14 November 2019

When bad news is good news

Thirteen years ago, I wrote a blog post, Can evangelicals reproduce?, which was sparked by a New York Times article, "Evangelicals fear the loss of their teenagers." The downward trend that Ron Luce bemoaned seems to be continuing, along with a stream of articles about this exodus from the churches.

I mentioned a couple of these articles a few weeks ago in the links section. "Two different takes on trends in church-going attendance among younger adults: Christine Emba. Rick Snedeker." Some of the evidence suggests that demographic and sociological trends are driving this loss of attendance, but Vance Morgan, in his blog post Noah and his children: bad news for white evangelical Christians, cites recent op-ed columns by Michael Gerson in support of another major factor: the church is actually driving them away.
The younger generation of people raised in evangelicalism have “an allergic reaction to the religious right.” Imagine that. The very movement created, largely by white evangelicals, for the expressed purpose of strengthening the role of religion in the public square has managed to alienate greater and greater numbers of Americans, particularly the young, from religion.
I'm sure that some leaders, whose concern for tradition and power exceeds their desire to do actual evangelism, will say that these trends prove that this generation cannot endure the gospel, that Paul's prophecy in 2 Timothy 4:3 is coming true:
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.
I'm sure that this is a fair criticism some percentage of the time. But this sort of pandering has been going on forever -- Paul himself complained about it in his own time. Question: which of these is a more likely factor in this era's exodus from the churches: new waves of massive rebellion against the gracious good news of Jesus, or an unholy enmeshment of Christian celebrity culture with right-wing politics ... and now with a president who boasts openly -- and, for the most part, accurately -- that "the evangelicals love me"?

(At the risk of overinterpreting the word "the" -- it sounds to me as if Trump is referring to "the evangelicals" not as a family he himself identifies with, but as a voting bloc he has won over.)

The ones who are refusing to "put up with sound doctrine" are those who have neglected evangelism by word and deed, preferring to use the power of religious language to divide and manipulate. This is not attractive -- it is repulsive, and the statistics reflect it. It's in this sense that bad news (for the religious establishment) is good news. It is good news that these compromised versions of the Gospel, in which Jesus barely gets the time of day, are being unmasked. Let's now serve a Gospel that makes its way in the public marketplace of ideas and inspiration through its own merits, free from association with the unholy agendas that threatened its good name.

Cat update: (This is probably what you really came here for.)

It's been just over three weeks since our two little Hebron kitties joined our team, and one week since we started giving them solid-ish food. They have continued to do well. Today we switched them to dry cat food, soaked for a little while in some water to soften the food. They took to it immediately.

Both kittens are growing, but slowly. Latest development: a few days ago, the smaller kitty began purring for the first time, and began letting us hold her for more than a few short seconds.

Postmission is a book that examined generational tensions within evangelical Christianity specifically in the missionary scene, back at the beginning of this century. Go to this post and scroll down for some of the writers' diagnoses.

Helena Cobban resurrects Just World News.

The fall of the Berlin Wall: a day when way opened.

All the days ordained for me.... Life would almost seem normal, except it isn't.

I played the studio version of Derek Lamson's song this morning for our team's reflection time, as we sat under our office's memorial plaque for Tom Fox.


Derek "Longshot" Lamson said...

Shucks...garsh... back in the day, when our snakeskin boots were new...

Johan Maurer said...

Hi, Derek! Hard to believe it's been this long since Tom's death. Thanks for helping memorialize his witness.

Derek "Longshot" Lamson said...

Thank you for being there, Johan. In Jesus' name, thank you.