Modern American Christianity written by Nicole Clark, King University

Written by Nicole Clark, King University, Religions of the World

Modern American Christianity, Nicole Clark

Nicole Clark is an undergraduate student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies at King University. Her greatest hope is to glorify the Lord with her life and “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

Modern American Christianity

Modern American Christianity, Nicole Clark

Almost 1,700 years after the Council at Nicaea affirmed one of the most fundamental doctrines of Christianity about Jesus’s deity and humanness, I sometimes wonder if the modern American Christian message looks anything like that of the early Christian church. I see a few noticeable differences today that might shock the early church leaders. The boldest of which is the step away from the most basic premise of Christianity, that there is just one God. There has also been a shift in the attitude towards wealth and the hope of what heaven will be.

  1. Monotheism is a little blurry.
Modern American Christianity, Nicole Clark

The most fundamental belief in Christianity is the belief that there is just one God who created and continues to maintain all things. Kenneth Copeland and the Word of Life movement have blurred the lines of what monotheism means today in order to give people the power to speak change into their own lives. Men like Copeland, Benny Hinn, and Creflo Dollar point to Psalm 86:2, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you” as proof that believers are God and can act in the power of God as well. Verses such as Jer. 10:6, “there is none like You, O Lord” and 1 Sam. 2:2, “there is no one holy like the Lord, indeed, there is no one besides You” contradict the claim that man can be anything like God.

To claim oneself as Holy or having the power to speak something into existence goes against the basic premise of Christianity. Colossians 1:16 states, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible.” There is but one God, and the Bible affirms that He alone created everything. In Isaiah 64:8, God’s people are described as “the clay” and He as “the potter.” The created thing cannot be equal in power to the creator and to suggest otherwise changes the God of the Bible into a mere idol of man’s own desires.                                                                                                                                 

  1. The pursuit of wealth is now a core message.
Modern American Christianity, Nicole Clark

In the quest to have eternal life, a rich young man came to Jesus and asked him what he must do. In Matthew 19:16-22, Jesus told the man, “sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Jesus’s message of self-sacrifice was too much for the young man, and sadly, he walked away without the assurance of true faith. Jesus’s message of sacrifice and devotion to God has drastically changed over time.

The largest and most popular churches in the U.S. now preach that “it’s God’s will for you to live in prosperity instead of poverty” and not live in debt (Joel Osteen). God indeed desires for his people to prosper, but not in temporal and earthly ways. Jesus told his followers not to focus on earthly treasures, but instead focus on heavenly and eternal rewards (Matt. 6:19-21). Even more condemning of worldly riches, Jesus warned that a person “cannot serve God and money” (Matt 6:24). There can be only one master of the heart.

 

  1. Heaven is the new vacation hotspot.
Modern American Christianity, Nicole Clark

Another aspect of Christianity that has changed is this newly revised vision of what Heaven is going to be like for individuals. The Bible says, in heaven, there will be no more sin and believers will be in the presence of God (Rev. 21:4-8). However, the modern American version of heaven has little to do with finally being free of sin and worshipping God and more to do with living in luxury. It’s not much of a surprise that America’s third-richest pastor, Benny Hinn, paints a picture of heaven as an extravagant city surrounded with jewels and gold with little mention of heaven’s true purpose. Jesus promises eternal life in heaven for believers who confess that Christ is the Son of God who was the propitiation for the sins of his people. Heaven, however, is not a shiny bejeweled vacation spot where people can indulge themselves in their greatest desires. Heaven is the dwelling place of a Holy God. Fellowship and worship of God in heaven should be the heart’s desire of every Christian.

Humankind seems destined to twist the Holy Scriptures to fit their own ideas and desires. When I look at Christianity today, I wonder how the most fundamental beliefs got manipulated and lost. If Christianity is to be based on the monotheistic principle that there truly is only one God, then there must be reverence for that and man must stop trying to make himself into his own idol. In the quest for a perfect and prosperity filled life, Jesus warns that there is room for just one master in a person’s life. We should never lose site of the call to repentance and faithful obedience to the one true God, the God of the Bible. Only then will we have a right view of wealth and ultimately, heaven.

