Sociology Scares Me
What scares me is not sociology, but using social forces to manipulate people in the name of Christ. Ryan over at Wretched Of The Earth wrote a great piece about The Personal Testimony as a staple of Evangelicalism.
Here's an excerpt:
I was abiding beneath the grandiose deception propagated by Evangelicalism that the chief evidence for the veracity of the Christian faith is found in personal experiences. There is no arguing, it is said, with a changed life. Consequently, pervasive in Evangelicalism is the “testimony,” or autobiography of one's encounter with God, usually following the formula:
1. I was bad
2. I accepted Jesus into my heart
3. I became good
Anybody can have a spiritual experience that leads to improvement of behavior. Happens to plenty of Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, Wiccans, etc.; any schmuck can clean up his act with a little discipline, and maybe the help of a guru or something. But also, as we see in the case of Frey (and probably Sanong, too), when you're making a sell it's in your best interest to make your product as attractive as possible. And in a world of schemes purporting to offer “the abundant life” if you just do a, b, and c, it's all about the sell. Thus, the logical progression is to, well, tweak.
Making a sell. Yeah. A far cry from an authentic Christian witness. As Ryan goes on to say a little later,
the emphasis on personal change and the importance of leading a victorious life means you must hide the fact that you're still [gasp!] a sinner. So you end up with a bunch of Pharisees who are really good at disciplining themselves into showing off a whitewashed exterior, even as inwardly the wretch remains—fed now with a steady diet of pious self-righteousness, the worst kind. Yet at the same time the navel-gazing Evangelical grows in despair because he knows it's a hoax he can't maintain.
Authentic is hard. Much easier to adapt marketing techniques. Many years ago the leadership of the District of which my church is a member got enamored with a program called "The Phone's For You!" It was basically telemarketing. Seems there is some kind of natural law that states that if you make 100,000 phone calls, you'll have a thousand positive results, no matter what you are selling. Some genius said, "Wow! God has revealed this to us so the Church can use it! It's bad stewardship for us to not use this wonderful gift to Grow The Church!"
Maybe, I thought, God revealed it to us, so we can learn yet another way the Church is not to copy the World.
This is why I always got a weird feeling about the Promise Keepers, or any kind of mass-rally event. There is tremendous power in social forces, and sociological study brings them, but to me the best way to use them is in a negative way. To say, "what I'm doing now--what we as a church are doing--this program or that campaign--are we relying on the flesh? Have we forgotten that God said, 'Not by might, not by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of Hosts'?"
Kyrie eleison. Lord, please save the Church!