No, I’m not talking about the “goth” is now mainstream (10+ years ago) mall retail stores. I’m referring to topics which people are talking a lot about here recently. I usually pay little attention to these types of conversations, because there’s generally so little of value ever said by anyone. I heard a report on NPR about the presidential election campaign this year. They demonstrated how both Democrats and Republicans had cut the other’s quotes out of context so badly as to create complete falsities. But the most disturbing things is, they reported that people generally don’t care if it’s true or not. People aren’t seeking truth and understanding; they’re merely seeking someone to say what they already believe.
My impression is that people in this country are becoming more polarized in their beliefs. I find it disturbing that people seem to be taking a sports fan mindset into politics. What I’m referring to is how people think their team can do no wrong and the other team can do no right. People often no longer look at the substance of an issue.
I find the Chic-Fil-A controversy a bit ridiculous and disturbing (because I can’t see this kind of rationale being consistently applied). Since when is purchasing the goods or services of a company an endorsement of the owners or employees beliefs? I for one feel no compulsion to either support or boycott Chic-Fil-A. Their owner did make some public statements which upset people; I am not bothered if they experience some consequences as a result. I’m guessing they’ll be just fine; boycotts don’t typically seem to be very effective except perhaps for increased exposure. After all, Chic-Fil-A has managed to prosper despite having never been open on Sundays—something unimaginable for most retail businesses. The big problem is if people claim that their success is a result of God’s favor for acting in a godly manner. This is very problematic, because no doubt many businesses have failed despite their owners trying to act in a godly way, as well as many businesses succeeding despite not behaving in a specifically godly way.
I don’t know how this next topic became hot, because I don’t believe it is anything too new. The fact on the table is that mainline denominations are experiencing decline in attendance. Apparently many conservatives have used this to attack the liberals, citing this as evidence that liberalism is on the wrong path. The problem is that as far as I am aware so far, this correlation has been based primarily on speculation. I haven’t seen any tangible evidence to establish a direct relationship between these. And this ignores the fact that overall conservative evangelicals are declining in attendance as well, despite not being liberal1. The declines are a church issue, not a liberal/conservative issue. (While mainline my be declining faster than conservative evangelical, I think that’s less important than the fact that both are in decline.) And as Rachel Held Evans pointed out, we ought to be working together to improve all our churches, rather than attacking one another. This fighting amongst ourselves (while we might not consider ourselves in the same group, to outsiders we’re all Christians) may be one reason for the church’s decline.
Along these lines, I was somewhat bothered by this article by David Murrow. He seems to contradict himself in certain ways through the course of the article. I think what bothered me the most was the suggestion that the bible is simply a rule book to enforce. Yes, there is the Mosaic Law found in the Old Testament, but this of course doesn’t constitute the whole of the Bible. The message of Christianity is that we live by the Holy Spirit and the principals he brings (“fruits of the Spirit”), not by a list of rules (legalism). Perhaps more people, men specifically, like a hard-lined approach; “This is the truth and if you don’t like it, tough.” But just because more people seem to prefer this doesn’t make it correct.
Besides this, do you think women have as much of a “velvet veto” power as Murrow suggests? Also, do you think this is true: “Here’s a frustrating truth about men: when women step up to lead, men step back.” Is this true? Does female leadership lead to decline? Is the only answer to keep women out of leadership, or at least put some limit on them?
In my opinion, the reason we see a decline in church attendance across the board is because we’ve focused primarily on an hour a week spectator event which has little relation to people’s lives, faith, spirituality, or Christ. People understand this, though more implicitly than explicitly, and their behavior reflects this reality. Do you really think that people would only attend church when convenient if they were actually having significant spiritual experiences and if they were routinely encountering Christ? (Of course this isn’t something we can manufacture. We’ve got to pray for it and then be open to God leading us to do something which may look radically different than traditional church—liberal or conservative.)