For a more detailed review of what the modern American Christian message looks like today, I highly recommend the 2018 documentary,  American Gospel: Christ Alone (a condensed version is available on YouTube).

Works Cited

American Gospel: Christ Alone. Directed by Brandon Kimber, Transition Studios, 2018.

Bennet, Karen. “The Shocking Net Worth of These 10 Richest Pastors Will Blow Your Mind.” Cheat Sheet. 31 Jan. 2019  https://www.cheatsheet.com/entertainment/net-worth-richest-pastors-will-blow-your-mind.html/

“Heaven.” Find Shepard, 5 Aug. 2019, https://www.findshepherd.com/bible-verses-about-entering-the-kingdom-of-heaven.html.

Hinn, Benny. “A Most Beautiful Teaching on Heaven. You’re Going to Love it!” YouTube,  uploaded by Benny Hinn Ministries, 11 May 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3nJHy7fOjw.

Hudson, Don Michael. Foundations of Christian Thought and Practice: Selected Readings and Workbook. E-book, Pulp Press, 2013.

“Promised Land.” My Olive Tree, 2020, https://www.myolivetree.com/prophetic-reasons-to-plant/,

Kenneth Copeland Ministries. 2020. https://www.kcm.org.

Money.” The Order of Preachers, 11 Oct. 2015, https://orderofpreachersindependent.org/2015/10/11/riches-the-rev-deacon-scott-brown-opi/.

“One God.” Bible Timeline, 2020, https://bibletimeline.org.uk/additional-reading/an-age-of-pluralism.

 

 

The Adaptation of Buddhist Practices in the Western World: Why It’s a Good Thing

Written by Kimberly Courtney, King University, Religions of the World Final Project

The Adaptation of Buddhist Practices in the Western World: Why It’s a Good Thing
Kimberly Courtney

Kimberly Courtner lives in East Tennessee. She is a full time Human Resource Analyst, wife, and mother of six. She enjoys time with her family, church, traveling and learning new things.

The Adaptation of Buddhist Practices in the Western World:

Why It’s a Good Thing

The Adaptation of Buddhist Practices in the Western World: Why It’s a Good Thing
Kimberly Courtney

My son at the Gakwonsa Temple in Cheonan, South Korea

            Buddhism is one of the largest religions in the world today, and is expected to increase up until 2030. This religion originated in Tibet and is based around the teachings of Buddha. There are traditions, practices, and beliefs of this religion that are unique to this religion, but similar to the Hindu religion as well.  Those that practice Buddhism – known as Buddhists – believe in reincarnation. That is, they believe that death is not the end but instead a person is reborn after they pass. Buddhists believe that finding enlightenment is how to stop the cycle of rebirth. They believe that one must achieve inner peace to find enlightenment.  Enlightenment occurs when aversion and clinging are abandoned. Not a goal to be attained; it is effortlessly realized as the way things naturally are when aversion and clinging are abandoned.

For some, Buddhism is a religion. For others, it is a philosophy, while others practice Buddhism to find themselves and experience inner peace. Buddhism is a religion that is practiced worldwide. It is the study of oneself and the study  is to forget oneself, and to  forget oneself is to be enlightened by all things.  According to World Population Review, in the United States alone, 1.2% of the population is made up of practicing Buddhists. This is a growing number  to seriously consider. According to an article in The Atlantic, “Buddhism has been popular in various forms among certain celebrities and tech elites, but the religion’s primary draw for many Americans now appears to be mental health.” The article goes on to say how many Americans are adapting the practices of Buddhist meditation to heal their overall mental health and to cut costs on medication, therapies, and physician visits that are so expensive  to the working person.  Like the old practice of the religion, many are finding that the power of healing is instilled in the simplistic recitation and meditation of the ancient art of Buddhism.

