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February 8th, 2008


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05:54 pm - Church Crumbling
I have watched with interest as the UK press has sensationalized comments by Archbishop Rowan Williams recently, particularly with headlines like today's "Archbishop of Canterbury argues for Islamic law in Britain" and the "Archbishop says nativity 'a legend'" (of course, Fox News got in on the fun with that second one, so it's not just the Brits).

What interests me most, though is that something like either of those (which are obviously just completely out of context headlines) would cause some Pagans to leave an organization, if the head of that Org did that.

I imagine that the thought of leaving their church (as an organization) very, very rarely crosses the mind of a Christian, particularly someone born and raised in that faith. Christians seem, in general, far more likely to hold onto their denominational identity than Pagans do. Even in the case of a major break (such as the Anglican Communion has recently experienced, with American churches joining communion with Nigerian churches or the Worldwide Anglican Communion), rarely will they leave their denomination over something so small as a difference in belief, politics, or who gets to be ordained.

Pagans, in general, are an interesting mix of "joiners" and "leavers." We join organizations like they're sweet candy, and we leave them like they're so many wrappers. This may have something to do with the little, tiny ponds we swim in, or it might have more to do with the general protestantism of Neo-Paganism, where every person is their own priest and just as able to contact the divine as the next guy wearing a dress. Whatever it is, it interests me terribly.

If a Pagan church didn't ordain women, the Pagans would leave. If Skip (ADF's Archdruid) said the US should adopt Sharia (or was quoted as saying that), people would get huffy and probably decide ADF wasn't for them (and, of course, probably without asking him about it). I have a feeling, too, that this might also be a percentage sort of thing: 200 people leaving the Anglican Communion is a drop in the bucket compared to 200 people leaving ADF.

It may also be a question of the amount of work someone wants to put into an organization that they feel doesn't match with their path any longer: becoming "unchurched" is a lot harder than not renewing your ADF dues or ceasing to attend coven functions: you actually have to actively work at it (I still get notices from a number of churches I belonged to as a kid, here and there around the Midwest. . . ADF, PSA, and N14 are as easy to stop hearing from as unsubscribing from a mailing list; the Christian churches would take active contact to stop their missives. . . I can't even simply move without them finding me).

Anyway, it's interesting to watch conflict within a church from several angles in several different churches. It could be an interesting spectator sport: "Church Crumbling" is what I imagine it would be called.

I need some popcorn now. . .
Current Location: Southeast of Disorder
Current Mood: awake
Current Music: "Rancho Deluxe", -JB

(16 comments Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:smithing_chick
Date:February 8th, 2008 11:51 pm (UTC)
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I imagine that the thought of leaving their church (as an organization) very, very rarely crosses the mind of a Christian, particularly someone born and raised in that faith. Christians seem, in general, far more likely to hold onto their denominational identity than Pagans do.

I rather strongly disagree with this, based both on my own personal experience as well as knowing a rather large number of "ex" Christians of varying sorts. Heck, look at my family- we were all raised as devout Catholics & of the 4 of us kids, only my sister's any degree of Christian at all. In my Mom's generation, my Mom's the only devout one, my aunt only goes because she has kids & both my uncles are confirmed atheists. This was all *long* before the scandal, too. I left the RCC due as much to their poor treatment of women as anything else. If I hadn't already left by the time Pope John Paul II had stated that "Childbearing is the only thing women find truly fulfilling", I would have left at that point.

I've read many articles about the fact that people are leaving a lot of traditional churches in recent generations, some due to scandal (not just the RCC's but whenever any of the evangelical conservative "Bible-thumper" types gets caught with his pants down) & schisms (The Episcopalians) & some due to simply not believing.
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From:chronarchy
Date:February 9th, 2008 03:14 am (UTC)
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I wasn't discussing religious identity, but denominational identity. Do you still disagree with that?
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From:smithing_chick
Date:February 9th, 2008 04:02 am (UTC)
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I don't think there's a difference. People's denominations *are* their religions- that's how they identify.
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From:verginiamus
Date:February 9th, 2008 12:14 am (UTC)
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It is interesting about the Neo-Protestant nature of Paganism. It seems that every Pagan with a vision or whatever can start a church. However, they do not get the same recognition that a Joel Olsteen does. He is not ordained, just felt the call of God.

The Anglican church split is with the churches in Virginia at the Nexus. These are the ones that George Washington and various founding fathers belonged to. The Virginia breakaway churches claim that their wealthy parishes can leave with said buildings intact. The Eposcopalian Archdiocese says no. I believe it is a fight over money and property. - Washington Post- has been covering it for the past two years. It is not a drop in the bucket since a lot of history, property, and money is at stake.

The split as I see it involves a very charismatic Pastor in Falls Church (Fairfax County) Va. I have done battle with said Pastor over lewd materials in the public libraries. He thinks that lewd materials covers most Grecco-Roman art works. Sigh.

As Rev. Schnorr of Jerry Springer Show says, "The Hell with You, I am Going to Heaven". (The Rev. is actually an ordained United Methodist minister, not just a character on that show.)
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:February 9th, 2008 03:20 am (UTC)
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The land/property is the central issue. I think it masks the bigger issue (which may be one of "You can't take your ball and go home because we're playing with my ball!"), though, particularly the fact that American law probably doesn't have any way of preventing the split from occurring.
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From:rfunk
Date:February 9th, 2008 01:52 am (UTC)
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Seems to me that the big difference is that pagans rarely grew up in their pagan church (/organization/coven/group/whatever), while Christians usually did. It's a bigger deal for people to leave the church they were raised in than to leave the one they just joined a few years ago -- or at least it is if a person not only grew up in the church but also has stayed in the church past their 20s.

