Saturday, November 8, 2008

All Beliefs are Local

I go back to a discussion I had some years ago about Christianity in it’s alphabet soup days and the sacred text “Acts of the Apostles” with a friend – not a scholar – he had mentioned how Christianity has splintered from the beginning and going all the way to the present.

I suddenly see his point as I look at least at the American point of view. Many splinter groups call themselves “Christian” – cling to obscure passages and interpretations of sacred text and well – Alphabet Soup Christianity is the best you get some days – most places - these days. The only glue holding the old Chi-Ro thing together is perhaps the ancient Constantine creeds.

If I had to categorize Christianity today, perhaps it could be as a multicolored beach ball bouncing around here and there. It is a franchise product so to speak and marketed differently from country to country and within countries as well. When I hear the term Christian I have to be wary and recognize that a one size fits all bill on the protestant side of the equation is not much different than the catholic equation fitting into every culture as best it can and absorbing local pagan customs and turning local deities into born again saints.

I choose to paraphrase the late Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Thomas “Tip” O’Neill. His assertion was that “All politics is local”. So too I see that all beliefs systems are local as well. You believe what you feel comfortable with to yourself, with your family and within your community, culture, region, country. “Paris is worth a Mass” Henry IV said when he renounced his protestant beliefs in order to ascend the catholic throne of France.

In that light, many variations of Christianity exist all over this planet. Whether the message of Jesus in the Gospels is taught correctly, or is PC or relevant to social norms is another matter entirely. That the American Catholic Church in perhaps too much zeal, to make brownie points, to conform to Vatican policies in the sixties turned off a whole generation of church goers with iron fist tactics. The response in Italy or France to the ideas of birth control were no doubt dealt with and received differently by the local community.

In any case, the secular world is of primary purpose and dominant to many westerners today more so than any ancient sacred concepts of world order.

The multi colored beach ball is as good as any metaphor beyond the traditional cross to describe the ever rich but still alphabet soup of Christian beliefs and scholarship.
Maybe this is a good thing.