Friday, February 17, 2012

Tain't necessarily so

Well, last week’s hooting and hollering about the Church of Christ preacher in Des Moines who posted “Gay is not OK” on his sign along Army Post Road was resolved peacefully. About 100 “gay is ok” protesters gathered outside on Sunday morning, about 150 gathered inside to hear the sermon of that title, including a few protesters who just sat there and listened. Everyone was polite, then everyone went home.

The interesting thing about the whole thing was, or so it seemed to me, that this was the major religion story reported upon in Iowa over the weekend.

And then during the week, national reporting related to religion was dominated by more hooting and hollering from Roman Catholic bishops nationwide about a requirement, modified midweek, that church-owned commercial operations --- hospitals and the like --- provide free contraceptive care to their employees. Plus the usual reports on bishops, preachers and self-styled Christian activists from a variety of denominations objecting as same-sex marriage was signed into law in Washington and advanced in New Jersey, perhaps in Maryland. And a skirmish here and there related to abortion.

The inevitable conclusion among the majority of Americans --- who don’t go to church --- if the majority relies at all on the media, probably would have continued to be, “wow, all those guys think about is sex.”

That may not be the case, of course, but churches in which attention is paid to other matters just aren’t making much noise. I guess some evangelical congregations still are concerned about saving souls. And probably some congregations elsewhere in the denominational mix still are concerned about serving up the sacraments. But how would you know?

And you can’t really blame the media for this misunderstanding, if indeed it is one --- reporters, like small children, are attracted by loud noises and bright and shiny stuff. Besides, many of them don’t get out much any more --- let alone know anything about religion.


We were sitting around at the annual meeting in church a few Sundays ago, joining the chorus of whines across Christendom about the declining number of children --- they’re the future of the church, somebody said.

Taint necessarily so. Despite the old saw from Proverbs, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Trained-up children increasingly depart.

So it’s likely that kids aren't the most important element in the future of the church --- that their parents are, plus all those other young to middling adults bored, turned off and sleeping in/ And crotchety grandparent types who have gotten fed up and have departed, too. Everybody’s the future of the church --- and will decide if it’s worth keeping.

But what if it’s not worth keeping? Hmmm. I mean, what’s left when the imagined fires of hell have been quenched and fear of eternal damnation has been extinguished? And as increasing numbers of folks discover that those guys the church told you to hate really aren’t that bad after all?


I’m intrigued by the title of Diana Butler Bass’s new book, “Christianity after Religion.” Bass has recovered both from being raised a Methodist and a season in the evangelical desert and has now reached the promised land among Episcopalians. Think I’ll order a copy and see what she has to say. Here’s a taste of it, via YouTube.

No comments: