The Religious Right is Scared

The writer of their article published by the Daily Beast unknowingly got it half right for reasons the writer couldn’t have known.  In order to sell magazines and papers the American press has leaned in the direction of sensationalism.  An article reporting on the decline in church attendance in America is not news. An editor seeking to catch reader’s attention adds a partisan slant to the headline.
Read the rest of the article to understand the writer’s point of view. These issues are not new but the article did inspire this writer to submit an apologist response based in spiritual reality.  
The American church has changed radically over time. Long gone are Aunt Bea and Andy singing in the church choir (e.g. The Andy Griffith Show) .   Small town churches where traditional and cultural ties help bind members into normative behavior and in the best circumstances, worship.   Traditional churches inside cities are closing as second and third generation parishioners move farther into the suburbs.  Congregations that sing four verses of hymns and recite litanies predominately are older and certainly have begun to hemorrhage younger couples and teens.  Most importantly, as it appears [in a purely anecdotal way], the charismatic (spirit-filled) congregations that learn to adapt to a browner America and adhere to a living Word  are flourishing and attracting young families and youth.
The Religious Right, traditionalists and posers  who are in Christ’s words, “whited sepulchers” without sincerity or integrity will not survive the shaking spoken of in Hebrews 12:25-27.  Already we have seen difficulties and losses from those who wouldn’t take persecution.  Who is willing to be hated for the sake of Christ and the Kingdom?
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The Religious Church i.e. the churchers who work to propel themselves in an attempt to engender God’s affection is getting smaller and losing momentum. This is a subset of Christ’s church who sincerely believe that they are doing what they are supposed to do while inadvertently slowing or blocking sincere seekers.  These are they who by virtue of tradition and habit find themselves doing church work week after week, month after month but their sense of conscious contact [worship] is missing. Jesus said 
          [7]  Their worship is a farce,  for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’
and again,
          [13]  And so you cancel the word of God in order to hand down your own tradition. And this is only one example among many others.”  (Mark 7: 7, 13 NLT)
Religion in its many forms is causing severe damage to civilization by people who have been radicalized or who have convinced themselves that their own thoughts and/or desires have been transmitted from the very throne room of God. In many places authority is in place that keeps error in check, but not everywhere.  Hence radicals, terrorists and zealots have many more people and non-believers cringing in fear and bewilderment. 
The actual word wicked comes from the root wicca  from which also comes the word wicker meaning twisted  i.e. not straight (like the truth).  This is the insidious part of any lie, within it is some form of truth but it has been twisted in some way and as a result becomes a stumbling block.  We could discuss abortion, for example.  It is wrong to kill an unborn fetus. Period.  But it is just as wrong [if not worse] to terrorize and threaten innocent bystanders and health workers with destructive weapons and violence. Religious thinking [and in this case wicked thinking] promotes this type of behavior.  Wars, genocide and atrocities have begun this way.
The Bible says: “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” (Romans 12:18) That statement alone denounces so many acts of people who consider themselves religious but act with impunity in ways that disgrace and dishonor the god(s) they say they serve.  This should not be.

photo: trinitychurchboston.org

The Man Who Was a Fool; sermon by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

It’s very late on the day we celebrate Dr. King’s birthday and year after year, I rarely find anyone who knows anything beyond the “I Have A Dream” speech. Hence, I began sharing excerpts from some of his sermons.  This sermon based on the parable of the Rich Man from Luke 16:16-21.  In the interest of brevity I will only share some excerpts.  In this sermon Dr. King showed extraordinary foresight into the future.  He describes how the rich man was a fool and how similar thinking continues to keep the United States in bondage to this day.

     The rich man was a fool because he permitted the ends for which he lived to become confused with the means by which he lived.  Jesus realized that we need food, clothing, shelter, and economic security.  He said in clear and concise terms: “Your Father knoweth what things you have need of.”  

The tragedy of the rich man was that he sought the means first and in the process the ends were swallowed in the means.  We can clearly see the meaning of the parable for the present world crisis.  Our nation’s productive machinery constantly brings forth such an abundance of food that we must build bigger barns and spend more than a million dollars daily to store our surplus.  Year after year we ask, “What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?” I have seen an answer in the faces of millions of poverty-stricken men and women in Asia, Africa and South America.  I have seen an answer in the appalling poverty in the Mississippi Delta and the tragic insecurity of the unemployed in large industrial cities of the North.  What can we do?  The answer is simple. We can store our surplus food free of charge in the shriveled stomachs of the millions of God’s children who go to bed hungry at night.  We can use our vast resources of wealth to wipe poverty from the earth.

In a real sense, all life is interrelated.  All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.  I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.  This is the interrelated structure of reality. 

The rich man tragically failed to realize this. He thought that he could live and grow in his little self-centered world.  He was an individualist gone wild. Indeed, he as an eternal fool!

May it not be that the “certain rich man” is Western civilization:  Rich in goods and material resources, our standards of success are almost inextricably bound to the lust for acquisition.  The means by which we live are marvelous indeed.  And yet something is missing. We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers.  Our abundance has brought us neither peace of mind nor serenity of spirit.  An Oriental writer has portrayed our dilemma in candid terms:

     You call your thousand material devices “labor-saving machinery” yet you are forever “busy”. With the multiplying of your machinery you grow increasingly fatigued, anxious, nervous, dissatisfied. Whatever you have, you want more: and wherever you are you want to go somewhere else . . . 

Like the rich man of old, we have foolishly minimized the internal and maximized the external.  we will not find peace in our generation until we learn anew that “a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth”.   Our generation cannot escape the question of our Lord:  What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world of externals-airplanes, electric lights, automobiles, and the color television-and lose the internal-his own soul. 

 

An excerpt from Strength to Love, published 1963 by Martin Luther King Jr.