The Adaptation of Buddhist Practices in the Western World: Why It’s a Good Thing
Kimberly Courtney

The Byodo-In Temple in Ahuimanu, Hawaii

Common practices of the Eastern civilization can be seen as useful practices in our Western world today. Little did we know that these practices have worked for many centuries in the East among the people of the Buddhist religion. The practice of meditation or mental development is also a growing trend here in the Western world.  Eastern Buddhists look within themselves to find the calming and clarity to reach their inner peace, This being a form of meditation or Samatha. The object of this practice is to let the thoughts that come to mind arise and then simply let go of them, thus clearing the path to inner peace. Another practice of meditation is Vipassana, or insight. Vipassana allows a person to see things as they really are, liberating one to the highest happiness. Maitri or Metta Meditation will activate interest in others, the cultivation of benevolence, loving kindness or goodwill to others once the mind has been freed.

The Western world is adapting these ancient practices to achieve their own health and well being. The users of this practice in the West are not using the ancient art as a religious tool or practice. The western civilization has conformed these practices to a therapeutic concept from the daily stresses of the rat race we live in. Psychological science states that mindfulness can illuminate the workings of the mind, noting that a person can actually heal themselves depending on the state of mind. The constant interactions with one’s environment  depicts the level of treatment one can give themselves.  This in turn correlates the amount of healing or depth of inner peace that one receives.

The Adaptation of Buddhist Practices in the Western World: Why It’s a Good Thing
Kimberly Courtney

It is common to see Buddhist quotes and teachings in everything from calendars to movies in America today.

It is amazing that an ancient praxis can be used as a common cultural wave in society today. According to the New York Times, “ Meditation has now become a practice recommended for everyone.” The article goes on to say, “Yet Buddhism long ago generated insights that modern psychology is only now catching up to, for example, psychology has lately started to let go of its once-sharp distinction between “cognitive” and “affective” parts of the mind; it has started to see that feelings are so finely intertwined with thoughts as to be part of their very coloration.”  Secular Buddhists practices are growing in America today.

In recent studies, there has been a decline in stress and the adverse effects of stress in individuals with higher amounts of stress just by using the practice of meditation. There has also been a notable decrease in anxiety in individuals through meditation who have job-related anxiety in high pressure work environments. According to Healthline.com, some forms of meditation can decrease depression and improve a person’s overall  emotional health and leave them with a positive outlook. Meditation has been a key source in expanding the shrinking attention span, sharpening one’s mind and concentration, reversing patterns in the brain that lead to mind-wandering, and overall worry and stress.

Using this ancient art is beneficial not only to the emotions and psyche but the mind and body as well. Getting into the habitual practice of meditation in the pop culture western world can be an easy feat. There are many practicing meditation studios, gyms, and programs to join . Most of these cost less than the average therapy session with a psychologist or the average monthly gym fee. There are also practicing Buddhist temples in the Western world for those who want to indulge in the spiritual practice of Buddhism.

At the end of the day, Buddhism is a thriving religion that managed to make it from a simplistic beginning in a distant land that continues to grow in not only the Eastern world but also in the Western world as well.  Whether the practice be spiritual or secular, the outcomes of both are intertwined and beneficial for human beings. Buddha himself said it best: “Every human being is the author of his own health or disease.” This is where the West meets the East and they become one.