Of course there's also the fact that Anglicans and Methodists and such tend to be much less likely to be religious seekers looking for the right fit; if they were they've probably already left when they became adults.
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From:chronarchy
Date:February 9th, 2008 03:29 am (UTC)
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This is true. We haven't really been around long enough to have that sort of phenomenon, and since a number of Pagans refuse to raise their children in any religious tradition (including their own), we may be a long way from that.

And remember, there's a seeker born every minute :)
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From:autothyestean
Date:February 9th, 2008 02:38 am (UTC)
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I guess the thing is Anglicanism is a big and wide faith with lots of different ideas in, from the cynical high church theologians who are practically atheists anyway, to the cynical low church lay members who are practically atheists anyway, with lots of variations of belief in between. Maybe with smaller groups people expect more similarity in belief.

I guess it helps that Anglicanism has existed since it was forged by Lord Flasheart at Mount Doom in 1066, and therefore many generations have lived within it. Being a member kind of becomes a habbit that isn't easilly broken. Whereas very few people are members of Pagan groups from birth, and still fewer are members of the same Pagan groups that their grandparents were a part of.

Sometimes BBC Parliament televises the ecumenical council of the Anglican Church. I wish it was done in the same style as the Superbowl. That would be awesome.
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From:chronarchy
Date:February 9th, 2008 03:41 am (UTC)
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Sometimes I wonder if the low-level lassitude might be the issue, the reason why people don't leave. There's a perception that some people are just going through the motions (which I don't believe is accurate), but that the motions are comfortable and habitual (and, ultimately, pleasurable) is something I am actually positive of.

I am meeting more and more second and third generation Pagans (possibly because of our attitudes toward sex and a high number of young mothers), so we may find this phenomenon sooner than we thought.

Whether that's good or bad, I suppose, is up to the individual observer, but I generally think that religious habit is a positive thing, really.
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From:autothyestean
Date:February 9th, 2008 11:18 am (UTC)
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Have you read "A Clergy Man's Daughter"? Its probably my second favourate George Orwell novel after "Keep the Aspedistra Flying". A female protagonist and about religion.

I like how it seems to suggest that there are very important and very active people in church bodies who also happen to completely not believe in God. They beleive in something else... the community, maybe. The fact that there's nothing else. The history, the buildings. Maybe even the liturgy. I don't think that skeptical scholars or lay members are always apathetic about their religion.

Having a tradition is, ironically, kind of what ADF Paganism seems to be about. I guess. In my opinion the belief in the ancestors, the apparent wish to link itself with the past while work with the present and the quite open liturgical system seem to make it an ideal choice for a Pagan family religion. I don't know, that would be my opinion.
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From:rfunk
Date:February 9th, 2008 06:48 pm (UTC)

young mothers

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That phenomenon of a high number of young mothers started to disturb me the last time I went to PSG. I'm all for positive attitudes toward sex, but I would hope that it includes some education in there.

Actually I expect it's more about (much but not all of paganism) being a fertility religion rather than about attitudes toward sex specifically. Some redirect the "fertility" idea toward other things, while others are more literal.
From:snakesinspace
Date:February 9th, 2008 04:07 am (UTC)
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Anyway, it's interesting to watch conflict within a church from several angles in several different churches.

Let's get ready to rumble!
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From:heimskringla
Date:February 9th, 2008 07:29 pm (UTC)
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The forms of Christianity that people are least likely to leave are those which are often tied with their identity and fairly well integrated into society. In my experience people are more likely to leave a Pentecostal/Holiness/Non-Denominational church than they are an established church.

Plenty of Italians are nominal Catholics; they use birth control and think the Pope's a pleasant, Santa-Claus like fellow; they go to church on major holidays because they've always done it or because it's a family tradition.

The same can be said for a lot of Anglicans, although there are plenty of other factors that make Anglicanism more attractive.

People may switch parishes but they rarely leave the fold. I know quite a few lapsed Catholics but not so many lapsed pagans. Paganism is also quite a lot more open than many forms of traditional church-based Christianity. There's not a need for pagan churches in the same way there's a need for Catholic or Anglican or whatever denomination to have a church.
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From:wishesofastar
Date:February 10th, 2008 03:00 am (UTC)
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Actually, my father's church is facing this very issue. He's a member of a Presbyterian church which is considering leaving the National Presbyterian organization and joining with one of the major Evangelical groups, all over the national organization's acceptance of homosexuality. So, yeah, it's totally political.

As to the young mothers in paganism thing; I had no idea this was the case. Frankly, I expected the opposite. I thought that few pagans wanted to have children, and certainly not at a young age. Perhaps I'm projecting, though.
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From:caelesti
Date:April 7th, 2008 07:05 pm (UTC)
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I think Christians in general are more likely to stick with their church than Pagans, part of this is if you leave the faith you grew up with, perhaps it's easier to leave later groups you join than if you never have.

However, there have also been recent studies that have found that people are church-hopping more frequently- both due to moving a lot, and also because of spiritual searching.

In observing the UK Anglicans, and the widespread European secularism I really think centuries of state churches has had a bad effect on religion. Government influence on religion can be a very corrupting and stagnating influence. I'm grateful for the separation of church & state we have here, and think American religiosity is to some degree a result of this.

P.S. what's "N14"?
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:April 7th, 2008 07:46 pm (UTC)
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N14 is a chaotic, anarchistic, discoridan crewe that sort of got "together" to do "something" to "Colour the Grey" and disrupt the WTO meetings on Nov. 14, 2002. The list is still sort of active, but "active" is a bit of a stretch, really. Every so often Jaq or Sean will post on it.

The most recent Colouring took place on Jan 26, 2007.

The nicest thing about it is that it's literally world-wide. No fees, no participation requirements, and no worries. Just good ol' Chaotes gettin' down on the Man.

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