I saw a sign coming into town today which said, “
Many in the Christian community deplore religious change, seeing any adjustment in past practices and dogma as condemned by God. Such an attitude assumes that what we have been doing in the name of the church in the past was largely if not perfectly aligned with God’s Will. That is a bold assumption, indeed, given the diversity of opinion on God’s Will and the history of church malfeasance in every age.
Despite the innate reluctance to change, the church has been involved in dramatic alterations over our lifetime. Women in the clergy, full fledged church bands and orchestras, multi-million dollar broadcast ministries, and the explosion of so called non-denominational mega-churches are all evidence of the dynamic nature of American Christianity. The church has obviously been doing a lot of rethinking as these changes have been implemented.
Of course, rethinking church doesn’t have to involve change at all. It could mean simply re-evaluating the old traditions and deciding that they still work. Traditionalists by their nature want to hang on to the past, so rethinking for them would probably imply something like a reconfirmation of past practices.
Regardless of what rethinking means to each of us, a call to think religiously is appropriate, in my mind. A mindless, unquestioning approach to religion is meaningless. Tradition serves a purpose, up to a point, in establishing a sense of community; but, when tradition impedes needed change, then tradition becomes a problem. Thus, as we rethink tradition, including the church variety, we must be careful not to demand adherence to our tradition as the measure of worthiness and acceptance.