"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Shiflett Prints Headlines from the Past

Dave Shiflett is a knockabout writer. He did Trump's pre-presidential run book, probably a number of other ghostwriting episodes (like our Jay Homnick), a book defending Christianity from various spurious or somewhat spurious charges, and now one on the growth of conservative churches.

This last book is hardly necessary. Dean Kelley (of the liberal National Council of Churches, of all places) documented the trend decades ago. The reason for the loss of members to liberal churches has been commented upon repeatedly: there's no God there. The liberal churches simply proclaim a spirit of the age who is the same person as the people in the seats. Don't need no Savior. We're doin' just fine. "I'm okay. You're okay." Or something like that.

Nevertheless, Shiflett has done numerous interviews for the new book and it may prove interesting. He's done two pieces for NRO about it. Read the latest here.

I almost forgot, the title of the book is Exodus: Why Americans Are Fleeing Liberal Churches for Conservative Christianity.

15 comments:

Tlaloc said...

As I've said before, there's always a subset of the population that wants to be rigidly controlled and treated like a child. For them the more liberal churches will be unsatisfactory because they are not the strict father figure they crave. For everyone else the chuch becomes unneeded because without the perception that you need an authority between you and god a person can form a personal relationship with the divine.

Hence liberal churches lose stature and people gravitate either toward individual spirituality or controlled (i.e. conservative) religion.

Hunter Baker said...

Oh, is that I've been doing, looking for someone to treat me like a child and rigidly control me?

Wow, the doors of perception are opening. I should be a full-blown atheist by next Tuesday!

Tlaloc said...

"Oh, is that I've been doing, looking for someone to treat me like a child and rigidly control me?"

Look at the signs hunter. A rigidly controlled authoritarian church with a paternalistic pantheon? Doesn't that start to ring any alarms in your head?

When you have a population of convicts that get parolled there are some who react badly not because they are inherently criminal but because the constricting nature of prison life is very comforting in a way. No questions, no doubts, no control. You are told what to do and when. Some people crave that freedom from responsibility. It can be found in any number of ways. Slavish devotion to a cult of personality. Submersion into a clique. Even worship of a diety through a controlling church.

Why do you need to go to a church at all Hunter? You believe in a God that is everywhere and that wants a personal relationship with you. Why not have one with Him rather than with a man made fallible church?


"Wow, the doors of perception are opening. I should be a full-blown atheist by next Tuesday!"

Why would recognizing the limitations of letting a church stand between you and god lead to atheism? Personal experience of the divine is called spirituality. It's the pure source that churches attempt to mass market. Stop buying the madison avenue version of spirituality, you don't need their "product." The real thing is right outside the church door waiting for you.

Tlaloc said...

God doesn't own a collection plate.

Hunter Baker said...

Tlaloc, it's hard to explain the experience of Christianity to someone determined to see it in a certain light, as I think you do.

All I can tell you is that prior to becoming a Christian, my parameters of life were the sports page, comic strips, and lots of television. I was a perfectly normal consumerist American.

When I went to college at Florida State and had people approach me about Jesus, I was frankly embarrassed for them. When I finally attended a meeting, it was to mollify a friend and make up for shoddy behavior.

Since attending that first meeting, I've seen my horizons expand immeasurably. Through the faith, I gained an interest in literature, history, law, religion, and marriage. All of these things have made my life more full and broad than it would have been otherwise.

What I'm trying to say is that the Christian faith has been much less like a prison and much more like a spaceship or an airplane. I've seen more and done more than I ever would have otherwise.

Even the practice of giving away a substantial fraction of income, though almost unthinkable at first, has improved me and made me more generous. The church is no scam, my friend, not when it is really the church.

Tlaloc said...

"Through the faith, I gained an interest in literature, history, law, religion, and marriage. All of these things have made my life more full and broad than it would have been otherwise."

That's great but the faith doesn't reside in a building. It's in you. Everything else, all of it, is just trappings that are sold to you. You don't need them. Your faith is not something someone else can sell you. But they'll tell you otherwise. They'll tell you that you have to be in their building. You don't. They'll tell you you have to pray as they do. You don't. They'll tell you have to tithe. You don't.

This is the man made industry that has sprung up around faith and it pollutes it substantially. The next time you are "supposed" to be in church go out to a field and sit in the grass. Ask yourself if god isn't there with you and if you might not hear it a little better without the blathering of self important con men.

The church is most definitely a scam. It is an attempt by the ambitious and the greedy to cash in on the better aspects of humanity by pretending they have some great wisdom, that they are the gate keepers of heaven. It's the oldest scam, Hunter. You don't have to play if you have faith because you already have what they pretend to sell you.

