Five Sources of Negative Cultural Syncretism in Christianity

Syncretism is the blending of different religions into something that isn’t really any of its original components. Some people call this a la carte religion. You pick a little of this and a little of that until you come up with something that agrees with your sensibilities.

As secularism and secular-humanism is on the rise in the West it is important that we understand how these forces affect our faith and congregational life. It is not all negative but it can be negative. We should acknowledge both. This post will focus on the negative aspects of this and a future post will focus on the positive.

1 – Consumerism.
Secularism and post-modernism put the individual in the center. When you are the center of your universe then it only makes sense that things should be to your liking. Congregational life, life in Christ, is not set up in a way that is agreeable to this so you have tension. What I have seen in several cases (if not many) is that culture wins this one. People “go to church” to get things their way just like they do in every other areas of their lives. Many churches are nearly run by the complainers that at its root comes out of secularism, not Christianity. This expresses itself in the idea of giving and the minister doing the ministry. The congregation becomes a location for the exchange of religious goods and services rather than a cruciforum community where submission to Christ and sacrifice are common place and even expected.

2 – An unhealthy sexual ethic. If this is all there is and secularism is true then hedonism would make sense to some people. But this is more than just pleasure, this is about identity. As Christians, our identity comes in and through Christ. We see this crop up in many forms but probably the most common is the complete lack of accountability in many congregations. There may be people on the praise team or a Bible class teacher who everyone knows is having an affair. No one says a word. It is just too sensitive or we just don’t want to know. This does harm to everyone, including the one engaged in the sin. This is very culturally driven rather than Spirit/scripture driven.

3 – Corporate mindset. This is most easily seen in two places: 1) what we count and 2) how leaders lead. If you count attendance and contribution and base success on if those go up or down your congregation has this mindset. If the leaders conflate leadership with decision making rather than shepherding then you probably have this cultural influence getting its say rather than what the scriptures say about what it means to be a leader.

4 – The cult of personality. Some churches rise and fall on the success of a single individual. Unless that individual is Jesus, this is also culturally conditioned. I try to have as little personality as possible just to avoid this from the start!

5 – Busyness. There can certainly be Christian busyness but I don’t see it very often. Busyness is secular by nature because the people of God should be people who know how to rest, be still and trust God. Once we understand busyness for what it is, we can begin setting things aside to make more room for God, spiritual practices/disciplines, and our neighbors.

What would you add or subtract?

6 Responses to Five Sources of Negative Cultural Syncretism in Christianity

  1. Andrew Burns says:

    Team Making – We sometimes divide ourselves into groups (e.g Cowboys fans Vs. Steelers Fans) While this may make for fun on game day, it’s tough in the pews. For example, people who are for the preacher or against him. Or, pro-(substitute your ministry) or anti-(substitute your ministry). At some point, we need to be all-in for each other and for Christ without drawing lines and making antagonistic teams.

  2. Bob Brandon says:

    Nationalism: the cult of the state or nation.

  3. Dwight Haast says:

    Regarding Christian people as secular or doing secular things is problematic since all things we do are to be done within the context of Jesus. The Jews didn’t have a concept of secular things as all things were done towards God or involving God in some aspect. Their music was sung to God about God and His grace. There was no secular music. The entertainment the Jews had were feast which included God. Entertainment was spending time at home with the family. There was no football, baseball, etc.

    • mattdabbs says:

      The secular in secular humanism is anti-Christian. So the secular in the post is not about Christians being secular but about a worldview called secular humanism. I hope that makes more sense. Your point is correct as it stands. I guess I am struggling to see how it follows the post. Maybe you can help me with that.

  4. Dwight Haas says:

    I was merely making a statement, because many Christians divide themselves into a dualism of sorts in that we are doing secular things and then we do Christian things. Like going home (secular) vs going to church and/or worship (Christian).
    This argument has been used by some when the “worship is life” concept was going around, because the argument is that not all things we do in life are worship.
    But I find this argument against scripture where in Rom.14:6 Paul makes the argument that although we may deliberately assign a day to God or deliberately not, in totality and reality “For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”
    We often don’t think that going the secular route in thinking separates God from us, but that is what it does and as you note it makes it about us at the center.
    I agree with your article.

Leave a Reply

Follow

Follow this blog

Email address