This post about church divisions reminded me of some experiences in India. In that country, where human suffering is all around and bloody, nihilistic religions flourish, can you guess what the churches are most concerned with? Denominational rivalry, of course! If you think it’s bad here, you wouldn’t believe what it’s like there. Churches mount loudspeakers on electric poles, trying to blast their message out to the most people. In Sunday School, they don’t teach the basic bible stories – they teach them why the Baptists are wrong and are going to hell. If you’re a missionary from America you’re treated like Paul sent back down from heaven – until you try to teach at the church across the street. Then God help you, because His people surely won’t. Theological sophistication consists of having a deeply nuanced understanding of why your denomination is right and all the others are raving heretics. In other words, in India they are still fighting proxy battles in the interdenominational warss which petered out long ago in the West. I understand this is common in the Third World. Everyone wants their own little kingdom, even if it’s a religious one.
Unlilke some, I find this more amusing than anything else. I was lucky enough to grow up among people who believed in unity and I’ve seen enough change even in my lifetime to believe that the overall trend in the US at least is solidly towards unity-with-diversity amongst the mainstream denominations. The real clash that the future holds is that between the liberalized, more inclusive nothern-hemisphere church and the increasingly radicalized southern hemisphere – South America, the Indian subcontinent, and especially Africa.