Café Christianity

By Curtis Rittenour
Posted June 20, 2016

A doctoral student from Baylor University has tapped into research from the large National Study of Youth and Religion (NSYR) and has discovered that “social media users were more likely to believe that they can pick-and-choose their beliefs. The NSYR asked if people agreed with this statement: ‘Some people think that it is okay to pick and choose religious beliefs without having to accept the teachings of their religious faith as a whole.’ Those who had used social media earlier in life were more likely to agree than those who had not."

Kate Blanchard from the University of Southern California describes this phenomenon as “cafeteria Christianity … usually referring to those Christians who went to church on Sundays but then did whatever they wanted the rest of the week.”She believes that this is nothing new and has been around long before social media. As reasoning humans, some people accept their religious traditions more readily while others “question, ignore, revise, rebel against, or even convert to different traditions.”

Blanchard suggests that the push against a smörgåsbord approach to Christianity springs from the time of Constantine who “decided he needed to build a more uniform religion for his empire.” It supposedly led to the outlaw of all “wrong” forms of Christian belief and practice, and to persecution. Her conclusion is that religious purity “has always only ever been a dream for control freaks. It’s high time we gave that dream up.”

Is it possible to hold to a particular set of Christian beliefs and also have “the spirit of neighborly love”? The apostle Paul condemned false teachings (Galatians 1:6–9) but also wrote, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18).

Does the Bible recommend a cafeteria Christianity? How do the following passages figure in? “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). “There is no other God besides me” (Isaiah 45:21).

Some view the teachings of the Bible as different flavors of ice cream that you pick from to suit your taste. Is that accurate, or are they really life and death matters that lead you into greater light or greater darkness?

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