When I was a Psychology major in College, I learned about imprinting. When a bird, or other animal, is born, the first living thing they see is identified as “mother,” and they spend the rest of their lives recognizing and relating to that first sighting as “mother.” And nothing can change it.
I think that I see a parallel in the religious world. When a person first becomes a Christian, it seems to be a vulnerable, moldable time when the first ‘theology’ that they are taught is what sticks. They continue to adhere to that belief no matter how incorrect it might be. Later, when the truth finally is shared with them, they reject the truth for that “imprinted” idea.
This strange reality reminds me of a story that I read some time ago. A couple fell in love and started living together. After a while, they felt convicted that they needed to put more emphasis on their spiritual life. So, they started attending a Baptist church just a few blocks from their apartment. They loved it! They connected with the people and started attending Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday nights. They were growing spiritually and began to feel convicted of sin.
One Sunday night, the church had a testimonial time when people would stand and confess their sins. The church members would respond with “Amen!” “God forgives sins!” “He is the God of new beginnings!” The atmosphere that night, in the church, was similar to a revival meeting. They looked at each and asked, “Should we stand and confess our sin?” So, they did, and the church responded by kicking them out!
I have met some homosexual Christians that seem to have a much deeper walk with Jesus than most heterosexual Christians that I know. At first, this was very difficult to believe because of the imprinted theology of my childhood. And yet, I could not deny what I was seeing and hearing. Reality was showing me something very different than what I was taught.
In these days of introspection which are being forced upon us by our younger generation, we are being challenged to examine whether our beliefs come more from cultural norms than Christian teachings. In Richard Niebhur’s book, Christ and Culture, I am learning that our normal pattern is to put up our “cultural filter” to sift the teachings of Jesus: and whatever makes it through our cultural strainer is the “brand” of Christianity that we practice.
I, personally, have found it difficult to break this practice, because I have been “theologically imprinted.” And yet, I recognize how the Enemy (Satan) has used this thinking pattern to wound people rather than to draw sinners into the waiting arms of a loving Savior.
I have a choice to make: cultural Christianity or biblical Christianity.
Going God’s way kicking and screaming,
Ron McCaskill, Pastor
Christ Church Cairo