High-Church Christianity, Evangelicalism, and the Snob Problem
One of the most familiar themes here at Conciliar Post is an appreciation for the historic insights and worship practices of the two-millennia-old Church. Since the site has been online, the majority of contributors and editors have hailed from liturgical backgrounds—whether Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran, or something else altogether. And the blogosphere at large is filled with accounts of young Christians transitioning from the evangelical or nondenominational church experiences of their upbringings into high-church traditions.
The Strange Case of American Lutherans and the “Sin of Unionism”
Over the last few years, following my grandparents’ decision to downsize and move into an assisted-living community, my family has been sorting through a treasure trove of documents to piece together our ancestors’ story. As we’ve explored the letters and records left behind by our forerunners, perhaps the most prominent theme that comes through is their deep commitment to their Lutheran faith. In fact, we think they originally fled Europe in search of religious freedom
Round Table: Confession
In 1996, the independent Scottish band Belle & Sebastian released their second full-length album, If You’re Feeling Sinister. More than twenty years later, Sinister is still revered as one of the greatest albums of the 90’s—ranking alongside notable alternative rock acts such as Beck, Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead, and Nirvana. While the aforementioned bands were known for their use of heavily distorted electric guitars, Belle and Sebastian crafted a gentler tone, reminiscent of 60’s era folk-rock
Visiting D.C.’s Museum of the Bible
To take certain commentators’ reports at face value, the Museum of the Bible in downtown Washington, D.C. is just one small step removed from Ken Ham’s Creation Museum and Ark Encounter—an expressly sectarian environment cloaked in pseudo-neutrality. At least, that’s the line peddled by Candida Moss and Joel Baden, longtime critics of the project and authors of “Bible Nation: The United States of Hobby Lobby.” Echoing Moss and Baden, Vox writer Tara Isabella Burton similarly
Looking Inward and Upward: The Inner Life of the Church
Renowned church historian, Robert Louis Wilken, penned an essay for First Things back in 2004 entitled, “The Church as Culture.” Therein he outlines how the Church is a culture unto itself, rather than merely a mechanism for effecting change on secular culture (the world). Contra H. Richard Niebuhr, who formulated the Church’s mission as part of Christ penetrating the world as a theological idea, to Wilken, Christ is culture, “the fullness of life in the
Evangelical Apocalypse Anxiety
With Donald Trump in the White House, a right-leaning Supreme Court restored to full strength, majorities in both chambers of Congress, and an overwhelming advantage in statehouses across the country, American political power is firmly in the hands of Republicans. This “revenge of the Right” has left some sociologists wondering why, despite having gained such a decisive upper hand politically, so many American evangelicals perceive themselves as threatened. This isn’t a new question, and religious
The Only Name, Part I
This is the third essay is a series focusing on the distinctives of Catholicism. I have attempted to demonstrate in the previous essay that two broadly Christian theologies, the Incarnation and the Messianic Prerogative, are distinctly Catholic in origin and nature. Throughout most of history, religion has rarely laid claim to an exclusive knowledge of truth or an exclusive path to salvation. Pagan polytheists aggressively adopted the gods and myths of foreigners. The more
What Mainline Protestants Can Teach Evangelicals
Growing up in Texas, I was steeped in evangelical culture from an early age. This was incidental more than intentional, given that my own Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod occupies a unique space in the American ecclesiastical landscape: it’s too theologically conservative for the traditional “mainline,” but too liturgical and traditional to fit neatly within American evangelicalism. Yet when you live in the land of the megachurch, you tend to assume that the rest of American Christianity—if
The Lost Art of Evangelical Weeping, Part 1
There is a mood and practice of forced buoyancy in American evangelical churches. In near Orwellian fashion, this frenzied gaiety tries to sanitize the church of any perceived negativity, sorrow, or grief. I have been in church services where the worship leader mounts the stage, “kicking off” the service with, “How’s everybody feeling this morning?” (implying the expectation of a positive reaction), followed by, “Oh, you can do better than that!” when the enthusiasm of
“Fear Not,” Or, How I Learned to Love the Book of Revelation
By Blake Hartung The last book of the Bible, the Revelation (or Apocalypse) of John, has been a consistent source of mystery and bewilderment for Christians since its composition in the last decade of the first century. This is of course, shouldn’t be too surprising; we are, after all, talking about the book that has given us such bizarre tableaux as a pregnant woman clothed in the sun pursued by a dragon, four colorful horsemen,
“Grant Rest To Thy Servants” – Are You Praying For Dead People?
A seemingly less discussed source of controversy within Christendom is the topic of prayers for the departed. In fact, I had never even heard of such a practice until more recent years. I believe that this is primarily due to a gaping paradigmatic difference in the understanding of soteriology [doctrines of salvation] from East to West that eventually led to the dispensing of this historically Christian practice from the memory of contemporary low-church Western traditions.
How To Be orthodox With A Small “o” – Part 1
About six months ago I took part in a conversation with a dear Protestant friend and mentor of mine, who likes to give me a hard time about being Orthodox – as she does with believers from any tradition – for the sake of light-hearted controversy. She was saying that, when it comes to beliefs and doctrine, what is important is that one be orthodox – with a small ‘o.’ I completely agree with her
The Religious Atheists: Community, Ritual, and Dogma in a Secular Age
The Sunday Assembly is an odd bird, exhibiting something of a contradiction in its very existence-”free thinking,” and yet congregational, “scientific” and yet worshipful, “non-doctrinal” yet “We are born from nothing.” The Sunday Assembly represents an attempt to plunder the goods of institutionalized religion while still attempting to stay outside of it. Despite its best efforts, this article will argue that the Sunday Assembly does indeed represent institutionalized religion within the three points of community, ritual, and dogma. Unfortunately, the “celebration” of the Sunday Assembly appears empty, resulting in an unfortunate parody of the riches of the real Body of Christ. Reflecting on the existence of the Sunday Assembly, like eating tofu and yearning for filet mignon, should have Christians rejoice in the good news in the true assembly.
Why Professor Gushee is Wrong About How to Handle Same-Sex Marriage
Guest Author Deion Kathawa responds to Professor David P. Gushee’s recent article in the Washington Post and offers a critique of evangelical positions in favor of Same-Sex Marriage.
Christmas Is About Ferguson
“Ferguson” is about systemic historical injustice that goes beyond a single case. It is about the mass incarceration of black and brown bodies, in which the majority of drug users and dealers are white, and yet three fourths of those imprisoned for drug offenses are black and brown. It is about stop-and-frisk policies by the police that target poor black communities, tearing families apart rather than rooting out crime. It is about young black males being 21 times more likely to be killed by police than their white counterparts.
Past Tense Christianity
Lieutenant Dan: “Have you found Jesus yet?” Forrest Gump: “I didn’t know I was supposed to be looking for him, Sir.” The further I drift down this long and winding road called Christianity, the more I come to realize why I had problems with the Christian tradition for much of my life. One thing that has always been troubling for me is the tendency to speak about religion in the past tense. This past tense
Why Would a Protestant Convert to Eastern Orthodox Christianity?
Why would a Protestant Christian convert to Eastern Orthodox Christianity? Such a question cannot be answered through the use of dogmatic assertions or theoretical musings. For such a question presupposes a particular person’s journey of faith. And such a journey can only be spoken of from experience.* Similarly, Christianity at its core is an encounter with Christ—a relationship—not a formal set of dogmas. It is not my aim to embark on the process of comparative