The Church of Meaning and Belonging Vs. The Church of Sacrifice

See what you think about this observation from the well researched book Divided by Faith – Evangelical Religion and the problem of Race in America, by Michael O. Emerson & Christian Smith

“The organization of American religion encourages religious groups to cater to people’s existing preferences, rather than their ideal callings. In trying to create meaning and belonging, even to teach religious truths and implications for social action, religious leaders must act within a limited range shaped by the social locations of their congregations. The congregation often looks to religion not as an external force that places radical demands on their lives, but rather as a way to fulfill their needs. Those who are successful in the world, those of adequate or abundant means, those in position of power (wether they are aware of this power or not), rarely come to church to have their social and economic positions altered. If we accept the oftentimes reasonable proposition that people seek the greatest benefit for the least cost, they will seek meaning and belonging with the least change possible. Thus, if they can go to either the Church of Meaning and Belonging, or the Church of Sacrifice for Meaning and Belonging, most people choose the former. It provides benefit for less cost. Prophetic voices calling for the end of group division and inequality, to the extent that this requires sacrifice or threatens group cohesion, are perfectly free to exist, but they are ghettoized. They will have followers, but they will be a minority voice, both in terms of size and strength. This is in part because, as seminary professor Charles Thomas Jr. has summarized, ‘In practice congregation members expect the ministry to do nothing (such as taking a prophetic voice) which would interfere with the harmony and growth of the membership.'” 

This sobering description explains why a big majority of American Christians live lives that look pretty much like the lives of unbelievers, and why many do not want to hear prophetic reminders of systemic evil like racism, and many other “isms,” that still exist in our culture.

About Andy Lewis

Andy is an author, pastor, and musician who lives in Santa Cruz California. Currently he serves as lead pastor at Faith Community Church in Santa Cruz
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