May each of you have the heart to conceive, the understanding to direct, and the hand to execute works that will leave the world a little better for your having been here. -- Ronald Reagan

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Church, The Unchurched, and Social Decline

There was a time, even within my lifetime, that churches played a central role connecting people, transmitting values, helping others. There was a time when the tallest buildings in towns were church spires; those have been replaced by banks and government buildings.

I’m wondering if there’s going to be, if it’s even possible, to have another “great awakening” like we did in the 18th and 19th and 20th centuries, where the church and God was the centerpiece of our activities and thoughts. Governments now keep trying to tax churches, which is the best way to run them out of business or at least control them. Nevermind all the charity work, feeding the poor, taking care of the sick and prisoners, tending the dying and providing comfort to families that have lost loved ones, and burying the dead. All these take time and money. All these are ignored by government and secular cultural elites. They want more money to enrich and empower themselves and their contributors, and put the church out of business. Government cannot be fully in control if people put God first.

A side effect of this breakdown of the church in our culture is the wisdom, teaching of humility, patience, our religious history and its effects on what we consider most important, and generational segregation.

When I was growing up, we knew all the moms and dads, grandpas and grandmas, even great-grandmas and grandpas. We knew their music, their history, and their beliefs. We felt their love. We experienced and watched their actions, and knew to emulate them to become good adults.

Now when I talk to twenty-something’s, even thirty-something’s, they view anything outside their own time cocoon as ancient and not important. They don’t see any value in the values of anyone older than them. They have no sense of history. Nothing is being transmitted, and all cultural, political, and social continuity is being lost. Generational segregation like this can’t be a good thing. It’s even being reflected in the church.

Some churches are getting rid of traditional services and replacing them with youthful praise services. Mostly, older congregants don’t attend these, and vice versa. There is less and less a mix of generations. The irony is in a society of ever increasing ‘social media’ (Facebook, etc.) people are actually communicating less. People only select out people to ‘friend’ only like minded and like aged others.

I think I’m lamenting here the breakdown and even rejection of the spiritual and moral teaching and guidance of the church. It’s disconcerting the unchurched have moved from understanding the importance of the church’s contributions to being hostile; a hostility born out of lies and no understanding of the great teachings of religious leaders. It lends itself to anti-Semitism and anti-Christian bigotry, intolerance and hate.

C S Lewis, in his book The Great Divorce, describes Hell as a place where everyone can go anywhere, anytime. There doesn’t have to be getting along with any friends or neighbors or relatives. Don’t like what’s going on, move away. After awhile, everyone one there has moved away from everyone else. Really this is self imposed solitary confinement. In the religious community Hell is viewed simply as being denied, being separated, from God. Lewis points out it’s being separated from each other too. Now we’ve emerged as a society that we can move away by “unfriending”, and segregate others not of our age and belief system. Even in church.  

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