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Old 01-27-2020, 10:23 AM   #1
OBW
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Default Folk Religion

I read something during the last week that reminded me of some of the flaws in the LC, and, unfortunately, in the thinking of many people in many of the churches some of us attend. I don't hear it in their leadership. But in the LC it is a major component of the "God-ordained" culture.

The issue is "folk religion." The writer described it in a blog as follows (read the entire article HERE):
Folk religion is religion that thrives on an anti-intellectual preference for comforting clichés such as “God always has a plan” without examining them for their truth content. Most such clichés have some truth . . . . The problem is that they are in and of themselves insufficient to deliver the whole truth (that can be delivered and needs to be delivered).

Folk religion may be “found” on bumper stickers, walls (e.g., wood “plaques” with cute sayings on them), in songs, stories, “evangelegends” [wild stories or teachings circulated by certain preachers or evangelists], sermons, conversations. Folk religion resists any critical examination of such clichés or the beliefs they express.
. . . .
The key thing is resistance to critical examination even from sound biblical exegesis and hermeneutics. Even concepts like “biblical exegesis” and “hermeneutics” are despised by folk religionists.

Folk religion thrives on traditions handed down and passed around that have little or nothing to do with the Great Tradition of Christian thought. And folk religion reacts very negatively when someone challenges the cherished tradition or belief — even on the basis of known facts.
. . . .
Folk religion is fiercely anti-intellectual; it demeans the life of the mind, critical thinking, in favor of believing whatever sounds spiritual, gives comfort, feels good, or “has always been told.” Or it is so enamored with a particular spiritual writer or speaker that it gives him or her absolute authority to govern beliefs even if what is being said is absurd.
I will admit that the overly Calvinist statement that "God has a plan" is so prevalent throughout Christianity (of which the LC still is a part) today. I do not deny that God has a plan. But when we turn teary-eyed at the repetition of the phrase in response to every event, good or bad, to the rise to power of every politician in every country, to the fact that so-and-so has been diagnosed with cancer, etc.? Like saying "he/she is in a better place" or "I guess God needs them more than we do" to the family of a loved one just laid to rest in the local cemetery.

And when it comes to feelings, I note that the current craze for "contemporary worship" is too often seeking a good feeling. The songs are rarely somber in character and seldom not about "me." I've heard a couple older than I am saying they go to the contemporary service because it makes them feel so good. (As an aside . . . I am not saying that those uplifting songs are theologically wrong — though some are — but that too many of them are hardly examples of the worship of God. More of a reflection on what I have received than on who God is. Better for personal reflection or even a gospel meeting.)

I know that I have noted in the past that it is often so hard to say things in opposition to certain LC teachings and practices because they just sound/feel so spiritual. How could anyone say anything against them? Well, if they are wrong, then it does not matter how spiritual they sound. And it doesn't matter how good anyone felt when the heard or read it.

But the resistance against it is strong.

One of the writer's last statements is quite chilling because it speaks to the pervasive extent to which folk religion has inundated the thinking of too many Christians.
Once you know what folk religion is, you see and hear it all around in American Christianity. It is the default religion of most American Christians. And it gives Christianity a bad name; it gives skeptics and critics of Christianity the proverbial “rope.” It diminishes Christianity’s “voice” in the public square. It opens Christianity up to valid ridicule.
I might disagree with his claim of "most" Christians. But it probably is "too many" Christians, and they are scattered around in almost every group. Thankfully, not always as part of leadership, but you even hear it on religious radio in the DJs and teaching segments.

Before anyone writes of this guy as some liberal theologian, you should understand that he is a strong evangelical pentecostal. Not just charismatic, but old-school pentecostal. He knows where feelings can cloud judgment.

This is just for consideration. Comments or thoughts welcome, but not required.
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Old 01-28-2020, 03:57 AM   #2
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Default Re: Folk Religion

Regarding the anti-intellectual bias in (folk) religion: I'm already on the backside of any reasonable discussion, having accepted several unprovable positions as though they were fact.

1. God exists. "The heavens proclaim the glory of God" said the psalmist. Perhaps the heavens rather declare the Big Bang, or the electromagnetic strong-weak force, or the Second Law of Thermodynamics, or something else.
2. God loves us so much that He sent His Son. A further stretch.
3. Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, according to the prophecy of Hebrew scripture.
4. The blood that he bled out, dying there on the cross, is accepted as sacrificial atonement for our sin.

(Note that many who assent, or at least don't deny, the first proposition, will still ignore or reject the next three).

I've already painted myself in a corner by believing the Christian faith tradition. But still I can think, and question. My Christian faith is proved by love and good works and self-control, not axioms. But it's fueled by thought. Thought lays the groundwork for revelation, which spurs changed behaviours.

