Sometimes, I’m a little embarrassed to be identified as an American Christian because it feels like we fall into one of two camps: either we hate everything that we are not familiar with, or hate everything that we used to like.
A good example of the former is a controversy that recently sprang up at Gordon College, where undergraduates were scandalized at the introduction of a strange and foreign type of worship experience during their chapel services: gospel music. Yes, GOSPEL MUSIC, one of the oldest and richest liturgical traditions in American faith.
Examples of the latter are too numerous to count. The Christian blogosphere and publishing industry are filled with memoirs of people ranting about how terrible their church experience was growing up, and how their current place and style of worship is what Jesus had in mind all along. When cast in this adversarial light, what should have been personal stories of finding one’s home in faith instead read like a harrowing escape from a doomsday cult, and serve as yet another salvo in our nation’s already raging cultural wars.
These two tendencies have unfortunately come to define Christians in this country, that we either despise everything with which we are unfamiliar, or the exact opposite. But personally, I have never had much of a problem with either, and it’s not because I’m all that great of a person – just ask my wife. It’s probably because I have spent so much time in diverse kinds of churches.
I grew up in the Roman Catholic church, and can still remember the cathedral in which Sunday mass took place. The entire building was constructed in a cruciform shape, the main entrance located at the foot of the cross, and ...1