Modern Context Of Churches
I fancy myself a Christian because I go to church every other week. It is also the box I tick on my application forms. It is a feel good thing I do to cloak my guilt at the end of the day. But I have a flawed mentality about the role of the church in molding me and the society.
The church is traditionally a place of worship and reverence for believers. However, in the modern context, it is just a fully established sect with set places of worship and a hierarchy of officiants. In this time and age, where would you find a church that fits the Biblical description of a “virgin bride”? I was raised in the Seventh-Day Adventist church, a conservative mainline church introduced by the missionaries in the 19th century. Modesty is highly valued; women do not wear trousers or earrings and eating port is out of the question. Also, unlike other churches, we worshipped on Saturdays. But beyond regulating what I eat and wear and when I pray, little else showed personal growth.
A new, modern and youth oriented type of church has since evolved. They claim to have ‘reasonable’ limits on behaviour, so as to not burden the individual’s attempt to come to Christ. The doctrine of seeking an upright life has been reduced to spreading lukewarm religion –“you’re OK just as you are”, “Mother Goddess watches over all her children”, “God loves you and wants you to be happy (and rich)”, “donate money to the church and the Lord will transcend all your problems.
The commercialization of the church has been spearheaded by corrupt clergy who seek personal gain. The infamous Bible verse Malachi 3:10, “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse… [Says the Lord] and I will open the windows of heaven for you… blessings so great you won’t have enough room to [contain them]!” is the catch phrase for coaxing believers to give money and possessions to the church. Preaching to the masses is reduced to advertising the idea of salvation and its paraphernalia; ‘Anointing Oil’ and ‘Holy Water’.
Repentance has become a vicious bidding war – the more you give, the more your name move up Jesus’ ‘to forgive’ list. The enterprising priests gather followers with promises of deliverance, material wealth and prosperity if only they would recruit more members. And what with the charitable efforts on national television – donating blankets and building houses for the poor, if not to increase their numbers to the quota of 250 needed to be recognised as a church.
The role of the church in society is undermined in modern society. Winds of immorality blow strongly, fanned by crime, corruption and prejudice. Church leaders are caught in adulterous scandals, money laundering and racketeering activities. The image of a pure and veiled virgin has been tampered with, she now wears robes of corruption and hypocrisy. Statistics show that there is a general decay in morality. And yet the 2001 census revealed that 71% of Batswana identify themselves as Christians.
But isn’t the purpose of religion to reconnect our belief in a higher Being? To find meaning and understanding of the nature and the universe as well as human interactions? What is the value of strict rituals and severe laws if they do not contribute to the improvement of society? The Bible teaches that a house divided within itself cannot stand. That is pretty much why I have a problem calling myself a devout Christian. We are called to contemplate our beliefs and how they affect our relations with other people. If not, why should we be burdened?