Ed Suominen recently posted a piece on his blog entitled "Community." Of particular interest to me, he made reference to the fact that many Fundamentalist groups effectively encase themselves in a cocoon. They separate themselves from the outside world to reinforce the group's beliefs and protect those notions from being corrupted by the heathens without.
This phenomenon is not foreign to the Armstrong Church of God culture. Herbert Armstrong taught that the church (meaning the now defunct Worldwide Church of God) was the mother of the saints. The church served to protect the developing embryos (church members) until they could be born again into God's Kingdom. Moreover, this notion continues to be expressed by the numerous splinter groups which have succeeded that organization.
Bruce Ritter of the Restored Church of God underscored the continued importance of this analogy in his article "Is the Church Our Mother?" Speaking of the church, he stated "she carries her unborn child in her womb." According to Ritter, this is done to protect, feed and nurture the embryonic Christian.
However, as with many other features of Armstrongism, the analogy doesn't hold up under closer scrutiny. In short, we should be asking ourselves whether or not this is what God intended for "His" people. Did God design "His" Church to be a cocoon or womb to protect and nurture the saints from the evil influences of this world?
In attempting to answer that question, a few other questions come to mind:
Didn't Christ engage folks with religious views that differed from his own? (Pharisees, Sadducees and Samaritans)
Isn't he portrayed in all four of the gospel accounts as being in the habit of asking and/or answering questions?
Weren't many of his sermons delivered in response to questions/challenges from his disciples and opponents?
Did Jesus withdraw from sinners?
Did he instruct his followers to withdraw from this world or did he encourage them not to allow themselves to be polluted by it?
Didn't Christ ask God to protect his followers IN the world?
Was Jesus isolated or exposed?
Did Christ face and do battle with his adversary (Satan)?
Why did Paul instruct the Christians of his day to put on the armor of God?
Is armor necessary inside a womb/cocoon?
If the truth is the truth, why should we fear or avoid challenges?
Is the truth that fragile and delicate?
What do you think?