From such conversations and from my observations of church signs and such, it appears that the big trend in Christianity is to disavow old stuffy traditions and be cool and current and trendy. It’s nothing new to me–in fact, it was going on all though my teen years (the 1990’s). Apparently, from what I hear, church used to be boring and haughty and judgmental. The new radical Christianity is just all about loving people and accepting them the way they are. But what is particularly Christian about that? You get the same thing with other religions too, and in secular humanism! Human kindness is a human attribute, not some other-worldly spiritual attribute.
Don’t get me wrong–I think it’s a wonderful thing if Christians are friendly and non-judgemental. But as long as that is used as a lure to get people to convert, I can never trust it because I grew up as a very active and enthusiastic member of an evangelical church. Every sort of outreach they do is part of an attempt to convert others and get them coming to church. I remember a sermon where the preacher was talking about our new gymnasium and how the ultimate goal in having it was to draw some of the people who come to play basketball into the church services. I don’t think it was ever about getting their money (I don’t think that was ever a focus) but more about getting them to believe the right thing (what we believed, of course) and be saved (from hell….sin….God’s wrath…? It never really made a lot of sense to me. I just had a vague feeling that I’d better believe it or I was in trouble).
At any rate, I found the people at my church to be generally very kind. It was not the people or the traditions I had problems with–I had problems with the doctrines and the disconnect between what I thought I was supposed to believe and my observations of reality. I was taught at church youth summer camps, which I went to each summer, that I must not compartmentalized between “worldly” things and “godly” things. As the cliché goes “Jesus is Lord of all or not Lord at all.” I took that very seriously, so when I starting seeing and experiencing things that didn’t make sense with church doctrine, dividing my beliefs from my knowledge was not an option. It seemed more and more to me that if Christianity were true, getting an education put one’s soul at risk because education brings on thought, and thought brings doubt. But I’ll not go into detail about that here, since I’ve already discussed here: New Chapters in Life.
So, what is this about nontraditional Christianity? I think evangelical Christians who use that label have a lack of imagination. I grew up in a pretty cool, current church, but untraditional? Maybe only in very superficial aspects–music, building style, causal clothes, and the like. Maybe it’s in not pushing away poor people, but that’s not “non-traditional,” it’s just decent behavior.
This is what I would think of as non-traditional Christianity (at least in the U.S.):
- Belief that God entered Jesus at his baptism, but left him before he died.
- Belief that Jesus was not actually God, but a man chosen by God.
- Belief that Jesus was the son of a god, but not of the god of Hebrew scriptures.
- Other such beliefs that mark the believer as very liberal.
Basically, the sort of belief that would be strongly scented of heresy, at least in the minds of today very orthodox evangelicals. Non-traditional belief is heresy. What’s ironic in calling these beliefs non-traditional is that they ALL actually have tradition behind them. They are all very early Christian beliefs that most American Christians never get to hear about.
For this reason, any time a conservative, evangelical, or fundamentalist Christian refers to him or herself as “non-traditional” I laugh a little inside even if I try not to show it.