As church attendance and membership dwindles across America, we are wondering what is causing such a falling away. The Pew Research Center is searchable for a more formalized and statistical analysis of the reasoning. Wharton School of Business radio has a quote that I frequent often, “In God we trust, all else require data”. Feel free to dig through the many articles on church attendance by the Pew and their data for such reasoning.
I want to paint a short but much different picture to the great falling away from Christianity in America. It’s lodged behind the greatest threat to Christianity in the Western world, and that is the “church” itself. Now, that’s a bold statement and one that will raise many an eyebrow. Before it does, I’d like to point out the great divide that exists in the church and that is the minute unification of the black and white church. It’s racism that still separates us. There are other issues and doctrinal views that surely play a role but at the core, we have to contend with race as an issue. You can almost align our beliefs based on our affiliation with a political group. Democrats and often considered the party of the poor and disenfranchised. Republicans are often considered the party of the affluent and privileged. Independents are often considered the party of anti-establishment. If you will, Democrats as black Christians, Republicans as white Christians, and independents as black and white Christians who believe in Yeshua but not organized religion and the constructs formed by each.
The Foundation of My Thoughts
My thoughts stem from my annual tradition that I have embraced the last 7 or 8 years. On the MLK holiday I arise to a cup of coffee and read his coined “Letter from the Birmingham Jail”. Each year I find it more meaningful and a reason to believe that he was a man beyond his time, even though time has no construct save that which we place on it. His letter appreciated active white, black, and Hebrew communities for their work in civil rights but notes they are too few Christians looking to execute the message of the Gospel beyond its messianic tones. There was no sermonic following of the Beatitudes. Seemingly, the foundation of the black church stems from blacks not being allowed to worship Jesus with whites. The strangeness people of color not being able to worship a Lord of color is divisive on its own merit. It’s as defiant as the Good Times episode wrestling between a white and black Jesus. It is comedy mixed with parody and truth.
This letter reveals so much of our historical time of civil rights. Yet, after today’s reading, it’s showing me how we have regressed as a society and how the American church has become a nestled bed of confusion, hypocrisy, hatred, discrimination, and racism. We are returning to the draconian age of separation. We don’t have churches being bombed but we have white supremacist walking in and murdering black worshippers. We don’t have crosses burning on front lawns but we have white evangelicals praising a president that has lifted the ugly cinderblock of racism to Hitler-like levels. We have white pastors telling parishioners if they vote for Democratic they are supporting a party who sanctions the murder of aborted children and promote the agendas of the LGBTQ community. We have black pastors telling congregants who to vote for and if they don’t they are turning their back on their people.
But the judgement of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust. ~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 4/16/1963https://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html
I would say the above quote is one of many I will dig into over the year. Our young people are no longer embracing the church as a whole. Our world has become post-modernistic and everything is convenient. Yet, in the midst of this falling away, we see God’s faithfulness. We see churches actively supporting their members financially who are affected by the current government shutdown. People are reaching out to their loved ones and buying groceries, paying bills, and being amazing support systems. This is the essence of Christianity.
Jesus is the door. Beyond that door, through him, we have access to the Kingdom of God. We have the power to love even our enemies, the power to love people beyond recognition every race, every culture, every gender, every identity, and every nationality.
Writing this comes with a reflection of my own complacency and inaction. The proverbial mirror of self-analysis forces one to look hard at his own life. At the end of the day, I am apart of this “church” that I speak of today. Conformity comes in plenteous forms. I have equally backed down from religious confrontations in fear of conflict with racial issues that Dr. King speaks of in his letter.
Three years ago that I began a journey of “love more and judge less” and it has been a true blessing and challenge to accept people as they are, human beings. In all this, unless we show the world our labor by being Christ’s feet, and care by being Christ’s hands, they will never see our hearts, which can lead them to Christ’s love. Our young people will get older and raise a generation that will never dock foot in a church door. I end with another quote from Dr. King.
If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me. ~ MLK 4/16/1963https://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html
Scintillating as usual, my brother. While my personal position in the division within the American Church is more doctrinal than anything else, I can’t completely discount the ever-present spectre of racism that has existed in this country since her inception and evidently still exists. Speaking of Dylan Roof, I interpret that horrific act of brutality as a spiritual one, an overt attack by the spiritual forces of darkness, but where the spiritual and the racial converge is in that the slaughter occurred via a racial spark to light the fuse. Lastly, I believe you are in the good company of Dr. King as you both accurately predict the further forsaking of the Church, especially by Millennials (and those coming after them) preeminently because pulpits are devoid of Holy Spirit power, love, and spiritual discernment—and this generation is tough to fool in that regard. They tire of the almost weekly church scandals, the abuse of money and power, the sexual depravity by pastors and ministers, and the “pie in the sky” preaching that has enslaved many a churchgoer for decades, even generations. Bravo, my brother! You will face backlash, but let it come, it will only serve to make you stringer. (Also, don’t forget about the possibility of a video companion to this post, just for the people who are less apt to read.) Again, well done, soldier.
Gratitude my brother and thank you for your feedback. It was written with great angst and passion and there is truly data analysis that leads to such discussions. As you, I believe the greater divide is rooted in doctrinal issues, some trivial and some more prevailing. We are on this journey together brother. As iron sharpens iron…