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Cowboy churches round ’em up

Cowboy churches round ’em up

On a July Fourth weekend, a slice of Christian Americana: the cowboy church is a new-old institution that seems to be roping its fair share of believers.

The Arizona Republic:

[H]ere, Jesus might have worn boots instead of sandals. And maybe he’d talk about cattle instead of sheep. Speculation aside, the folks at the cowboy church know three things for certain: They love Jesus, they love the rodeo and they love the West. Combine the three and you get a growing trend in Arizona: cowboy church. About 730 churches across the country are registered on the network. Most are in Texas, but 18 are in Arizona. Pruit started his church four years ago, but the movement has been around for decades.

“They bring a rural kind of mentality almost with a family emphasis,” said Chip Moody, the dean of students at Phoenix Seminary. “And yet at the same time, they hang on to that rugged individualism that the cowboy way kind of encourages.”

….”I see that one day there will be a big roundup,” [churchgoer Rhonda] Evans said after a Sunday morning service. “Jesus will be there and he will let the ones in that have his brand, and if you’re not branded by the blood of Jesus Christ, on that great roundup day you’ll be separated out,” she said.

Not that we’d all agree with this interpretation of Matthew 25, mind you.

For some reason this reminds me of those NASCAR themed caskets you can now get for your loved one once his “race is run” – y’know, religion hyper-specialized to the tribe one belongs to. On the other hand, what is denominationalism if not a kind of Christian tribalism? I mean, who’s to say that Cowboy Church isn’t doing something effective for the cause of Christ?

You can’t just sneeze at tack-and-saddle religion and walk away. I know because I used to. The first church I served out of seminary was deep in the heart of Texas, where I confronted and finally came to terms with my inner cowboy. Then, when I moved to Colorado to serve a second church, our family’s neighbors were the Colorado Cowboys for Jesusreally good musicians with hearts and minds for God. Stretched me like taffy; I’m the better for it, though.


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David Allen

Playing with the metaphor more, “Just because you carry the brand, does not mean that you get to come into my corral at the Big Round-up, because I am not looking for the physical brand in the flesh, but my true brand, which is on your heart.

Cowboy Jesus

Gregory Orloff

One hopes, Torey. But look around you: there’s plenty of “Christianity” being hawked in America today that says it’s just a matter of “me and Jesus,” there’s nothing you have to do (regardless of Matthew 25:31-46), and so long as you got “God, guns and GOP,” you’ll be whisked up in “The Rapture,” so might as well start looking down now on all those sinful folk who’ll be left behind. All a compromise of the real Gospel, but lapped up nonetheless, sadly.

Gregory – Aha! “Rugged individualism” meets the alternative, self-identity-sacrificing community envisioned by Jesus – at least as Matthew pitches it. Core value meets core value; someone will have to compromise, and it ain’t gonna be Matthew.

Torey Lightcap

Gregory Orloff

Jesus said “the brand” inspected at “the big round-up” for admission to his “corral” will be having fed the hungry, given drink to the thirsty, clothed the naked, housed the homeless, tended the sick and visited the jailed. And one has to get over one’s “rugged individualism” to do that.

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