Thursday, October 14, 2010
Should Religion be Changable?
Henry G. Brinton, a Presbyterian pastor and eloquent commentator of matters of religion and culture, asks in yesterday's USA Today: "Are social media changing religion?" The answer must surely be "Yes, in ways we haven't begun to comprehend." The trickier questions would include: How are social media changing religion? Which of these changes are good such that they should be embraced by the church? Which of these changes are bad such that they should be avoided by the church? Which of these changes are both good and bad, such that the church needs to make a nuanced, carefully-considered, and theologically-informed response.I am pretty unhappy with how that is formulated. Social media indeed is and will change how we do church, but change religion? I don't want to get too deeply semantic here, but somewhere in our vocabulary there has to be room for the solid, unchangeable and transcendent.
God does not change. Our understanding of Him may change, though I think we should be seeking to know Him intimately enough that the changes will grow more and more subtle and less and less important in daily life. And certainly that which attempts to represent Him here on earth should seek to be equally unchangeable, if it is to, in fact, reflect His glory in a significant way. This is something the Roman Catholic Church has absolutely correct.
In our world, "the church" has grown to be so diverse that it is constant change. Just moving among it means experiencing change, without any individual church ever changing. SO, in what do we invest that sense of unchangeableness? I was thinking maybe the term "religion" would be a good one.
But frankly, it is probably the wrong approach altogether to ask how anything will "change" church or religion. It is probably better to ask how some new development will better help us reflect God's glory. Anything else reveals our self-absorption.