November 01, 2013
Check out this piece, at First Things, by James Rogers, called "Ecclesiastical Exceptionalism." Among other things, the paper wrestles with the problems that attend to treating churches -- or the Church -- as one of those "voluntary associations" that we Tocqueville (etc.) fans talk about a lot. (I talk about this matter, too, in this paper: "Are Churches (Just) Like the Boy Scouts?"). Here's a bit from Rogers' piece:
. . . [W]e can ask whether the tendency to rank the Church as just one of many “voluntary associations” has an impact on the way that Christians think about the Church. If the Church is no more than a spiritual version of the Rotary Club, then it is no more than another avenue for our self-expression and self-interest. This way of understanding the Church, to draw on sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies’ phrasing, is to turn the Church from an organ of gemeinschaft(roughly translated as “organic community”) into an expression of gesellschaf(roughly translated as ”civil society). This self-understanding implicitly limits Christians’ aspiration for the Church and for their experience of it.