Referenced Articles

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/06/opinion/buddhism-western-philosophy.html

https://mindworks.org/blog/buddhist-meditation-techniques-practices/

https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/buddhist-countries

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2019/03/buddhism-meditation-anxiety-therapy/584308/

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/12-benefits-of-meditation#TOC_TITLE_HDR_6

https://www.nytimes.com/2002/10/26/us/beliefs-development-modern-buddhism-traced-mix-eastern-western-influences.html

 

 

 

 

 

Could the Split with the Catholic Church be Prevented? Written by Mallory Davis:

Written by Mallory Davis, King University, Religions of the World

Mallory Davis, King University

My name is Mallory Davis. I was born and raised in Monahans, Texas a small town in the Permian Basin. I graduated from Monahans High School in 2019 where I participated in Acapella Choir, Lady Lobo Juniorettes, cheerleading, track, and a four-year varsity swimmer. I was a regional swim qualifier all four years and served as team captain my junior and senior year as well as being named Outstanding Female Swimmer those two years. My hobbies include scuba-diving, boating and fishing, and rebuilding old cars with my dad. I have led praise and worship at my hometown church and been actively involved in community service. At the end of my senior year of high school, I signed on as a dual athlete at King University to swim and cheer. I am currently a sophomore at King.

 

Could the Split with the Catholic Church be Prevented?

Mallory Davis, King University

Henry VIII has always been a controversial character in English history. The man was notorious for divorcing his wives or having them beheaded attempting to secure a male heir leading to the old adage, “Divorced, beheaded, died. Divorced beheaded survived.” Life for a wife of Henry VIII was not very easy, but what if his first wife Catherine of Aragon could have given him a surviving male heir? Would he have still split from the Catholic Church, or would he have continued to stay with his wife of 24 years? Logistically, several things suggest that the break from the Catholic Church did not have to occur. Henry held a devout devotion to the Church in his early reign and was extremely devoted to Catherine of Aragon during her early childbearing years. Worried about securing the Tudor legacy, Henry only turned to divorce as a last resort after Catherine was unable to produce a living male son.

Henry’s Religious Upbringing

Henry VII had been religious from a very young age as was expected of him because he was only second in line to the throne. It was custom for the first son to become a high-ranking church official. Henry was given the best education possible and participated in things such as sports, music, and art. He would also partake in mass five times a day unless he was hunting; then he would only take part in mass three times a day. When his brother died at age 15, the death left Henry as the sole male heir changing the course of Henry’s vigorous religious training forever. Henry had to leave behind the idea of becoming a church official, but although he would be leaving it behind, he never forgot what he was taught by the Church and many things that he did after being crowned King of England at 17 reflected his staunch religious upbringing.

Henry’s Life with his First Wife, Catherine

Catherine of Aragon, in my opinion, was Henry’s only true love. He fell in love with her when she was stuck in England when Henry VII, Henry’s father, was trying to figure out what to do with her after his brother Arthur, Catherine’s late husband passed away. Henry VII solved this problem by marrying her to his second son who would succeed him as king.  He was married to Catherine for 24 years, longer than any of Henry’s other five wives. It was not until Catherine was in her 40s, and it had become apparent that she would not bare Henry a living male heir that he began to look for ways to solve his dilemma. His lust for a son who would take over for him after he died made him begin to look for other ways to get a male heir.

Henry Tries to Legitimize His “Bastard” Son 

After it became apparent that Catherine would not be able to give Henry the heir he wanted, he came up with a few ideas to remedy the situation. One of these ideas was legitimizing his healthy “bastard” son with Elizabeth Blount, a maid of honor to Queen Catherine. She became one of Henry’s many mistresses, and she had borne him a healthy son, Henry FitzRoy, in 1519.  Henry VIII decided that if he could not have a healthy boy with Catherine, he would make his healthy bastard son with Blount a prince by legitimizing him. Henry publicly acknowledged this son and bestowed many honors on him, including giving him the double Dukedom of Richmond and Somerset. It has been suggested that FitzRoy was bestowed with such lavish titles and positions

Defender of the Faith

Throughout these early years in Henry’s effort to begat an heir, he maintained a strong relationship with the Catholic Church. He even wrote a book called Assertio Septem Sacramentorum in which he defended the Catholic Church from religious leader Martin Luther who had written Ninety-five Theses, arguing against the perversion many felt was rampant in the Catholic Church. As a reward, Pope Leo X gave Henry the title “Defender of the Faith” in 1521.  It was not until 13 years later that Henry VIII would be forced to completely break from the Catholic Church after disagreeing with the pope over several things, most importantly, the refusal to grant an annulment from Catherine, who was by that time, obviously beyond child-bearing years. The annulment would essentially declare a marriage null and void, essentially saying that the marriage had never occurred in the first place. Henry had petitioned for this annulment based on Catherine’s brief marriage to his brother and the Biblical book of Leviticus’s teaching against marrying a brother’s spouse.

