My experience with church started out really well at First Baptist Church, Winnsboro, Louisiana. However, in the years before coming here to Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp, it took a hard turn off the rails, with a couple of train wrecks. I've written about the last wreck here. Even with the wrecks, organized religion, particularly Christianity, has had a profound influence on me (some might say, not enough). I imagine the same would be true for 30-35% of Americans today. Of course, I realize the influence may not have been all positive for some. While it would be disingenuous to call America a Christian nation, we have been influenced, directly and indirectly, by Christianity long before our founding as a nation.
So, how did America as we know it begin? Nathaniel Philbrick answers that question in his well researched and best selling book Mayflower. There is no doubt that Christianity was the driving force in the colonization of Plymouth and the Massachusetts Bay in the 1620's by the Pilgrims and Puritans. However, Philbrick points out that, one generation later, church membership had so declined that a group of ministers instituted the "Half-Way Covenant" as an easing of the requirements for membership to boost the number of congregants. What the heck is a Half-Way Covenant? Were there just Five Commandments or Ten Suggestions? It's not surprising this half-baked idea fully failed.
When reading Philbrick, I couldn't help but think of all the churches I've been a member. Without exception, they've had the "Get Wet and Fog A Mirror Covenant," meaning that I if was baptized and breathing enough to fog a mirror, I could be a member. That's just wrong. At this point in my life, I want to be part of a church that welcomes everyone, but that expects, even requires, a real covenant from those who share in ministry and are called members. Churches should have higher membership standards than health clubs and Amazon Prime. Thankfully such churches exist. They should consider themselves warned. I'll be headed their way...if I ever get out of here.