We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Church & Charity

According to various media outlets, Pope Francis has begun his tenure as pope by calling for the spiritual renewal of the Catholic Church.  He has made the point that if the church does not return to its spiritual roots and its task of proclaiming Christ its risks "becoming no more than a charitable organization" (quoted here).  Mainline Protestant churches in the U.S. will do well to take his call for renewal to heart.  Many of our congregations have already drifted into the back eddies of functioning largely as charitable organizations.  Members do not cultivate personal lives of faith and the church does not promote personal piety.  Members do not know the Bible and do not work on articulating their own faith.  Sharing the gospel with others is, if anything, actively avoided.  These churches often do impressive amounts of good works, which is... well... good.  The problem is their charitable work seldom pumps new life into the body of Christ, which they are supposed to be.

The central task of the church is to teach and encourage a Christ-like way of life that includes worship, prayer, reflection, faith sharing, and carrying out acts of charity.  In all of this, the church has the urgent task of teaching its members to learn the spiritual values of silence, slowing down, and prayer & meditation.  These practices are the surest foundation on which to build lively worship, happy fellowship, and  strong Christian service.  Amen.