Saturday, November 09, 2013

Beware the Cult of Personality

I saw this all the time in liberal Protestant Christianity, which is why I left it. Mainline denominations are so starved for any sort of discernible growth (most are shrinking from 10 to 25% a year in both membership and average Sunday attendance) that anything that smacks of growth, no matter how heretical or bizarre is embraced and justified under the "the Church must change or die" liberal Protestant banner.

The problem that I always warned about is that razzle-dazzle New Age-y stuff like this is that while it can show growth, not all growth is good. A Cancer grows, but that is in no way good. I am not saying this particular Methodist pastor is a cancer; I know nothing about her other than what this article says, and news media are notoriously bad at covering religion topics objectively. My educated guess is that she is either a theological fad that will soon fade or is creating a ministry that is a cult of personality.

The latter is very dangerous both to parishioners sucked into such places and to the congregation itself because once that pastor either leaves or gets reassigned somewhere else, the entire congregation will collapse. When churches suddenly go from 10 people to 200+, you have to ask these questions because it can just as easily go from 200+ back to 10 because people who only show up for razzle dazzle liturgy or shock value theology are notoriously flighty, and they will be out the door just as quickly to follow the next New Thing that comes down the pike.


Jay said...

Nadia Bolz-Weber is actually an ELCA pastor. In some ways she is quite orthodox compared to others on the left, such as a vigorous defense of the bodily resurrection. In other ways, she is on the far left. The best spin I can put on her ministry is that, in her own way, she is reaching people who would never set foot in church otherwise. The main problem I have is not so much with her, but with (as you rightfully point out), how she has been raised up as a poster child by the liberal mainline as a way to do ministry and revitalize a diminishing denomination. More than once, I have seen her referred to as a "rock star" in ELCA quarters.

The Archer of the Forest said...

And she works in the Methodist church? Weird.

Jay said...

The article is somewhat confusing - she appeared in a Methodist church on her tour promoting her book "Pastrix". Her pastoral call is to a mission start of the ELCA called the "House for All Sinners and Saints" in Denver.

The Archer of the Forest said...

Yes. yes. I thought her face looked familiar, but I couldn't place here in the context of the article.