In the November 23 edition of Christianity Today (an online “Magazine of Evangelical Conviction”), Drew Dyck bemoaned the current trend of “leavers” or young doubters who are abandoning the church at an alarming rate. In 1990, eight percent of all Americans claimed “no religion.” By 2008 it was 15 percent overall and 22 percent among young people. Dyck pointed out that 73 percent of the “no religion” respondents came from religious homes and 66 percent could be considered “de-converts.” Church leaders are obviously concerned about apostasy and are currently debating possible causes and solutions.
I am not a “de-convert” or a “leaver.” Christianity never spoke to me or I was simply too obtuse or skeptical to hear the call. But I did have more respect for the institution a decade or so ago, and I think I could make some useful suggestions for those trying to protect or revitalize the flock. I have no ulterior motive and this is not an attempt to undermine The Word in America.
First, the church needs to stop falling for false messiahs. Prior to George W. Bush’s ascendance to the U.S. presidency in 2000, he claimed God had contacted him and told him to run. The Bush Campaign shrewdly played upon the fears and consternation generated by the approaching millennium change, Y2K, etc., and used them to its advantage. Half the country was mildly fearful that the world would be ending (or at least attended church a little more regularly to play it safe) and Bush captured the White House by classifying himself as a born-again, evangelical Christian, virtually ordaining himself the Chosen One to stave off the Apocalypse. It was a Karl Rove special that worked to perfection. A vote for the Democrats was practically a pledge to the Devil and, as posterity will eventually note, the Moral Majority cast their lot with one of the least Christian leaders in the history of the United States. President Bush lied us into a war, pandered to the wealthy instead of protecting the weak and de-criminalized torture so American operatives could brazenly commit war crimes heretofore only associated with unholy outfits like the KGB or the Khemer Rouge. What would Jesus Christ have done? None of the above. He didn’t speak to George W. Bush and He wouldn’t have voted for him.
When the church hitched its wagon to a cleverly disguised heathen, its image was tarnished by shabby association and people’s faith in The Word suffered. In the future, Christians would be well served to remember the First Amendment-mandated separation of church and state for their own sake. In this case, it might have preserved some of their following.
Second, Christianity today needs to concede the lessons of history and science’s place in history. The theory of evolution may still not be 100 percent, but it’s getting there and resisting the obvious simply prolongs the presence of egg on the church’s face. In the history of the Word (as its proponents interpret it) versus Big Scientific Blasphemies, the Church is winless. Galileo was right. Columbus was right. Darwin will be proven right.
Do what you always do and simply incorporate new knowledge into the doctrine. Say Adam was made of clay, but through a type of biological clay-mation rather than offhand clay-shaping. Say God’s crafting of Adam was a process, not a spontaneous production. And similar rational approaches should be encouraged towards global warming and/or climate change. The church should never openly invite environmental calamities on the scale of a Revelations narrative. Encourage a Christianity that is less anti-intellectual and your message will become more reasonable and inclusive.
Third, stop letting pedophiles, morons, and the Republican Party claim they represent you. Address molestation charges directly. Don’t simply transfer the culprits. Punish them and strip them of their religious offices. The best damage control is not denial. It’s justice.
Disavow shameless, self-promoting imbeciles like Sarah Palin. Christian representatives may be fallible and imperfect, but there’s no reason to add stupid and petty to the list. When shameless scamps hold themselves up as exemplars of your faith, they cheapen it. Call them out and denounce their charade.
Realize that Republicans are no more Christian than Democrats and challenge yourself with this question: Would Jesus have been on the side of Big Oil, Big Insurance, Big Pharma, or Big Business?
Jesus Christ is speaking to you now, so loudly that even I can hear Him. Four divinely throated Nays and zero Yeas. The pretense of Republican righteousness is duly exposed. Your savior was not a money-changer, a Capitalist or a fear-monger, and He wouldn’t have stood with them in their subjugation of His people. His was a message of love, compassion and transcendence. Juxtapose that message with the Republican messages of Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck.
Non-Believers like me certainly enjoy the company of “leavers” and the “de-Converted” in our existential abyss, but I don’t feel they’d be too hard to re-convert or bring back into the proverbial fold. You’ve just got to stop insulting their intelligence, misappropriating their faith and diminishing their hopes for humanity.