On the Church (and Rev. Rick Warren)
NOW, IT IS true that I do not like Pastor Rick Warren of the Saddleback Mega-Church fame. I have not liked him since I read his Purpose-Driven Church several years ago. Now, the book has some fantastic ideas but the over-ridding thesis is disturbing: take a survey of your Church's area and tailor everything (and I mean EVERYTHING from music, to sermons, to how long services last) to that demographic. Fortunately for Pastor Warren, their demographic was all upper-class, suburbanite Yuppies and they called him "Saddle Back Sam" (see above photo). Funny how there were no uneducated or anyone who hated their job around Saddleback; you know, the poor in spirit, the meek, those who mourn and those who thirst after justice! You would never want to build a Church around that!
WHEN I HEAR positive reviews of his Purpose-Driven Life, his leading of Evangelicals towards being more Environmentally friendly or even his invocation at the most recent Presidential Inauguration, I can't help but be skeptical. Did he do these things because he felt called to do them? Did he do these things because they fit into his Christian worldview? Or, did he do these things because he took a survey of his beeper-wearing Bourgeoisie and thought, "Hm, so they think this is important, perhaps I should, too." We may never know, but I will be suspicious of anything he does.
SO, WHEN I read that his Pentecost sermon was all about "Real Christianity", I couldn't help but to deaf to his cries for authenticity! He is quoted here as saying,
"There are a lot of things done in the name of Christianity in the church that Jesus Christ would disavow . . .There's fake Christianity, there's phony Christianity, there's pseudo-Christianity . . . I want us to look at the real deal. What does it mean to really be a follower of Jesus Christ?"Well, yes, Pastor Rick, what does it mean to really be a follower of Christ? Does it mean book deals or a huge Church all built around adulterating your message to be non-offensive to your well-groomed yuppie-ocracy with pleated pants? Please, tell me, Pastor Rick what does it mean to be a follower of Christ? Does it mean having the Jonas Brothers play their secular music for your Easter services just so you can get more souls "saved", more butts in the pew and more dollars in the offering plate? Please, teach me the difference between the "fake", the "phony" and the "pseudo", because I would like to know!
PASTOR RICK "DIRECTED congregation to adopt and strengthen eight characteristics of real Christianity as found in the book of Acts." Of course! How could I forget that the Church in its most miraculous (and infantile) stage was the most perfect? Has he not read the Book of Acts or the letters of Paul to see how the first century Church was riddled with numerous problems -- just like the Church in our day? Or what about the non-canonical Epistles (St Clement in particular) or various testimonies of the martyrs (Ss. Justin and Polycarp)? Or read works of liturgical scholarship -- like Dom Gregory Dix's The Shape of the Liturgy -- to see how the early Church really worshiped?! In fact, Pastor Rick, along with telling me the difference between fake/phony/pseudo Christianities, please also let me know the minute you've reincarnated the Church of the Book of Acts, as the Holy Spirit and I would love to see it!
IF I AM understanding this correctly, Pastor Rick Warren is encouraging his homogeneous congregation to "real" Christianity based on his understanding of the Church in Acts by tailoring it to fit that dastardly Saddleback Sam. He even goes so far to list this savvy marketing as a sign of the Church in Acts, as he thinks they were "using everybody's language and every communication channel for mission." I have no doubts of this, but do you think the Apostles rented out stadiums for concerts or hosted political figures for a forum? Sounds to me that this "real" Christianity based on the Acts of the Americans and is really an golden idol of themselves and their own interests (ala Saddleback Sam).
BUT, WHAT DO I know? Have I done as much as Rick Warren in charity? Certainly not. Have I propagated my ideas like him? Land's sake, no! But, this I do know: my Church was founded by Jesus Christ in 33 AD; was nurtured through the ministry of the Apostles; kept alive through thousands of martyrs who died for their faith; taught by the Fathers, theologians and Doctors; She has been defended by Bishops who guarded the Faith since the Apostolic Days; She has weathered well the vagaries of the Papacy and helped spread the Gospel throughout the earth. She has been filled Saints (both recognized and unrecognized) with every level of intelligence and from all walks of life who testified to the Good News of God in Christ Jesus.
THIS IS THE real Church of the twenty-first century: built on the blood of the martyrs and striving to live out faithfully the mission of Christ in the world. We pray, speak and give cups-of-water in Christ's name not because of a survey, but because we are commanded to do so by the Captain of our salvation. We are the poor in spirit, the meek, those who mourn and those who thirst after justice. And God be praised for that!