Why are so many people repelled by Christianity and organized religion?
In a recent episode of the popular television show, Glee, several high school students explain why they are turned off by organized religion. From their perspective, the church is down on gays, women, and science. When you add to that the arrogant and judgmental attitudes found in many religious-right churches, it’s easy to see why people are repelled by religion. If the only faith options are fundamentalism or no religion, many people will opt for no religion. Thankfully, a better alternative exists—vibrant, centrist, open-minded, grace-filled, gender-equal, life-giving, moderate/mainline faith.
What problems do you see in “old-time religion”?
A lot of old-time religion is good and noble. Old time religion that focuses on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus fits into that category. But some old-time religion is neither good nor noble. Old-time religion gave us the crusades, the inquisition, and religious wars. Old-time religion oppressed women, defended slavery, and stifled scientific inquiry. The fact is, some of that “old-time religion” is unhealthy and needs to be discarded.
Your book has an unusual title. Where does it come from?
Years ago, an atheist and I became friends. Over time, he warmed up to the possibility of faith. Months later he said, “I’ve had an epiphany. I realize that I don’t reject Christianity. Instead, I reject the way that intolerant Christians package Christianity.” Not long after that conversation he said, “You’ve just about convinced me on this religion stuff. So I want to know—what’s the least I can believe and still be a Christian?” Although it took many years to write it, at that moment, this book was conceived.
Part one of your book reviews ten things Christians don’t need to believe while part two reviews ten things Christians do need to believe. Which section do you think will be more important to your readers?
I’m passionate about both sections. People need to know there’s a viable alternative to religious-right fundamentalism, so part one of the book is crucial. However, part two is even more vital. The heart of Christianity is our belief in Jesus—his life, teachings, example, death, and resurrection. A great benefit of these beliefs is that they provide promising answers to life’s most profound questions including: Where is God? What matters most? What brings fulfillment? What about suffering? And is there hope? Since these ultimate questions are the focus of part two, this section of the book is the most important.
How can congregations and church-goers benefit from this book?
This book can help congregations both internally and externally. The seven-week, congregation-wide initiative based on the book can energize individual members, and breathe new life into adult Sunday school classes and worship services. It can also help reach people in your community. When my church carried out this emphasis, attendance jumped over 20%, large numbers of visitors came, and we added over a dozen new members. The study guide provides church leaders with everything they need to carry out the event, including promotional tools, small group leader’s guidelines, and worship and sermon ideas. Moderate and mainline churches have a compelling faith story to tell! This book will help them do so boldly.
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