Make 2007 a Church-free Year

An article by Wency Leung (Vancouver Sun), reprinted in today’s Journal, held no surprises but did confirm something most lapsed or lapsing conservative evangelical Christians know.

In researching the apparent link between religion and intolerance (believing if there is a link it needs to be shown empirically) University of British Columbia professor of social psychology, Ara Norenzayan, found that faith in God itself does not make people less tolerant to others who don’t share their beliefs. Rather, so-called "boundary-setting" tendencies, or dogmatism, seem to be the culprit. Also, research participants who agreed to the statement, "My God or belief is the only true one," were more likely to support violence.diffeecartoon

No news flash there but another study by Norenzayan and fellow researchers was a bit more interesting. They found that Muslim Palestinians who prayed to God frequently were no more or less likely to support suicide attacks than those who did not. However, those who frequently attended mosque were more likely to endorse violent martyrdom. Similarly, Jewish settlers in the West Bank who attended synagogue were more likely to support violence against Palestinians than those who did not. Norenzayan said synagogue and mosque attendance likely contribute to boundary-setting. "It’s ’my group versus the other group.’

The family resemblance with Christian fundamentalism is obvious enough. And this surely shows the link between the Sunday after Sunday boundary-setting sermons and "worship rallies" of too many conservative evangelical churches and their resultant or correlative acceptance and sometimes endorsement of violence.

According to Norenzayan’s research, perhaps not too surprisingly, prayer on its own doesn’t have that kind of factious effect on people.

So unless your church has given up the taste for group-defining, here’s a New Year’s resolution to consider: Make 2007 a church-free year. But with more prayer.

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  1. Happy New Year Steve

    Is a ‘church fast’ one of your NewYear’s resolutions for 2007?

    I attend services every week but I find it hard to be enthused by what I hear on most Sundays. I stay in an evangelical church and try to be engaged (in some manner) with the hopes that the ugly stuff can be addressed and perhaps changed.
    I often despair of this hope and wonder if Jesus is desparing too. He may have already decided to find an other way and another people through whom He can mediate His life to the world again.

  2. Len, No resolutions…I’ve kind of found myself on a church sabbatical of late. Nothing intended. Not trying to prove a point or anything. I think the church is still a chosen vehicle for Jesus…but I think what we understand as “church” is severely limited. The face of the church is far richer and diverse then we are prepared admit, or prepared to desire.
    For example, the little interfaith group that I’ve attended for over six years now…is, well…church. steve

  3. just curious,

    how interfaith is that interfaith group?

    and what does Mom and Dad think about all this?

    never mind that last question….its just that I stay Pentecostal because of my mother’s witness more than any living one I see around me.
    If she loved this expression of Christ so much, there has to be something worth saving in here
    at least that’s how this impossibleape has justified his continued journey in the evangelical world

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