In a few weeks I will celebrate/bemoan my 44th anniversary as a Christian. That should tell you a couple things. First, it’s a big, conflicted deal. Second, I’m still a Christian.
I know quite a few people who would call themselves ex-Christians. They would merely bemoan. And I understand that, too. It’s not particularly hard to fathom in God’s Own U.S. of A., circa 2019. I’m not Nostradamus, but nevertheless I don’t think it’s at all farfetched to think that the megachurches will be big, empty shells in 20 or 30 years, after the Boomers (yes, my generation) have died off with no younger generations to assume the mantles of leadership or Samsonite-chair sitters. From everything I see, the kids all took a good hard look at the proceedings and walked away. The hipster churches, which is where (at least in urban America) many of the kids landed will all have turned into mani-pedi spas or hair salons, possibly called Rockin’ Your Life! which will save money on having to change the sign out front. This is because the hipsters will have figured out that one guy with a goatee and one guitarist with a U2 obsession is as good as another, and that none of them are particularly worth getting out of bed for on a Sunday morning. The Protestant mainline denominations will continue their slow descent into irrelevancy. The Catholic Church will lose people in droves because of its institutional inflexibility and its ongoing stonewalling over violations of the physical, mental, and spiritual health of its parishioners. The Eastern Orthodox Church will probably do okay if Anglo-Saxons can get past the fact that they are not, and never will be Russian, Greek, or Slovenian. All of them, to a greater or lesser extent, will be dead or dying of a self-inflicted wound. The Christian Church in America, circa 2050, will be half as large as the current American Christian Church.
I believe that. This is not a shining era for the Christian Church in America. Some good, staunch Christians will explain this all away and tell you that it has ever been thus, and that spiritual rebellion will always lead to such consequences. They’re partly right, but they’re looking in the wrong direction. People are leaving for perfectly good reasons because churches are ridiculously, imperfectly bad. Horrible. When you’ve traded Jesus for an unfunny Archie Bunker, it’s not a good look. Ifso fatso, as Archie would say. When does it make more sense for those who wish to live a kind, moral, compassionate life to avoid Christian churches rather than be a part of them? 2019, the United States of America. That’s when. Who woulda thunk it, huh?
But in three weeks it will be the grand anniversary #44, the Born Again date, which is when everything theoretically became new. It didn’t work out that way. I am still thankful for that date, for the person I am becoming, for the person God made me to me. I am not that person many days. But some days I am, and that gives me hope. When I screw up, and I do, I try to engage in an ancient, mostly discredited Christian notion called repentance. That means saying to God, and to human beings I might have wronged, “I was wrong, and I was wrong in these specific ways. I’m sorry. I’m going to try not to do that – that specific thing that wronged you – ever again.” And I say it with a will. I put my heart and soul into it. This is Christianity 101, or so they used to tell me. It was a commonly understood truth. I wish the Christian Church in America still believed this. The bemoaning that will accompany the celebration will chiefly occur because I no longer think that the Christian Church in America has any standard of right and wrong, or any notion of repentance.