The Pope’s Refusal to Annul

Pope Clement VII delayed and denied Henry’s request for annulment for many years, citing several reasons for the denial.

  • The main reason was that the pope and the Catholic Church had already granted a dispensation for his marriage to Catherine, essentially saying that the Levitical passage did not apply to Henry. He could not annul a marriage that had been approved by the Church in the first place.
  • Secondly, the Church feared that an annulment such as this would be viewed as a divorce which was not recognized. It was against basic beliefs. As Henry was the “Defender of the Faith” and the king, the pope especially would not allow this divorce. It was believed if the king was allowed a divorce, then common people would believe it was okay to divorce their wives as well.
  • Finally, Catherine of Aragon was the Holy Roman Emperor’s niece. Charles V had conquered Rome and was holding Pope Clement VII as hostage. He refused to allow the pope to grant Henry’s request for annulment as he would not allow his own family to break from Catholic law and be disgraced by a divorce. Catherine herself was a very devout Catholic and had petitioned her uncle to fight for her cause.

Henry Divorces Catherine and the Church

For Henry, divorce from Catherine had been a last resort, but now it was the only option he had left. As the Church would not grant the annulment or a divorce, he had to take matters into his own hands. Henry’s mind was made up. He would turn his back on his own faith. Instead of prolonging the situation any longer, Henry declared himself the Head of the Church of England, breaking from the Catholic Church. He made Thomas Cranmer Archbishop of Canterbury who then quickly granted Henry his desire divorce from Catherine. During these years of waiting for an answer from the pope, Henry had fallen in love with the young Anne Boleyn, one of Catherine’s ladies in waiting. In less than a year after his divorce from Catherine, Henry married an already pregnant Anne who had promised to bear him the son he so desired. In 1533, Anne gave birth to a daughter, Elizabeth. Later, she gave birth to two stillborn boys, and Henry would have her beheaded on false allegations of treason to continue his quest for a son. However, by this time, the breach with the Catholic Church had become irreparable, and Protestantism was quickly spreading through England and other parts of Europe.

In Conclusion

Henry’s obsession with having a male heir finally led to his break with the Catholic Church. He maintained a strong relationship with the Church right until the end, indicating that if Catherine had ever been able to produce a living male son, he would not have pursued the route he finally took. Henry had first tried to legitimize his bastard son Henry FitzRoy and sought annulment from his first marriage before resorting to divorce and breaking with the Church. Only after the annulment was denied by the pope did he become desperate enough to completely part ways with the Church. This parting had grave repercussions on the future of religion in England. The Catholic monasteries were dissolved, and priests were relieved from their duties. Attending mass became illegal. Citizens were forced to take an oath to Henry VIII as the Head of the Church of England, and many who refused to do so were executed. Ultimately, the most consequential effect of Catherine of Aragon’s inability to produce a living male son for Henry was the establishment of Protestantism in England under the new Church of England.

SOURCES

Henry VIII. (2020, January 03). Retrieved September 28, 2020, from

https://www.biography.com/royalty/henry-viii

How Henry VIII’s Divorce Led to Reformation. (n.d.). Retrieved September 28, 2020, from

https://www.history.com/.amp/news/henry-viii-divorce-reformation-catholic-church

Person. (2008, August 08). Henry VIII. Retrieved September 28, 2020, from

https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/rulers/henry-viii.html