My wife and I had the privilege of going to Europe a couple years ago. Upon visiting numerous grand cathedrals, I wrote this in my journal:
Most European cathedrals are museums – the most elaborate in the world. At Notre Dame in Paris, 1,000 sweaty tourists are wandering in this unbelievable piece of architecture while 40 worshipers are celebrating mass in the chancel. No reverence, just sightseeing. No worship, just flash photography. The Frauenkirche in Munich (the museum Pope Benedict calls “home”). Notre Dame and Saint Chapelle in Paris. St. Peter’s and the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican. Centuries (and millenia) old, these structures are some of the greatest architectural masterpieces in the universe. They are fine destinations for family trips and tour buses full of fanny packs. There are more flashes from tourist cameras in one hour than there are worshipers in one year. In the eyes of most Europeans and many tourists, Christianity is mythology - a nice moral story to teach your children, but mostly untrue.
Recently I was speaking with a non-Christian who called Christianity "mythology." It re-surfaced my European observation. Throughout the history of the church, when Christianity becomes firmly institutionalized, it often gets reduced to mythology. Quite frankly, I'm uncomfortable with America being a "Christian nation." It is all too easy for faith in the risen Jesus to become a cultural and societal phenomenon played out in political ideology. But that's for another blog post.
The early Christians at Pentecost would violently disagree with such mythological treatment. Wind and fire accompanied an impassioned rhetoric that claimed a crucified criminal to be the worldwide King. A new Kingdom is advancing, subversive as it may appear. We dare not tame this radical proclamation, nor reduce it to a moral lesson in good living. I don't fault non-Christians for perceiving Christianity to be mythology. They may actually be observing things accurately. I fault Christians for reducing the most compelling narrative in the world to a cartoon-ish bedtime story reserved for Christmas and Easter holidays. God, forgive us.