Monday, December 14, 2009

The Evolution of Religion

Some essays that have recently caught my eye:
  • An Evangelical Christian frets about The Coming Evangelical Collapse, correctly noting some trends but overstating their likely consequences. One of the issues? Due to heavy church focus on things other than religion, "Our young people have deep beliefs about the culture war, but do not know why they should obey scripture, the essentials of theology, or the experience of spiritual discipline and community."

  • A commentary describing how churches have been affected by their shift from focusing on theology to focusing on social change.

    Christianity insofar as it is identified with a social agenda, whether liberal or conservative, will lose. Liberal churches are dying. Non-realist theology has little popular appeal: most laypeople who don't believe in God see no reason to go to church. There are innumerable secular organisations devoted to promoting social improvement and no reason why they should work for social justice under religious auspices. Conservative churches are identified with a social agenda that an increasing number of people find unacceptable.
    The author suggests that churches might "re-engage with theology, arguments concerning the existence and nature of God, and even with mysticism, the quest for direct experience of God", although if the author's correct I doubt that would connect with the secularized audience they wish to attract back. Further, if churches encourage parishioners to engage in direct discourse with God, a substantial number will find that God isn't telling them the same thing as their priest.

  • An exposition on how a conception of "positive thinking", positing that the right mindset can make you rich, percolates itself through American thinking and some churches. Most often it's the proponents of that notion who get rich, not people who buy their products or donate to their churches.

  • How the Anglican Church seems to have had a much easier time deciding to decry tolerance of homosexuality by its priests in America than to criticize Uganda's proposed genocidal policies toward gays.

    Under [Archbishop Rowan] Williams, the church that marries two women who love each other is to be thrown out of the Anglican Communion. The church that would jail them both for life, and would revile and persecute their defenders, stays snugly in his bosom. Not even the Archbishop's remarkable gift for obfuscation can conceal these facts forever.
    (A couple of days ago Williams finally got around to criticizing the Ugandan bill.)

  • Charles Blow highlights the wide gulf between the religious beliefs of Americans and the religions they claim to follow. (He doesn't mention the interesting notion that many Christians have that angels are sweet, loving, benign beings who watch over us to protect us from harm.)

  • With due respect given to the "generational horizon" projected in the previously linked articles about Evangelicals, it could be worse. Spain's Catholic Church faces a very serious shortage of priests.

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