I recently watched an interview of a Christian clergyman of twenty years. He was having doubts about his faith. All of us have doubts and one time or another. Even Mother Teresa was troubled by them. Having doubts is not too unusual but this particular minister’s doubts were leading him to make the leap back to an agnostic or even worse. This is sad but it is not really the purpose of this post.
During the interview the pastor noted something I think he called the clubhouse effect. This is basically where religious beliefs take a back burner to maintaining a social life via church activities. In other words the social aspects of Christians usually trumps doctrinal beliefs. In Catholicism this is commonly called being a “cafeteria Catholic”. But this practice is by no means limited to Catholics. Many, if not most, pick and choose what we want to believe in religious doctrine or just follow where they are led by their church leader. This practice of selected beliefs is almost always done at a very personal level. It very seldom is discussed or exposed more publicly.
I can personally attest to the loss of a significant portion of my social life when I left a church. Sometimes I regret having spoken up so much in doctrinal matters as to draw attention to myself. While many others in that church told me they agreed with much of what I said they did so in a very private manner so as not to jeopardize their church status.
One very interesting comment by the doubting clergyman was that “it is a dirty little secret that hardly anyone actually reads the Bible, especially on their own. If they did churches would be in much more dire straits than they already are.” When I went out on my own to study the New Testament, that is without having certain verses constantly pointed out to me, I found the words of Jesus to say something much different from the established church was feeding me on a weekly basis. If I had relegated the Bible to its reserved place on my bookshelf as so many do I would likely still be a member of that church. Sometimes, but not often, I regret my decision to see what Jesus was really talking about…