What is the greatest danger to Christianity? Sentimentality

Stanley Hauerwas offered a simple answer – Sentimentality.   The challenge with sentimentality is that it is a presentation of an accommodated form  of faith, made to stir emotions but not disrupt our lives in a positive way.

Take for example the traditional pre-Super Bowl National Anthem.  I heard a commenter from Australia note how strange that all appeared to him.  The strangeness, from his perspective, grew from the quasi-religious nature of it all, the “civic religion” that passes for spiritual depth.  It was clearly part of that days “liturgy”, a liturgy that set us up for a form of worship (or at least a 100,000,000 of us!).

Of course, there is nothing per say “wrong” with it.  I love the Super Bowl.  I love the National Anthem.  However, can we really take note of the fact that it is sentimental, not real?

The Christian New Church message can lapse into that sentimentality as well.  We are no different than other faiths.  As a Pastor,frankly, the sentimental buttons are the easiest one’s to press.   They draw an immediate empathetic response and never, in my experience, engender any form of criticism.

Sentimentality has a place as a holding for those who need held.  That being said, if sentimentality pulls us into the comfort that deadens us to the necessary suffering and challenge of life, we missed.  Christianity is a witnessing, a watching as it were.  At its very core it is about a death, a waiting, a resurrection – very human experiences in which the Christian message can create a holding in a new way.

We are to be different.  We are to be unique.  We are, as St. Francis famously said, to preach the Gospel every day and if needs be use words.  In that sense, YOU may well be the only Gospel many ever read.  That is not a sentimental task. That is the task of transformation.  Kelly Clarkson?  She got me choked up.  God? He gave me a new heart.


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