Thursday, August 23, 2012

Have churches become irrelevant?

…the fight for an honest and moral America

The video, below (an interview of a young “lady” upset about being caught stealing money from a group of Girl Scouts selling cookies), prompted a “cultural Christian” church-loathing friend and I to have a conversation about the moral decline in our country over the past several decades.  I noted that many of our churches are becoming as morally untethered as the agnostics and atheists.

Our moral future?

Sensing that I might be inferring that Churches have been better repositories of moral goodness than agnostics and atheists have been, he replied, “I’m not sure I totally agree with you.  Morals belong to people; not churches.  I don’t profess to be “holier than thou” but I don’t belong to any denomination and although I don’t demonstrate my faith in God graphically, I try to live by His standards.  I know a lot of people who follow the same guidelines.  I may go to hell, but I’ll be satisfied that although I don’t come close to WWJD, I was an OK human being.  No one—in my opinion—can hide behind a “religion.”

Here is my reply back to my friend:

My point is that THE CHURCHES are now doing what they have never done before:  Many are now denying the basis for traditional morality.  Many no longer consider the Bible and their historical creeds to be inerrant.  For example, active homosexuality, a grave sin for 3,000 years, is not a sin any more in many, and a growing number, of churches. Gay marriage is now routine in several denominations.   The outward display and promotion of homosexuality is now a protected human behavior not only in our society at large, but even in many churches.  It won't be long before other historically moral taboos are erased...we can only imagine what they may be (Polygamy?  Adultery? Pedophilia?)  A sense of honesty that that girl in the video above lacked is a clear example.  Morality certainly didn't “belong” to that girl.  And it is doubtful she had much of a church experience, either personally or handed down from her folks.

Even “cultural Christians” who believe morality resides only in individuals and not in churches have several generations of Christian influence and tradition that preceded and influenced them from their parents and grandparents, plus their own generation's moral influences that caused them to believe what they believe and act on.  If we didn’t have those familial influences and those peer influences that had similar moral, mostly Christian Church-informed and promoted, influences, we would be somewhat different than we are.  Some of us may disdain "churches", but the influence of churches on our forebears and upbringing is undeniable.  We enjoy the remnants of the beliefs and morality of our forefathers.  As we see in our culture, the moral influence is slowly decaying because the churches are self-destructing in the morality department, and faith is generally waning in our culture compared to what it was 50 or 100 years ago.  Without the morality taught in churches (or through agreed upon moral doctrine, whatever the source), we will become uncivilized and more animalistic.  Look at aboriginal tribes and their version of "morality."  Look at the moral teachings of Islam that advocate lying (taqqiya) to defend and promote their faith, and the civil penalties involving the chopping off of body parts, and their treatment of women, and their hatred of Jews.  These moral precepts did not bubble up from inside individual people; they were taught as part of a coercive religion.

Christianity is a voluntary religion.  It is not coercive, a huge distinction from Islam.  As elective as Christianity is, I realize if I didn't have the history of family and cultural peer influence that I had, I might prefer atheism, or Islam, or who knows what.  Morality is not genetic.  It is learned.  It is a choice.  We learn from those whom we respect.  We choose based on what we have been taught and experienced is right. We act on what we continue to experience.   I will not deny the teaching and the experiences that guided me to the choices I make.  When those influences cease being significant in our lives (and historically they have come from devout priests and pastors who promote church doctrine and Christian morals) each generation will have less and less remembrance of the Judeo-Christian morality we take for granted until the next pattern of group think emerges.  And that will likely take a lower form than what we currently know.  Maybe some think it will take a higher form without "religion" and without "churches."  But I doubt it, and that is apparently where we differ.

I find it interesting that we pay billions of dollars a year to advertisers and marketers to promote and sell goods and services.  Yet priests and pastors and the institutions they serve (churches) which are the repositories and promoters of western morality and principles of civil behavior are dismissed out of hand as being irrelevant.  Fascinating indeed.

Perhaps it is because of this very feeling of irrelevance that most churches are adapting themselves to our degrading culture rather expecting themselves to help inform and shape the culture.  And that is a great loss.   It was a unique period in world history when, for over a hundred years, the US had relative unity of religious and moral thought in the midst of a permissive and amazingly diverse society.  It is a wonder it lasted that long.

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