Christus Rex

It seems that Christianity and “The Church” (and to be even more precise, as most people call it, “organized religion”) is a completely changed creature since the beginning of the new millenium. The pendulum has swung so far to the left that many people don’t even want to be associated with any kind of religious institution for fear of being branded in some way. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard someone proclaim to me, “I’m spiritual, but not religious,” I’d be retired and living in Puerto Rico by now.

It’s like the term “religious” connotes something negative and evil – and with the state of so many churches and religions these days, with their abusive behaviour sex scandals and the financial guilt inflicted on those left behind, I can’t really say that I blame the public for feeling that way.

But over the years (and more recently as a Philadelphia rector continues to destroy his parish which was once a thriving Anglo-Catholic bastian in the world [and yes, I’m grinding an axe here…]), I’ve looked at the larger picture of Christianity. What I saw was a completely different picture than what I’d seen many years ago when I started on my spiritual path.

As I think about growing up in the Lutheran Church: Sundays meant getting up early, attending Sunday School, catechism, or adult education classes, then the worship service afterward with the rest of the family. Churches were still full and housed many people who had some level of a religious conviction. Even during Summer Sundays, the services were still relatively full even without the comfort of air conditioning (after all, it still wasn’t fiscally popular for installation of air conditioning in the early 80s, especially for large church naves.)

By the time I was ordained in 1992 with one of the “Continuing Anglican Movements” (known as “splinter groups” of disenfranchised Anglicans and Episcopalians around the world), the institutional churches (e.g., the big-named churches like the Roman Catholic Church, the Episcopal Church of the USA, the Church of England, the Lutheran Church, the Methodist Church, the Prebyterian Church, etc.) were still looked upon as being the only saving places for serious clergy; and by being part of any of the splinter groups meant ultimate spiritual demise for one’s career (as a clergyman). Even one of my family members suggested that my decision to be ordained within one of these Anglican Communion splinters was a mistake: After all, they didn’t have church buildings, they didn’t have large congregations or parishes that could financially support them, they generally didn’t have a organ or a large music program so the people could sing, etc. And you know what? She was quite right!

Thank God!

Today, however, those institutional churches have waned in population (and in popularity, in light of the child sex abuses that are rampant in the courts today). The pews are empty (or nearly so) and some shameful clergy have even launched their own Facebook and blog campaigns to beg strangers for money to support a shady agenda that has little or nothing to do with religion. They’ve hacked away at the very trunk of faith and watered down everything Christians held as sacrosanct to the point where we can now carry God around in a little box, and “liturgy is play time for children.” We no longer look to God as the Creator (except for occasional spoken words in printed prayers), but more as a Buddy.

We’ve reached a level where many of the parishes and congregations can no longer support a full-time clergyman. When they can no longer pay their diocessan dues, they are shut down and swallowed up by the diocese, or the main corporation, or whatever an institution will call them, which will then sell off the assets to add to their own dwindling coffers, because keeping them would just lead them to insolvency more quickly.

Visually, it’s like a disease in which the corrupt cells first attack nearby weaker cells, then consume them before moving onto the next weak cell.

So now we come to a newer version of Christianity – a Christianity 2.0, one might say – where it’s no longer about getting numbers of people in the pews and belonging to the large group run by administrative clergy (Those are the clergy that administer multi-million dollar budgets, rather than the sacraments).

Christianity 2.0 is more about the fundamental worship of the early church and the early Christians, which is quite up-side-down to the view of the 1960s when it was the worship of the church which was stripped to its core. Instead, Christianity 2.0 strips the clergy bare and builds up the worship. I’m finding more and more people who look at the traditional worship of the church opposed to the post-1960s and say, “This is what I’ve been missing?”

It is Man that is edified by the worship of the Divine, not the other way around. Therefore, Christianity 2.0 is not focused on getting increasing numbers in the pews, and dollars in the coffers. Christianity 2.0 exists to worship the Divine whether there is one person present, or one-thousand. Christianity 2.0 does not exist to entertain Man with “free concerts” by a paid choir with a $250,000.00 annual budget under the guise of worship, but worships deeply and fully, even if there is no music with the beauty of the full and traditional liturgy handed down through the ages before it was watered down.

Christianity 2.0 is moving away from the large buildings which must be maintained with millions of dollars annually between tithing or pledges and charitable contributions and legacy endowments, and moving into more subtle and intimate spaces offered out of the goodness of someone’s heart and earnestness of their conviction to worship. It’s clergy that are not concerned about their career in the church, but rather, those that are more concerned about the spiritual welfare of their charges that they’re willing to work a job to support themselves while ministering to those who need.

If we’re to see a reality of Christianity 2.0, we need to re-evaluate how we see clergy and institutions, and think more about how we view our own spirituality. What’s more important? Contributing to a clergyman’s salary, or contributing to our own spiritual welfare?