Sunday, January 28, 2007


It's "Revival" time at my church. Yippee.

We had a special preacher give the sermon this morning. I guess you could say I didn't quite care for it. If you asked me what he preached about, I couldn't really tell you. There was almost zero substance to it. Yeah, he started off by reading some verses out of Ezekial, but he only used it as a jumping off point for his sermon. I'm not even sure it was meant to be used as he intended it.

I think analogy works best to describe this sermon. Anymore, American Christianity suffers from both obesity and anorexia simultaneously, sometimes in the same believer. Some overindulge on worthless platitudes and meaningless trivialities, while others claim the mantle of health while never touching any of the things meant for proper nutrition. If revival were to come to the church, Christians would need to throw off the excesses and begin eating properly.

This preacher? Instead of preaching the merits of a healthy diet and balanced nutrition came passing out candy and talking about the joys of chocolate.

American Christianity is sick, and it's something we've done to ourselves. We're losing a lot of credibility in the larger culture, but it's our own fault that it's slipping away. I don't think, however, that we're going to put ourselves on the path to healing and renewal by preaching a gospel of meaningless banalities and trite feel-goodisms. No, doing so will only exacerbate the sickness.

I have no grand ideas for a great solution, something to spark another great revival. But I do know a bad idea when I see one.


Anonymous said...

Interesting post, Hal. I've seen "obesorexia" too. Perhaps a comparison could be made to the parable of the sower and the seeds, where what you've labelled as "obesity" could correspond to the seed sown on rocky ground, and "anorexia" could correspond to the seed sown in the thorns, or perhaps on the path.

I'm wondering who are your personal examples of "seed sown on rich soil." People who you've encountered in your own life, as well as more public figures, contemporary or historical, if applicable. The only one that I know of is Dr. Albert Mohler. And I don't know much about your conversion, other than it began in your early teen years if I remember correctly, and while you were initially raised Catholic, at the time your family was no longer regularly attending any church. The information about Christian "role models," for lack of a better word, would help me better understand the shape of your vision for a healthier Christianity in America.

Anonymous said...

By the way, it's Ryan.

Hal said...

I was "raised Catholic" in the sense that I was baptized and my parents attended while I was an infant. They'd left the church before I could form any memories of it.

I'm not sure I could point to any specific "role model," per se. However, I think I can point to some of the specific problems that I see.

I called it obesorexia because people seem to be simultaneously fighting obesity and anorexia, spiritually speaking. I imagine obesity to be the people who fill themselves on vapid, meaningless spirituality. I'm not sure how prevalent it is in Catholic circles, but I'm imagining some person sitting in an audience listening to a preaching:

Preacher: "And you have to LIVE for Jesus! Jesus doesn't want you to be idle, he wants you to get out there and LIVE!"

Person in audience: "Oh, Jesus, I'm sorry I haven't lived for you! I'm gonna live for you now, Jesus! Live for you!"

See, it's kinda silly. These preachers are good at getting people worked up, but over what? Silly nothingness that Paul would find embarrassing.

I dunno. Turn on TBN sometime, I'm sure you'll see someone doing this.

On the anorexia side, you have people who are (or claim to be) Christians, and their spiritual health is in peril. They say they don't believe in "organized religion." They tend not to get involved at church, or even go. Do they read devotionals? What about great theological texts? How about not-so-great, mass consumption theological texts? No? When was the last time you read your bible? When was the last time you specifically set aside time to pray?

I know every Christian gets distracted from such things at some point or another, but there are people who make a lifestyle of simply avoiding their faith and then wondering why it's so unfulfilling.

I'll see what I can come up with in the near future as to my "vision" of a healthier Christianity. It seems like an important question.

Hal said...
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Anonymous said...

Hal, I have trouble believing that you don't have any Christian "role models." If that's the case, you're walking on a tough and lonely path.

Prevalence of "obesity" and "anorexia" in what I've seen of Catholicism in America? We have a startling problem with "anorexia." And, a generally small but perhaps growing problem with "obesity," which to be honest, many feel is imported from Protestantism.

This is probably over-alarmist, but some feel that the Catholic Church in America is approaching a de facto schism in some places between the "orthodox" and the "cafeteria catholics" (pick and choose what to do and what to believe.) The problem with the "cafeteria" approach goes without saying. The problem with many of the "orthodox" is that they often have an attitude of legalism, and of "don't let the door hit your @$$ on the way out" towards those who think and act differently, who may not have had the benefit of the same formation that they've had. My (vague) vision is to keep and increase the orthodoxy and orthopraxy while replacing the legalism with charity.


Hal said...

Ryan, I would say that I have some "role models," but I would use that term loosely. I haven't had anybody change my life through their individual influence. I've had pastors, mentors, etc. who I admired, but in the end, we're all human, and all prone to making silly mistakes.

I'm curious, though, about your statement on legalists. I'm of a mind that we go too far in the other direction. Just like the Corinthians, we not only allow too much "diversity" in our churches (i.e. quasi to full on unorthodoxy), but in some cases it's celebrated. I think we've become far too tolerant of bad faith in our midst for the sake of at least getting people in the door. You know, "Well, he's really backward on everything, but at least he's showing up. Maybe someday he'll change his mind."

Think of any of the denominations that have been ordaining homosexual pastors (including my own). It's become something of a badge of pride amongst some congregations. "Hey, look at how progressive and tolerant we are!" Who cares about orthodoxy, just get everyone to like you and maybe it'll put butts in the pews.

Whatever that's worth, I guess.

Anonymous said...

"I'm curious, though, about your statement on legalists. I'm of a mind that we go too far in the other direction."

I think that we need to clarify our use of the word 'we.'

In that last sentence, I don't think that you are using 'we' to refer to the groups of people that I was talking about.

Your 'we' seems to refer very broadly to Christianity in America. And if that's who we're talking about, then I agree with everything you had to say in your last comment.

When I spoke about legalism, I was talking about the small subset of Catholics in America that are passionate about their faith and consider it highly relevant to their identity and decisionmaking.

I don't know if I'd be capable of explaining in the very tight confines of a blog combox what I mean by increasing the orthodoxy & orthopraxy while getting rid of the legalism, as I know that many people might view that as a contradiction. For now, I'll just point out that in Matthew 23, before Jesus blasts the pharisees, he tells the crowd and his disciples that they still must "do and observe all things whatsoever they [the Pharisees] tell you."

I will also say that if Christianity in America as a whole had this problem, it would be a happy problem. I think that orthodox and legalistic is a better place to be than heterodox and barely lukewarm.

... This was all a tangent anyways. Sorry.


Hal said...

Hey, no worries. This entire BLOG is a tangent.

You're right, I use "we" to mean American Christianity. I guess I can't speak for the subset of Catholicism that you're thinking of. Actually, you might get a kick out of the FOSIL folks, a group of Catholic lay people who are always trying to get female and gay priests, etc.

Of course, you're always welcome to try your explanations in email form. I'd even repost them on the blog if I think it'd be productive or interesting.

Hal said...

Hm, I think I may have spoken too soon about FOSIL and gay priests. I know they're trying for female priests, though.