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Christianity is not a feeling - by James E. Flowers


By James E. Flowers

Christianity is not a feeling. That is to suggest that it does not address itself primarily, or even secondarily for that matter, to how or what you or I feel. Indeed, as outrageous as it may seem, there is a very real sense that in the long run God is not overly interested how we “feel” at all.

Though He certainly weeps when we weep and laughs when we laugh, our feelings, which in the modern sense can mean anything from what we think, to what we perceive, to what we intend, to what we aspire to, are not particularly important. What is important is what we believe. For it is what we believe and not how we feel, which determines whether or not we are Christians at all.

Sadly, our me-oriented, self absorbed generation, has elevated “feeling” to the point that in our culture, absolutely nothing is more important. Thus, the criteria of “how I feel” proceeds, and becomes the litmus test for every decision, every commitment, every behavior, regardless of whether or not the decision, commitment, or behavior is right or wrong, noble or ignoble. In short, “feelings” have replaced moral law, the notion of right and wrong, and so have become our chief criteria for living.

For more than thirty years now, psycho-therapists have made a good living by simply asking the question, “How does that make you feel?” Now while one can imagine that this could very well be an important question under certain circumstances, the spirit of that question has become pervasive beyond all measure in our culture. Irrespective of what really is. Irrespective of what is true. “If it feels good do it.” “How do you feel about that?” “Go with your feelings!” “Trust your feelings!” “Get in touch with your feelings.” These are the mantras of popular culture. And the fact of them constitutes, I believe, the single biggest cultural shift of our generation.

Moreover, there is no question in my mind but that this orientation to feeling has become nothing less than a religion in this country. It has become the religion of Popular Culture. It is essentially a form of deism or pantheism, wherein God is nowhere and everywhere, and does not really matter all that much anyway, leaving you and me to follow pretty much any path that we want. And the path that we invariably choose is the path of least resistance, which is always determined by how I feel, and which is always the road to hell.

What is most frightening is when the Church begins to adopt the orientation of Popular Culture and Popular Religion and apply it to Christian understandings and doctrines. When this happens, a beast is born who must strike terror in the hearts of all the truly faithful. For “Christian Pantheism” is, in fact, not Christian at all. It is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. And it’s not about God at all. It is about me. It is about how I feel, and what I think, and what I want. And though it may not include a golden calf, it is the worst, the most deadly form, of idolatry. Further, it is the most prevalent form of heresy in the Church today.

What the heretics of our day cannot grasp, is that it is God who judges us, and not the other way around. How we feel, what we think, about the Resurrection of the Body, the Atonement, the Uniqueness of Christ, the Authority of Scripture will, in the final analysis not matter one wit. The only thing that will matter, is whether or not we believe these things, because like it or not they are what defines our Faith.

The Church has been occupied i.e. taken over, by those who largely no longer believe these things, nor I suspect do they believe in the God of our Salvation, for seeing no need for salvation, they have made themselves God. Aided by Post Modern Popular Culture, with it’s “If it feels good do it.” attitude, its tendency toward irreverence, and it’s aversion to hard truth, these folks, bishops, priests, laypeople, have managed to pawn off thoroughly un-Christian notions as the “new and improved Christianity”. “God evolves.” “God changes His mind.” “Right and wrong are relative terms.” “Sin is a matter of perception.” “There are no absolutes.” “Bible reading is all a matter of personal interpretation.” These are just a few of the tenants of the Post Modern Church which dares to call itself Episcopal.

It is time for brutal honesty. It is time for straight talk. Many of our leaders in the Episcopal Church, many of our colleagues, are simply no longer Christians by any reasonable definition. They apparently no longer believe in heaven or hell, right or wrong, salvation, or the need for it. They are deists, pantheists, Wicca, Unitarians, Buddhists, they are not necessarily bad people, but neither are they Christians. It’s time for them to come clean.

The Rev. James E. Flowers, Jr. is rector of St. Timothy’s Church Alexandria, Lousiana

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