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Thursday, 15 August 2013

Thinking Naughty Thoughts... (in church!)


How could anyone resist a request to review a book on church practices entitled thus?! The byline, 'On church, and why I think we need to change', will bring groans from most clergy whilst the rest of us, that rapidly growing denomination on the edge of Exile, will celebrate. Written as a personal journey of discovery, de-discovery and re-discovery by South African author and 'thinker' Johan van der Merwe (JVDM), Thinking Naughty Thoughts covers a handful of sacred cows many Christians hold dear.

Despite the author having many close friends within the clergy, he tackles each topic, broken down per chapter, with vigour and clarity giving historical and theological context that question validity of much we accept without question. In fact, it is, indeed, written in a questioning style and although I sometimes found it a bit long winded that was only because my emerging thoughts have so much resonance with his subject matter.

JVDM covers questions such as 'Do I really have to belong to a local church?' and other thorny issues such as church leadership, tithing, church buildings and the biggie; worship. And it was when I reached the discussion on worship I was tipped over the edge, the PDF I'd been sent was no longer sufficient, I had to order the paperback!

In addition to the questions and personal conclusions there are some great quotes:
p96: ‘Christianity started out in Palestine as a fellowship; it moved to Greece and became a philosophy; it moved to Italy and became an institution; it moved to Europe and became a culture; it came to America and became an enterprise.’ (Sam Pascoe)

p226: However, now it seems that Christianity is more affected by Western culture, than Christianity is actually affecting the West. (John Michael Talbot)

p239: In my own case, the natural progression in my understanding and practice of worship went from noise and sound and lights and music to silence and solitude. Embracing silence and solitude, which Thomas Merton called 'the supreme luxuries of life,' has opened up my life to a rich and deep heritage of worship of which I was unaware in the time when my practice of worship was too one-dimensional and preoccupied with itself. (JVDM)
Some will say the practices critiqued are an easy target and I personally have some sympathy with that view, I cannot say I agree with absolutely everything JVDM says, particularly as he appears to still view through a lens tinted (tainted?) by fundamentalism, yet overall it was such a joy to read even if it serves to simply reinforce my own views. Regardless I feel hats need to be tipped in his general direction, at last someone has articulated views of all of us on that narrow edge of Exile, I rest our case...

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