The first thing a new Christian church should get straight

I think the first piece of literature — whether it be a position paper, a pamphlet or webpage — I think any new Christian church needs to get down is its understanding of and relationship with non-Christians.

There’s too much to unpack in a format as brief as blog writing, but having a Christian church — corporately and by its members — clear on its relationship with non-Christians is important

  • because Christianity is broadly known — in part because of its most noxious proponents — for using force, inflammatory rhetoric and the weight of dominant culture to get its way.
  • in the United States, culture and Christianity is loosing cohesion.
  • many if not most Christians care deeply about persons who hold another religion or none.
  • interfaith relationships are a helpful proxy for other important theological distinctives.

Discuss, if you like.

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. It was my church not explaining what it thought of other religions which was one of the things that pushed me away as a teenager. I grew up in the midst of a large amount of religious diversity in the urban West Midlands. Making sense of that religious diversity was very much on my mind but it was never addressed as an issue in preaching or anything. Within the aanctuary walls it wasn’t acknowleged and yet in my school Christianity was a minority.

  2. I think the bottom line for Christians is this: Love the Lord you God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and the second (commandment) is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. If we could truly “walk” that, the whole reaching out thing would not exist….we would have relationships with each other (fellowship) and have relationships with non-Christians, and just relax…..and allow God to work through us. Get over the whole converting thing….it’s God who draws and wins…not us. We just need to be there….walking, sometimes talking, listening, loving, being a true friend. Getting away from the “us verses them” theology that so many churches hold onto. Let’s serve people, meet their needs, be salt and light–and leave the rest up to God. But that’s just too simple for most Christians…..surely we need a 5 point Gospel program to make the heathens “get it”…right?? Peace….Kat

  3. I would say that “inflammatory rethoric” is a specifically Protestant trait, not generally Christian. I don’t see any inflammation in Catholic churches (apart from a few which are joining in the Charismatic movement) or in Orthodox churches. And the Anglican church is famous for being soooo boring, as Rowan Atkinson/Mr. Bean masterfully depicted in one of his TV episodes!

    I do not know what the bottom line is for Christians. The Christian religion does not seem to have been born from Jesus’s teachings and parables, but from the empty tomb and the tales of people who had seen him alive, which gave new meaning to his life in retrospect. Liberals tend to focus on the ethical message (and even then, a selective message centered upon the so-called “wisdom sayings” and generally ignoring the messianic/apocalyptic connotations of that ethics), which is a way of choosing one possible Jesus and rejecting other possible Jesuses. I plan to write on that in my blog one of these days (when I have some time, which is not frequent lately).

  4. Perhaps I am already used to Vatican rethoric, but Ratzinger is an excellent and accurate theologian. He is not saying anything that is not part of standard Catholic doctrine, and it has been repeated over and over again for decades now. Take his last trip to Brazil and you won’t find one sentence that has not been said previously by his predecessors and which is not fully supported in the Magisterium.

    Perhaps I misunderstood your statement. I understood that “inflammatory” meant “passionate” or “irate”. If you mean “upsetting for liberals”, then probably yes, Ratzinger’s discourse is “inflammatory”… but for liberals, not himself, who is quite moderate and restrained in expression, or for his audience. Actually few Popes have been emotionally colder than Benedict XVI in the last decades (even Paul VI seems lively in comparison).

    OTOH, the Catholic Church is much more, and much more complex, than the Pope or the Vatican itself, so whoever the Pope is, most Catholics, including many parish priests, monks and nuns, and even some bishops, do not pay much attention anyway.

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