Of Faith and Superstition…

Fijian churchgoers (men) are being requested to in favour of skirts in order to please God.

The article says:

“The ban is meant to bring good luck to the island as we respect the day of the Lord,”… “You can see that often misfortune befalls us because we don’t respect His commandments that there be no work performed on Sunday except worship.”

Fortunately some are not conforming:

A villager who wished not to be named said the ban was “too restrictive”. “We can’t understand how wearing a sulu vakataga on Sunday will help us forge closer relations with the divine,” he said.

Its interesting that I look at this today with bemusement yet it wasn’t so long ago as a kid growing up in Belfast that we had similar rules. Ties were worn to church, no work was done and nothing was bought. We still have some of these rules in places now but a little more subtly eg. worship leaders must dress ‘up’ to be on stage because that is honoring God etc. I wonder what God would do if we didn’t dress up to sing?… Personally I don’t think he’d give a rodent’s backside. I think our rules tend to me more of our own making. FWIW I don’t mind when we frame these as ‘our rules’, but when we try to give them a biblical basis then I get very edgy.

I am fairly confident that these days we still get faith and superstition a little confused by seeking to do things that have little biblical currency but which make us feel like we are ‘performing’ better. My hunch is that there is a strong connection between legalism and superstition and that those bound with legalism will have quirky beliefs derived from a poor concept of God.

This will inevitably lead to a ‘folk religion’ kind of faith where we impose on God and scripture what we feel is the best way to follow.

Back to Galatians…

3 thoughts on “Of Faith and Superstition…

  1. Whether we are fundamentalist or liberal on these issues, the problem is the same: confusion of practices with rules. Fundamentalists focus on adherence to the rules, while liberals decide to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    All of these were very concrete, practical ways to form ourselves biblically. Sabbath, for example, can become rigid and legalistic (eg a friend of mine was allowed to bowl underarm on a Sunday, but not overarm). But liberals react against that and do away with Sabbath altogether. What would be more helpful is to see them as practices or disciplines or habits to form us theologically and practically. Observing Sabbath means you have to discover the earth will still revolve without your help. It means trusting grace to feed you even when you don’t work for it. And plenty more. But it won’t form us in these ways if we don’t do it.

    Dress is similar – when seen as a way of forming us to have great respect for sacredness and sacred space, it’s helpful. When it becomes legalistic, dualistic, or shame-based, it is destructive.

    We don’t even necessarily need to understand why we’ve been told to do the things we do – they’ll often form us well anyway. That’s where obedience is important. But understanding helps overcome the ashram cat syndrome.

    So I don’t necessarily see it as the difference between faith and superstition, with the need to do away with ‘superstition’ (although superstitions can grow out of a lack of understanding of good practices).

  2. I’ll be honest I’m struggling with the whole Sabbath thing. Even tougher since getting married and two of us having expectations.

    I was brought up you only go to church on Sunday. I remember being very confused when I found out my cousin was allowed to play football with friends on a Sunday. As I got older things changed and I ‘got away’ with watching TV on Sunday.

    For the last few years I’ve done away with the whole rule book. I’m happy to go to the pub and watch football, visit the supermarket, hang out with friends… but I’m not comfortable. I seem to have ditched God on Sunday with it, because outside of a church service it’s like the rest of the week.

    I guess I’m trying to say that I’m finding living without legalism to be tough.

  3. I take your point Simon, but I was actually referring to the quote that speaks of ‘bad luck’ if we don’t fo what God wants.

    Phil I am more relaxed with sabbaths these days but still seek to hold the principle tightly

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