A Large Family, but a Broken Family?

I’m not sure “trivialize” is a correct word to use, but I’ll try it here. On a Google search, trivialize is defined as “make (something) seem less important, significant, or complex than it really is; synonyms include underplay, downplay, diminish.”

In light of this blog’s theme—”spiritual Canyons exist, on many fronts. hopelessly Divided?”—I think Christians sometimes trivialize faith-related matters. I work with refugees and immigrants—a great privilege! But, I often sense feelings of disregard, even animosity, between their Christian traditions. Ethiopian evangelical Christians do not seem to consider Ethiopian orthodox believers as fellow Christians. An eastern European orthodox believer talked with much disrespect of eastern European Pentecostal believers. Hispanic evangelical Christians do not seem to consider Hispanic Catholic believers as their fellow Christians. This disdain for the other is often reciprocated. Rather than Christianity being a large family of God, it contains many splintered groups who trivialize the complexities of each other, and then question each other’s validity—quite a broken family.

I admit, they highlight big differences, and of my immigrant acquaintances, they know each other better than I know them. Concerns sometimes include the following: Orthodox and Catholic Christians have different Bibles than other Christians; their Bibles include the apocryphal books like Esdras and Maccabees. Concern is raised about prayers through, or even to, Mother Mary. They make so much of their traditions and rituals, as if they are as important as the Bible. They don’t experience the Holy Spirit in the same way we do, so their way is less legitimate. And within these big differences highlighted, valid concerns are there, but often strong, sincere allegiance is offered to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, it’s just done in the way a person was raised to do it. Sometimes that is with the heavy use of rituals and traditions, or lack thereof if a person is raised to know God without that.

I tend to advocate for unity in the Family, seeking to understand that naturally there will be differences within the siblings because we come to know God through different means. I affirm our differences, especially when I see sincerity and authenticity, which I often do. I KNOW, I know, it’s important to be careful to not water-down Truth for the sake of unity.

I mention here that concerns are raised, and disregard is extended at times toward the practices of Catholic Christians and Orthodox Christians. What would be your thought toward Jehovah’s Witnesses? Would they be considered part of this broken family of God mentioned at the bottom of the second paragraph? Why or why not?

(NEXT TIME—do we sometimes trivialize the sharing and receiving of faith?)

5 thoughts on “A Large Family, but a Broken Family?”

  1. Freud referred to this as “The Narcissism of Small Differences” – the tendency for communities with adjoining territories and close relationships to engage in constant feuds and mutual ridicule because of hypersensitivity to details of differentiation. It happens in most all ideologies, whether religious, political, or social. And the more rigid the ideology, the more likely the differences will be emphasized.

    As an outsider looking in, I can tell you that the constant squabbling amongst Christian groups makes me shake my head. As someone who spent a lot of time studying religious history, the amount of overlap between not only Christians denominations, but ALL Judaeo/Christian religions, is far greater than the sum of differences. The constant bickering and “one-upping” among denominations does a great disservice to their “witness”, as you would say.

  2. What a great topic. I agree with the Freudian reference completely. Like school yard bullys in a small Midwestern town, which is almost exclusively Caucasian, there are always ways to differentiate between ourselves and others. How many different types of vanilla ice cream are there? I guess that’s how the greater purpose gets overlooked. We focus on the things that set us apart from our neighbors and completely overlook the second greatest command. Maybe it’s the idea that the pathway to destruction is wide and me and my denomination cannot possibly be on that course, so it must be those other guys? Or, maybe it’s just a case of being too busy talking to listen to just how close all our mission statements are?

  3. Growing up I was often asked what religion I was, didn’t know it at the time but the kids it seemed were trying to up the other by what church we attended. As I got older it seemed we still do that. Trying to make our religion better than yours. As I have studied the history of the church and really know what it means to be a christian, more about a relationship than what church you attend, I have put it in my head that it doesn’t matter what church you attend. It does matter if you believe Jesus is our savior as Son of God. If you believe that at the core of your belief lets work together for the sake of the kingdom. Jehovah Witness’s do not believe this. They believe him to be a prophet but not the Son of God. I do not believe they are part of the Christian family.

    1. Kevin, having had much exposure to the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization I would like to set a couple of things straight.

      First, Jehovah’s Witnesses do believe Jesus is the “only begotten Son” of God. They also believe Jesus was born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, died, descended into hell (which they perceive to be the “grave”), and ascended into heaven. They also believe Jesus’s sacrifice is an all-encompassing atonement for our sins.

      What they don’t believe is that Jesus and the Father are one. They believe Jesus is a separate entity as the Son of the Father, and no man is capable of being both the son and father. The Holy Spirit , according to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, is merely the way by which the Father brings His will to fruition. A couple of scriptures they use to point to the differences between Father and Son are Matthew 6:6 and John 3:16.

      However, just as you mentioned, our relationship with God is the most important piece of our faith. I will not presume to know where Jehovah’s Witnesses stand in God’s eyes. I will look at them as fellow Christians, even if they don’t give me the same consideration.
      Praise be to God!

  4. Kevin and Jim, thanks for the thoughts, including about JWs. Jim, I believe you are right on this. I didn’t know much about them before having in depth conversations with my friend Ongee, a South Sudanese man who is JW. He believes Jesus died for his sins, he believes Jesus is the only begotten son of God, but they do not believe in the Trinity, and that Jesus is God the Son, and therefore equally divine as God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. The New World Translation–their Bible–does some real twisting to John 1:1 and Colossians 2:9, to name a couple. Col 2:9–“Because it is in him that all the fullness of divine quality dwells bodily.” while NIV reads ”
    in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form…”
    Personally, Ongee believes Jesus is his Savior and Son of God who effectively died for his sins. Some will get upset with me, but I do believe Ongee is my brother in Christ. BUT, AM I BOTHERED BY JWs messing with scripture, majorly, YES I AM.

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