"Seek and ye shall find" was the command of the Lord, and the promise. But in the LC we sang, "Here I've given up my search".

Now I see that by singing LC folk songs, I was conditioning myself to reflexivity, passivity, and non-thought. "Get out of your mind/get your spirit in gear/that's the way to get to Jesus from here", was another. All these LC folk songs were channeling WL's directives - don't think. Just obey (WL). "Just be simple, don't be hardened" was another. To think was to have a hard heart in the LC.

There's an initial comfort in taking someone else's certitudes as your own. But for me it eventually led to a dilemma: when the LC directives conflicted with a reasonable, thinking-person's interpretation of scripture, I had a choice, of whether think or not. To seek, or not.
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Old 01-29-2020, 11:15 AM   #3
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Default Re: Folk Religion

aron,

Not sure how to understand the first of your post relative to the end. You seem to be punting on any ability to recognize something unsubstantiated because you believe in those 4 unprovable but fundamental beliefs for any Christian. Yet you end by noting that you ultimately had to question things rather than just singing the folk songs.

I guess the end is really where you were going.

Now, while I have tended to be very accepting to things from prominent theologians (and reputable preachers), I note that congregations often are liberally salted with members who hold to several aspects of what was labeled folk religion under the criteria of the article. I recently had an email exchange with the lead pastor at the assembly I currently attend on an issue. He acknowledged that he saw the same problem that I did, but that he did not feel that simply taking action on it was profitable. While I agree that some amount of keeping peace is important, I am not certain that there was not a way to do it in a well-supported way (I did not say that to him). He did say that he would take it up with the elders (I did not necessarily expect that). I have heard nothing back, but I also note that the issue has been partly addressed quietly. It also could just be the effects of the recent season and will soon return. I will not discuss the nature of the issue here because I don't want to start a different argument, but it was somewhat an issue of a predominant aspect of folk religion in this country.
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Old 01-30-2020, 03:46 AM   #4
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Default Re: Folk Religion

I suppose at the heart of it, is a perception of a decision between order and creativity. The adherent of folk religion, so-called, is holding firmly to order, seeing creativity as a kind of descent back into chaos and disorder. In my case, I came off the streets and wildness. Suddenly here was a place where the women sat apart from the men, etc. No need to trouble myself with thinking, as all my thinking had been done for me. I took someone else's certitude as my own, and life became more manageable.

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Originally Posted by OBW View Post
I guess the end is really where you were going.
My initial point was that to a non-Christian in the year 2020, I might be seen as holding to primitive and archaic superstition. And I acknowledge that. But I believe that the laws of King Jesus - "a new commandment I give to you" - find the order at the core of it all. This order allows a perfect freedom to do, to be, to create.
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Old 01-30-2020, 05:18 AM   #5
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Default Re: Folk Religion

Interesting . . . (and glad to hear my response was "not required" )

Yes, the LC was full of little clichés. For instance "Turn to your spirit" is one. A couple years ago I discussed this phrase with a brother here, and we concluded it was not in the Bible per se. What is in the Bible many times is "Turn to the Lord" or some variation of that, but not "turn to your spirit."

Now we have to acknowledge that Christ is in us and we are one spirit with Him, so I get the point of that phrase. But to use this constantly as an extra-Biblical phrase, to me, starts to take away the main intent - it is when the heart turns to THE LORD, the veil is taken away. In my opinion, saying "turn to your spirit" over & over tends to depersonalizes the person of Christ to some extent, does it not?

Of course, we use extra-Biblical phrases all the time in Christianity, but let's not put them on the same plane as scripture, and be sure to expose them to the light of scripture!
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Old 01-30-2020, 04:06 PM   #6
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Default Re: Folk Religion

During my time of engaging with LCers regularly, I was surprised to listen to an LCer presenting 'the gospel' or an introduction to Christianity, to an unbeliever who had come along that evening.

The surprise was, God wasn't mentioned. The talk delivered was all about learning that you have a spirit, and that you can 'exercise' it. And that's all that was presented.

I was a bit shocked at how different it was from a simple basic talk about becoming a Christian that I would have expected from a Christian....God, who He is, what he's done for us through Jesus.... truly, not mentioned at all. This increased my awareness of things being quite different, and not God focused, with them. And I thought of the New Age at the time...The core being an exercise of one's own inner being, not worship of another.

Just to add to what you are saying, and that I agree with you. It depersonalises God. I have had experiences of His presence for sure. But in my experience He can speak or reveal something to us when we aren't expecting it. We didn't have to 'turn to our spirit' first, like dragging open some huge heavy gate on its hinges. Our spirit is alert and awake at moments we didn't expect. That's been the norm for me anyway.

(Especially I had unexpected cautions in my spirit while engaging with a group I believed to be a true expression of Christianity and I realised in time that it wasn't what I thought!!)
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