Rushville Republican

Church

December 7, 2012

Where love begins

RUSHVILLE — According to the Pew Research Center’s recently released report, a full one-fifth of Americans are now unattached to religion, and the Protestant majority is no longer that; Protestant Christians now make up less than 50% of the population.

News agencies reported this news as statistical facts with maybe a raised eyebrow of curiosity while some agnostics celebrated the dawn of a new secularism. Meanwhile, fretful pulpiteers wrung their sweaty hands as they thundered to their shrinking congregations about the end of Christianity, threats against morality, and this trend that confirms that the apocalypse is upon us.

The illustrious Garrison Keillor had the cleverest response of all. If the statistics are true, he mused, then it means the death of the some of the world’s finest cuisine: The end of church potluck dinners. While some mourned over the condition of souls, he crooned with tongue deeply in cheek, his concern was the future of Lutheran casseroles.

Well, it seems the statistics are correct, and those of us who spend time in the church know it, and know it is no laughing matter. We don’t need an exhaustive study to confirm that the church is dwindling. A growing population is indeed unengaged with organized religion. They aren’t necessarily atheistic, nor are they antagonistic toward faith. They are simply uninvolved.

Why? Some of it is demographic, related to the age of our transitioning generations. Some of it is the natural evolvement of a Western society, and the result of an increasingly diverse nation. But frankly, and this cannot be ignored, the church has earned this decline all by its institutional self.  

The Pew Report confirms that the religiously unaffiliated think that religious organizations are “too concerned with money and power, too focused on rules and too involved in politics.” As one deeply committed to the Christian faith, I could not more heartily agree; I say, “Amen.”

Combine this study with the respected statistics of the Barna Research Group (which is an evangelical think tank), and the situation becomes clearer still. According to Barna, those unaffiliated with religion use several primary words to describe Christianity, words that include: “Anti-gay, judgmental, hypocritical and insensitive.”

I know not every Christian behaves harshly toward others. The most gracious, caring and welcoming people I have ever met are Christians, fixed firmly within the institution. But I admit that the most obnoxious, hateful and critical individuals I have ever met are also religious people. This has to change.

“Change,” you ask? “Are you saying we should change our beliefs just to salvage our fleeting market share?” No. Market share has nothing to do with it, but how we treat others has everything to do with it. How can we who follow the loving, open-hearted, redemptive Christ be anything but loving, open-hearted and redemptive people?

The longer I do this kind of work, and the longer I see these kinds of recent statistics, the more strongly I feel that the last thing most communities need is just another religious institution: An institution that pounds the pulpit and its parishioners with unyielding dogma; that points fingers, condemns and excludes others from the love of God; that can never confess its shortcomings, admit when it has been wrong, or meet people where they are, rather than demanding that people come to it.

No, communities don’t need more hardened, inflexible places like these; but every community needs simple, uncomplicated, receptive places. Every community needs launch pads of empowerment and liberation. Every community needs a communion of friendship, freedom and faith that will build bridges of grace to the world, not boundaries of separation and marginalization. Simply, every community needs a place of radical hospitality and attraction that welcomes all to know a loving God.

I call these places “church.” Yes, I know, some churches are far better at being judgmental religious institutions than being living bodies of service and compassion, but my hope endures. My hope endures because where hardened institutionalism ends, love can begin, and the love of God is the most attractive force in the universe.

Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, speaker, and author of multiple books. You can read more and receive regular e-columns in your inbox at www.ronniemcbrayer.me.

 

1
Text Only
Church
  • Things I have learned in my lifetime In celebrating my recent birthday, I found myself caught up in a case of nostalgia. I never imagined I would really get this old. Not that I am old, mind you, but I have reached the point in life I never thought I would when I was younger. Had I know

    August 1, 2014

  • What a wonderful world This coming week marks the birthday of a man who Bing Crosby called, “the beginning and the end of music in America.” Born in the sweltering heat of a New Orleans’ August, the grandson of former slaves, and suffering abject poverty, that man was Loui

    August 1, 2014

  • Church Briefs First Southern Baptist ChurchFirst Southern Baptist Church will host a REVIVAL in South Memorial Park at 7 p.m. Friday, 7 p.m. Saturday and 10:30 a.m. Sunday. Bro. Kevin Cain will be preaching at each meeting with The Highlights providing ministry in

    August 1, 2014

  • Let go…or be dragged A friend who has some experience with rodeo horses sent me a most picturesque proverb: “Let go or be dragged.” Whether this phrase was first spoken by a Zen master who had achieved enlightenment on the mountainside, or by a battered cowboy nursing hi

    July 25, 2014

  • A year older, but not that much smarter I think I am in a rut. No matter how hard I work, I do not seem to be getting any further along in life. Could it be that somewhere in my past, I peaked and did not realize it? If so, I wish I knew about it so at least I could have the consolation th

    July 25, 2014

  • church briefs Faith Baptist Church - Morristown Dr. Wayne Scott, pastorSunday, July 27 - Sunday school at 9:30 a.m., worship service at 10:30 a.m., followed by a pitch-in lunch at noon and an afternoon service at 2 p.m. with a baptismal service at Hancock Reform B

    July 25, 2014

  • Church Briefs First Baptist Church of Rushville“Children should be seen and not heard.” I’ve heard adults say that at times, especially in years gone by. I understand what they mean in some respects. “Children should not interrupt or be a distraction when importan

    July 18, 2014

  • Keeping the Faith: Hitting the Road Here we are, deep in the throes of the rituals of summer. School is out, vacation days are being cashed in, and picnic baskets are being packed. Barbecues are firing, pools are splashing, and ice cream trucks are rolling. Meanwhile, thousands, yea mi

    July 18, 2014

  • religion briefs Senate Democrats seek to reverse Hobby Lobby ruling WASHINGTON (AP) - The Senate is preparing to vote on a Democratic-sponsored bill aimed at ensuring that women receive free contraception coverage even if they work for a company that has a religious

    July 18, 2014

  • Let It Go, Let Go, Let It Go This year I celebrate my 20th year as a practicing grandfather. I am not sure that after 20 years I know anything more about being a grandfather than I did before. I have not found any books written on how to be a grandfather, maybe I should write on

    July 18, 2014

Featured Ads
AP Video
Couple Channel Grief Into Soldiers' Retreat WWI Aviation Still Alive at Aerodrome in NY Raw: Rescuers at Taiwan Explosion Scene Raw: Woman Who Faced Death Over Faith in N.H. Clinton Before 9-11: Could Have Killed Bin Laden Netanyahu Vows to Destroy Hamas Tunnels Obama Slams Republicans Over Lawsuit House Leaders Trade Blame for Inaction Malaysian PM: Stop Fighting in Ukraine Cantor Warns of Instability, Terror in Farewell Ravens' Ray Rice: 'I Made a Huge Mistake' Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers Small Plane Crash in San Diego Parking Lot Busy Franco's Not Afraid of Overexposure Fighting Blocks Access to Ukraine Crash Site Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida Workers Dig for Survivors After India Landslide Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.