Happy Sunday, All. I’ve been to church and Starbucks, the forecast for today and the next couple days is above freezing, so I’m feeling pretty optimistic.
In pondering what I’d post about today, I considered the big pop culture story of the week: the downfall of Bill Cosby. I linked to a few stories about him on the blog’s Facebook page and wound up reaching over a thousand people, which I believe is the best numbers I’ve ever received there. Comparatively, the story I did a week ago marking the anniversary of my sister’s death hit just under 200, while my random stuff hovers around 30 to 40.
Despite the huge uptick in views, I just don’t want to go into it here. Primarily because I don’t have anything of consequence to add to ever-increasing list of alleged victims, the possible years of coverup, or even constructive criticism of how the media is covering it. You know the old saying about if you have nothing good to say? I don’t have good, bad and the story is already ugly. I’ll just recommend Ta-nahesi Coates’s “The Cosby Show” piece at The Atlantic, and a follow-up interview he did with On the Media about it. And if, for some bizarre reason Mr. Coates ever lands here, I want to say, please do not carry any burden about how you chose to handle the Cosby story those many years ago. Forgive yourself.
This post is going to be focused on religion. I’ve done a bunch of posts over the years about how more and more people are leaving churches and organized religion as a whole, especially when it comes to people in my age bracket- the Millennials. But I got to thinking about all those who choose to stay, even when it means hellish experiences.
A few days ago (the 19th), on the Episcopal Church Liturgical Calendar, Saint Elizabeth of Hungary was honored. Check out her story from Forward Movement:
… Elizabeth was the daughter of the king of Hungary. She married Louis the Fourth, Landgrave of Thuringia, Germany. She was a loving and exemplary wife and mother. However, when she was only twenty years old, her husband was killed and she and her children became the wards of her husband’s cruel and selfish brother, Henry Raspe. Eventually he expelled Elizabeth and her children from the family home, Wartburg Castle.
That went downhill rather quickly. It gets worse:
Elizabeth sought refuge in the church in Marburg, but even there she was not kindly treated. The stern, powerful, and insensitive priest, Conrad, called “the Master of Marburg,” had her children taken from her and placed her in a convent of women Franciscans, known as Poor Clares. There she was treated with almost sadistic severity. “Like grass beaten by a thunderstorm,” to use her own phrase, she revived to become the most beloved “sister of the poor” of Marburg. She often sewed garments for poor children until her fingers bled, or went days without sleep while caring for the sick. She died in 1231, at the age of twenty-four.
Husband dead and then homeless, the worse treatment came from the very place commanded to aid the “widows and fatherless” as Scripture exhorts- The Church. Yet, Elizabeth persevered. Her story repeatedly went through my mind. Even if the entire “Church”- pastors, deacons, elders, the choir, the First Lady and the old Church Mother, too- made my life miserable, would I still serve God to the utmost? And if yes, would I still want to serve the Church?
Honestly, a big fat no, to that last question, and I think most people in this country would probably agree. There’s always another church or denomination. Of course, denom-hopping isn’t just for North Americans, as a recently released Pew Survey of Latin Americans reveals. From Catholic News Service:
Increasing numbers of Catholics in Latin America are abandoning the church in favor of evangelical congregations or nonreligious life, according to a new survey, making Pope Francis’ calls for renewed evangelization efforts in the region ever more urgent.
The Pew Research Center survey of 30,000 residents of 18 countries and Puerto Rico showed 69 percent of respondents confirming they were Catholic, even though 84 percent of people said they had been raised in the church. The Catholic population has slipped sharply over the past century, when their numbers topped 90 percent.
Evangelicals have pulled people away from parishes and into their church pews often by promoting what those converting would consider more attractive ways of worshipping the Lord, an emphasis on morality and solutions for their earthly afflictions — mostly poverty related, said Andrew Chesnut, religious studies professor at Virginia Commonwealth University. Some Central American countries and Uruguay now have almost as many Protestants or religiously unaffiliated people as Catholics in their populations.
If the trend continues, “even Brazil, home to the largest Catholic population on earth, will no longer have a Catholic majority by 2030,” said Chesnut, author of a book on evangelicals in Brazil. The survey underscores the urgency of the pope’s pleas for action in Latin America, where Catholicism has been intimately associated with culture, governance and history for more than 500 years.
