That Jackal, Faith

My friend Jon is an intelligent, thoughtful man who spent his career serving others. He reads seriously, listens to great music even more seriously; and yet finds Church irrelevant. (Maybe we should worry more about those who find it too comfortable.) At the end of a conversation I compared faith to a jackal that leaps onto a man’s back from a tree. Laater, I wrote to Jon as follows:

That image might be as misleading as any other description of faith, but it suggests several important truths. One: the thing comes from an unexpected direction. Two: we don’t necessarily like it. Three: it’s not our own doing. On the other hand, it doesn’t always arrive suddenly; looking back one can recognize stages of development, even if there is a single moment one sees as the turning point. Augustine’s Confessions are the locus classicus for this discussion.

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Church and church

In this post we use a peculiar convention in capitalization: Big C Church refers to the non-profit corporation or a collection of them, duly constituted under the laws of the state. Small c church refers to the body of Christ, which needs no dignifying, and lives with or without states.

Sociological studies of religion closely resemble the demographic studies that underlie commercial advertising. This supports a temptation which is ever present in the Church, to become one of the elements of culture, rather than stand over against it. Christian behavior turns into ordinary good social behavior, and Christian ethics turns out to be whatever one’s peers admire.

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