Reconverting the De-converts: A New Modus Operandi for the Church

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.

E.R. Bills is a writer from Aledo, Texas and the author of Texas Obscurities: Stories of the Peculiar, Exceptional and Nefarious (History Press, 2013). He can be reached at: erbillsthinks@gmail.com. Read other articles by E.R..

4 comments on this article so far ...

Comments RSS feed

  1. MichaelKenny said on November 26th, 2010 at 9:57am #

    The odd thing about this article is that Mr Bills talks as if there was a religious denomination called “the Christian Church”, whereas I don’t think I have to tell someone who lives in Texas that there are literally hundreds of Christian churches, which hardly agree with each other on anything! Wikipedia lists 79 groups of Baptists in the US alone, for example! At the other extreme, the Catholic Church is a single worldwide body only 5% of whose members live in the US. Indeed, there’s an extreme faction of American Catholics who are seriously out of sync with their church worldwide. Bible literalism is rare outside the US and creationism is practically non-existent. The Catholic Church, for example, accepts neither one nor the other. Thus, there is not much point in addressing criticisms to “Christianity”.

  2. bozh said on November 26th, 2010 at 10:09am #

    ‘religions’ or cults as i call them, and historical record proves it, are the greatest evil that ever befell us.
    priests have also always been in bed with satraps, kings, emperors, nobles, and rich people.

    have u seen the clothes priests and peasants wore? have u seen the churches they built from money extorted from peasants?
    how much energy and space these empty buildings are using now? while people sleep under bridges?

    yes, the root of all evil! that’s what priests always had been and always will.
    but in priesthood i also include psychiatrists [did’n ‘jews’ invent that also] pols, generals, pill makers, et al.
    it is all one big happy family which all gods bless in their evil doings! tnx

  3. bozh said on November 26th, 2010 at 11:02am #

    the point appears, why aren’t any of these columnists doing anything to change american dream imposing nightmares on ‘aliens’ and some domestics?
    for an human in achieving her/his dream must, perforce, impose a nightmare on another person and by a mere fact that the dream had been achieved!
    and they cannot see the contradiction in this? i think they do!
    but in love with supremacism? makes us all blind!
    love is blind, people say! true!? tnx

  4. Charlie said on November 28th, 2010 at 4:58pm #

    Many denominations are losing members precisely because they have never listened to people like Mr. Bills and never will. In an attempt to regain members, they are now simply repackaging the product, but the product hasn’t changed. Most denominations, I believe, cannot even contemplate changing their attitudes, let alone their theology. But the window dressing may be discussed and debated at length.

    It’s a Catch 22 for them. The political beliefs of the fundamentalists, for example, no matter how foolish they seem to the rest of us, are part of their core theology; and to change their political beliefs would be to change their core theology. They won’t do it because they don’t realize that they’re using politics to define their religion rather than using religion to guide their politics.

    The only churches that are gaining members are those that offer moral absolutism, bumper-sticker theology, and jingoistic flag-waving nonsense as the equivalent of a well-thought-out theology. I think other churches are noticing, therefore, that the way to gain/regain members is to become more unappealing to thoughtful people and more appealing to people who want theological fascism, not quiet listening to “the still small voice of God.”

    Many years ago, I was in the hospital for minor surgery. A priest visited me and asked my religion. I described myself as a “former Catholic.” He replied, “There is no such thing.” I guess denial could be one way to deal with declining memberships.