July 2, 2005

Society for the Prevention of Christian Knowledge


Also known as the SPCK. Also known as the mega-church. Don't believe me? Just read this quote from Heretics by G. K. Chesterton--

"It is not fashionable to say much nowadays of the advantages of the small community. We are told that we must go in for large empires and large ideas. There is one advantage, however, in the small state, the city, or the village, which only the willfully blind can overlook.

"The man who lives in a small community lives in a much larger world. He knows much more of the fierce varieties and uncompromising divergences of men. The reason is obvious. In a large community we can choose our companions. In a small community our companions are chosen for us.

"Thus in all extensive and highly civilized societies groups come into existence founded upon what is called sympathy, and shut out the real world more sharply than the gates of a monastery.

"There is nothing really narrow about the clan; the thing which is really narrow is the clique. The men of the clan live together because they all wear the same tartan or are all descended from the same sacred cow; but in their souls, by the divine luck of things, there will always be more colours than in any tartan.

"But the men of the clique live together because they have the same kind of soul, and their narrowness is a narrowness of spiritual coherence and contentment, like that which exists in hell.

"A big society exists in order to form cliques. A big society is a society for the promotion of narrowness. It is a machinery for the purpose of guarding the solitary and sensitive individual from all experience of the bitter and bracing human compromises.It is, in the most literal sense of the words, a society for the prevention of Christian knowledge. "

This has fascinating implications for the 'big-church' mindset of many Christians. They seem to think that a larger church is necessarily a better church. But is this true? Chesterton says that large societies prevent Christian knowledge, so therefore a church with large membership is actually counteracting its own aims.


Mama Squirrel said...

Have you ever read any of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple mysteries? Miss Marple has much the same opinion about small communities, and she is always making connections between her murder cases and things that happened in her own village ("that reminds me of the time the vicar's wife ran off with the butcher," or whatever).

Leslie Noelani Laurio said...

What an interesting idea! I come from a mega-church, and I've always thought of the internet's global community as a good thing because it brings together those of like mindsets who had felt isolated in their small communities. I hadn't considered that it could actually be providing a way to escape from the challenge of learning to get along where you are.

Headmistress, zookeeper said...

F. LaGard Smith, Radical Restoration. A goodly portion of this is specifically addressed to REstoration Movement Churches (what those who don't know better call 'Cambellites,' but not around me- but I digress).
But a whole lot of it is very, very interesting stuff for anybody interested in small community ideas.

And Tim's Mom- oooooh. As a military wife I have spent twenty years dealing with every problem by shrugging and saying, "it doesn't matter, we're moving in 2/3/4 years.
Now I'm permanently fixed somewhere, and I notice this about small towns- people really do have to learn to get along with each other in ways big city types do not. And the small town folks are _very_ much aware of that and seem to work at it more. Several times in discussions that could have quickly veered into gossip and ugliness, somebody has stopped the conversation by saying something like, "Well, we all have to live with it, so let's make the best of it and get along." Then the subject is changed.
Interesting topic.

Mama Squirrel said...

Don't you notice that in Emma? Ever since I first read it, I've been so impressed by the way people are accepted in that book--Emma's father in spite of the fact that he fusses about everything and makes people eat boiled meat, and Miss whatever-her-name-is who talks too much (and when Emma decides to put her in her place, it's Emma who gets scolded).

Anonymous said...

As a long-time dweller of a small town, and a long-time attender of a small church, I agree. While in Auburn I attended a mega-Baptist-church. It was too easy, for everybody there. Everyone was slipping and sliding along, ONLY holding hands with those people in the SAME mud that they were in. Meanwhile at my lovely ZRPB we all have to face and get along with each other's myriad faults and quirks. And, I must say, we are some of the most scripturally educated kids in the community because, dadgumit!! We've had to use A LOT of scripture to get over each other's quirks!

Anonymous said...

I suppose it's been said before, but if we are to love our brethern, it'd sure be nice to know who they are, right? We've strayed from the original style of things: the love feast before exhorting each other in the Lord, while in each other's houses, haven't we, dears? :-)

If anyone would like to host an "Agape Feast" and needs a guest.. Here's one right here. :-)