Tlaloc said...

There is a difference between faith and devotion. The church sells the later as the former. They want people devoted to them and they call that faith, but faith means you don't need an intermediary to tell you about God. You have Faith.

Hunter Baker said...

Tlaloc, the Christian doesn't believe he gets anything special from the building. It is simply a place to gather, to worship God through the preaching of the word and the making of music, and a context for the intermixture of lives. Through the church, I meet others who have placed their hope in Christ. We encourage one another. We help one another. We listen. We consider. We rejoice. We feel sadness. We pray.

What is not happening is that we enter a building with a brand like McDonald's or Burger King and get our head filled with focus group blather. At least, that is not what is happening in a true church. There are some places where I'm afraid you'd find exactly that.

Anonymous said...

The nice thing about focus groups is that they pay you.

Tlaloc said...

"Tlaloc, the Christian doesn't believe he gets anything special from the building."

I'm not sure I believe you frankly. Your writing on this site suggests you put a great deal of weight on the building/institution. If it really means so little to you then why do you care what Baylor does or doesn't do?


"Through the church, I meet others who have placed their hope in Christ. We encourage one another. We help one another. We listen. We consider. We rejoice. We feel sadness. We pray."

That's just the problem. You are seeking a group affirmation of a singular experience. It's nothing more than a social club but you attach divine importance to it. You let it shape you in ways you'd never let a poker game or a bowling league.



"What is not happening is that we enter a building with a brand like McDonald's or Burger King and get our head filled with focus group blather."

Are you sure about that? What denomination are you again? You want to tell me that "Baptist" isn't a brand? So is "Lutheran." So is "Catholic." You better believe that churches have and use both brand identity and brand loyalty easily as much as Coca-cola does.

Hunter Baker said...

No, the various manifestations of the Christian church are not brands. In the case of those who are orthodox, the denominations stand for particular theological emphases that actually mean something. You clearly prefer the Democratic party. Is that just a consumerist brand or do they stand for certain things you think are important?

Tlaloc said...

"No, the various manifestations of the Christian church are not brands. In the case of those who are orthodox, the denominations stand for particular theological emphases that actually mean something."

They stand for trivial discrepencies in world views that people fight over despite their incredible unimportance. How many Catholic-Protestant arguments, fights, and even deaths have occured over the eucharist? A cracker! You want to claim that distinction in theology is more fundamental than the difference in Pepsi vs Coke? No, sorry.

Look at the mechanics of church identity and you'll find they correspond one for one with the mechanics of brand loyalty.



"You clearly prefer the Democratic party. Is that just a consumerist brand or do they stand for certain things you think are important?"

Depends on what you mean by prefer. I consider the democrats to be Marginally less corrupt than the republicans so in that sense I slightly prefer them if I have no choice but to choose between the two. I vastly prefer neither though if thats an option.

But to apply your question to a hypothetical democrat, yes he is buying into a brand which (as with the church) is clearly demonstrated by the fact that they believe in the brand despite evidence to the contrary. The brand itself has a power over them because they let it.

America is a brand.
Republican is a brand.
Democrat is a brand.
Catholic/baptist/whatever is a brand.

And none of them stand for what they claim to. They are marketing campaigns by shallow greedy people to cover their shallow greedy acts.

Having an idea is fine. Building an institution around it is a sure way to pervert it.

Hunter Baker said...

I think we may be having one of those "how do you explain music to a deaf man" moments. No insult intended, but you've just got a screen welded into place that precludes the possibility of real devotion in church.

Tlaloc said...

"I think we may be having one of those "how do you explain music to a deaf man" moments. No insult intended, but you've just got a screen welded into place that precludes the possibility of real devotion in church."

I certainly believe peope can have real devotion to a church but as far as a church having real devotion to it's professed religion? No, doesn't happen. Nobody who wanted to keep the message pure would ever build a church around it and anyone willing to build a church around a message doesn't want to keep it pure. That's pretty self explanatory when you look at the history of EVERY organized religion. Not one bothers to try and stay true to what they claim is their dogma. Not one. In the entire history of man, not one.

Tlaloc said...

Part of the reason I tend to repsect the message of Buddhism and Taoism is that they state explicitly that you shouldn't believe in any organization of their religion ("the Tao that can be spoken is not the true Tao" and "if you meet Buddha on the road, kill him"). The world would be a much better place if Christ had said as much, or if he did if his disciples had chosen to include it.