A REAL PROBLEM IN THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH

by Rev. Dr. Robert R. LaRochelle

CrossingTo be honest with you, my original intent in writing this article was to do a followup look at the visit of Pope Francis to the United States. I was planning to look at Catholicism and Protestantism in relation to one another at this point nearly 500 years after the onset of the Reformation. As many readers of this page know, I have written extensively about Protestant- Catholic relations in three different books published by Energion: my autobiographically based Crossing the Street, as well as the Topical Line Drives titles What Roman Catholics Need to know about Protestants and What Protestants Need to know about Roman Catholics.

As part of this post, I intended to reflect upon the lingering anti-Catholicism that exists within some pockets of Protestant Christianity. Yet, upon further reflection and based upon my reading of several posts and discussions in this space over the last couple of months, I have concluded that there is something even more problematic within the Christian church.

Christian FUNDAMENTALISM and its partner BIBLICAL LITERALISM continue to be real problems within the Christian community. Through their assertions, those espousing the fundamentalist, literalist approach to the Bible render dialogue difficult within the Christian community and the opportunity for healthy interfaith relationships essentially nil.

Fundamentalism is marked by the age old conviction that, in reading the Bible, we should be governed by the principle that, in effect, God said it, we believe it and that’s final! Now, while it might be nice if religious faith were as simple as that, we know that it is not. We understand that the Bible often contradicts itself in both facts and theology, i.e., there are different views of God and God’s activity within the Bible. Also there are moral issues which are problematic, e.g., some passages which are used to defend slavery, segregation and the subjugation of women. Then there is the assertion that there is absolute moral authority found in the Bible as applicable to each and every contemporary social issue we face, most recently evidenced in debates about gay rights.

Literally interpreted Biblical Christianity points us in the direction of espousing a God who is too small, a God in whose eternal presence we will bask ONLY if we assert faith in Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior. Extreme Fundamentalism renders the faith of Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus inadequate in terms of the attainment of salvation. It renders the path to everlasting life as lacking depth or substance. In my book A Home United, also published by Energion, I affirm the importance of love in the relationships/marriages of those from different perspectives, a love grounded in God’s love for us. Biblical Fundamentalists would disparage that claim- and I think that is a problem. It is the transcendent love of a God who transcends all that has both created and sustained humanity, the world and this universe in which we all reside. It is this love which is the true ground of our very being!

Fundamentalists have defended some of the most abhorrent practices in the life of our nation- and they continue to do so. They have made serious ecumenical and interfaith dialogue less possible than it ought to be.

As a starting point for discussion, I suggest a serious reading of John Shelby Spong’s book Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism. If you read it or have read it, I would welcome your comments here as well as anything you have to say about this post.

THANKS for giving this topic some thought!!………………