religion are alike.

[ Edited: 02 April 2005 05:50 AM by ]
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Posted: 02 April 2005 05:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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MJ said:

The Lutheran Church, on the other hand, does have its fundamentalist versions, but on the whole remains one denomination.

Not wishing to introduce yet more varaints to an already populace field, this is not correct today and never was in the USA. Those going under the name of Lutherans today are divided into three separate and distinct churches which have little or no relation to each other, are under separate governance and have three distinct philosophies which prevent their consolidation into one denomination. These are the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod and the Lutheran Church - Wisconsin Synod. These three are a consolidation of a larger number of Lutheran groups which existed in the US as northern Europeans immigrated. The Evangelical Lutheran Church can be described as liberal to moderate in their views. The Missouri Synod can be viewed as moderate to conservative and the Wisconsin Synod can be described as ultra-conservative or fundamentalist. Some of these groups have an internal traditionalist branch referred to as the “high church”.  These folks chant, sprinkle holy water around, burn incense and maintain other traditional practices much like the Roman Catholics.


Stay Well

Wot

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