Pope Francis has called for Catholics to adopt a more missionary mindset and take their faith to people on the periphery of society — places where Protestants often find converts. The Pew survey found evangelicals showing more enthusiasm for their faith, expressed by attending church services and praying more frequently, adherence to moral teachings and the level to which religion is important in their daily lives.
The level of enthusiasm “often is more demanding in terms of personal commitment,” said Chesnut, an academic consultant to the Pew survey. Protestants now make up 19 percent of the Latin American population, while another 8 percent now profess no religious affiliation — a figure reaching 37 percent in Uruguay.
Roughly half these people did not grow up in their current congregations or in nonreligious homes, according to the survey. Some 65 percent of Protestants in Latin America belong to evangelical congregations. “Christianity in Latin America is thoroughly ‘Pentecostalized,’ with 70 percent of Protestants and 40 percent of Catholics identifying as charismatic,” Chesnut said. “If it weren’t for Charismatic Renewal, Catholic decline probably would have been even greater.”
1. Millennials perceive established churches to have values that are entrenched in non-missional traditions. Millennials have values that focus on community, cooperation, and service to others. They see established churches as barriers to those values, institutions that are more concerned about maintaining the status quo rather than making a missional difference.
2. They perceive that much time in established churches is wasted catering to members’ personal preferences. For a number of Millennials, the established church feels more like a religious country club rather than an outwardly-focused organization. Budgets, ministries, and activities seem to be focused on preferences of members rather than reaching out to others.
There are three more points, but I kind of think they’re pretty much those two with a little more detail. I read this and lost count of all the typical buzzwords like “missional” and it’s inverse, “non-missional”, “outreach”, “community” and “outwardly-focused”. Meh. Stop with the Christianese marketing jargon already. I feel like these kind of articles/seminars/talks are part of the problem. This Millennial hates that for the past 15-20 years, so many churches employ such verbage as part of their outreach to us-outreach that feels so much like stale marketing and research techniques that corporations use to get customers. I don’t want to be “Mad Men”-ed into joing a church. No cons, gimmicks or giveaways. I don’t like hearing or reading what people of my generation *must* get in order to attend church. As if millions of people can all be reached by ditching denominations, or holding services in abondoned warehouses or active bowling alleys or bars, or giving the church a non-churchy name like “Ekklesia” or “The Stream” or “Mosaic” (and yes, I’m aware of the irony of using the Greek word ekklesia as a non-churchy name).
Speaking of Greek words, next up is a great BBC documentary on the King James Bible, which delves into the contentious battle that was going on at the time between the Church of England and the separatist Puritans and the King’s commissioning of a new better translation from the Greek that all parties might agree on.
From one King, to the next: listen to author Stephen King in this interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air about, among other things, his staid “Yankee” “Methodist” church childhood and his views on organized religion now. Here’s an excerpt from the transcript, and after, the whole interview for your listening pleasure.
KING: It’s [God and the afterlife, adf] certainly a subject that’s interested me. And I think it interests me more the older that I get. And I think we’d all like to believe that after we shuffle off this mortal coil, that there’s going to be something on the other side because for most of us, I know for me, life is so rich, so colorful and sensual and full of good things, things to read, things to eat, things to watch, places to go, new experiences, that I don’t want to think that you just go to darkness.
But as far as God and church and religion… and that sort of thing, I kind of always felt that organized religion was just basically a theological insurance scam where they’re saying if you spend time with us, guess what, you’re going to live forever. You’re going to go to some other plain where you’re going to be so happy. You’ll just be happy all the time, which is also kind of a scary idea to me.
So, after a post with Catholics becoming Prots, Millennials who don’t want to become leaders, historical squabbles between Anglicans and Puritans, and the King of horror admitting that an eternity of happy-clappy scares him… I ask you, Church- yea or nay?
The song for this week is Lenny Kravitz 21 year old classic, “Are You Gonna Go My Way?”, which according to SongFacts, is about Jesus Christ (who knew?). For me, no matter the church or building, I always want to follow The Way. Have a great (rest of the) weekend.