I try to keep up. Really, I do. Although my specialization is in ancient religions, at heart I’m an historian of ideas and I try to keep up with the origins of the many Christian denominations. You see, with so many competing versions of the one correct way to please God it pays to hedge your bets. Thing is, there’s so many options and some seem to spring out of nowhere, like toadstools after the rain. The other day I attended a local community event. One of those kinds of affairs where local organizations set up tents and sometimes sell food. Many of the tents were for churches. As supporters of community values (mostly) this isn’t unusual, even with the declining numbers in the mainstream. Then I heard a voice.
“Do you read?” the man asked. I confess to having a bookish look, so I admitted I do. “We want you to have a free book,” he said, handing me a plastic bag (warning sign one) containing a small paperback and several fliers. Now, I was here to look around and maybe get a bite to eat, so I thanked him, tucked the bag under my arm and walked on. Only on the way home did my wife look at the contents. The church—for it had to be a church giving such things away—was one of which I’d never heard. This would’ve been disorienting if it weren’t for the fact that ever since college—where I learned quite a lot about denominations—I’ve been noticing new varieties of Christianities, cropping up somewhat frequently. Each seems to believe it has found the answers, despite the threadbare denominations that have been around for centuries.
I make fun on nobody’s search for meaning, or the truth. It is, after all, a lifelong quest. I am suspicious of those who claim to have already gotten there, however. For those traditions that declare they’ve found the answer centuries ago, the passing years with their constant changes have worn on them. Especially if they’re awaiting a divine cataclysmic ending to it all that’s been delayed for a couple of millennia now. Others are, apparently, wanting to pump some fresh air into these tired lungs. This group featured a website “the famous one [all one word].com.” I was surprised and a touch saddened to see Jesus relegated to the role of a media celebrity. But then again, I can’t keep up like I used to.