Today’s poll from the Pew Forum tells us that nearly one in five Americans are ‘nones’. That is to say, they do not affiliate with any religious denomination. Fox News headlines it as “America No Longer Has a Protestant Majority.” The reality is that all the denominations are down and an increasing number of Americans are choosing not to join a church at all.
Why is this? Lots of reasons: There are social and demographic reasons. 1. Increased mobility. Religion is nurtured within families and local clans of people. People are increasingly on the move and the family pressure to belong to a church dwindles when people live alone or move to another locality. 2. Increased affluence. Rich people don’t have much time for religion. 3. Increasing secularization of education. State schools and colleges are becoming not only more secular, but more atheistic. 4. Breakdown of family.Family supports religion. Family breaks down: religion contracts.
Then there are the pretty terrible ‘own goals’ scored by the churches. 1. Sex, power and money scandals across the denominations undermine authority and betray trust. 2. Creeping liberalism doctrinally. You can’t expect a religion to be doing very well if her ministers and theologians spend most of their time denying the central tenets of the faith. This is especially strong in mainline Protestantism, but Catholics have our share of heretics. 3. Relaxation of moral codes: A religion that lets the moral code slide doesn’t last long. Cohabitation, remarriage after divorce, homosexuality, you name it…no Christian leaders want to speak out against sin. 4. Utilitarian and entertainment religion. The churches have opted for a soft sell, easygoing mixture of entertainment, self help philosophy and sentimentality. That might work in the short term, but it’s a killer for the long term commitment. 5. Complacency. American Christians are over fed, over indulged and lazy.
It’s nothing new. It’s all there in the Book of Revelation where the prophet sees seven churches and hears the Lord’s words to them. Here’s what he says to the Christians at Laodecia in Revelation chapter 3.
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
Meanwhile, Pope Benedict nails it. Agreeing with the Book of Revelation, he says here that being lukewarm is the greatest danger for Catholics. The Church in this country will only return when it returns to its core mission of living and proclaiming the victorious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. What we need are saints–radical Catholics who are willing to give all and serve all in the name of the gospel
I’m talking about the church militant. But lest people get the heebie jeebies and think I’m talking about righteous crusades and people marching out to war and flying airplanes into skyscrapers–what I by ‘militant Catholicism’ is that individuals and communities step out in a joyful and dynamic way to live the gospel again–to cut through all the suburban, tacky, gaudy junk we think is so important and get a fire in our belly and the fire in our hearts.
That is actually what Catholics mean by living the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic faith. In unity and holiness we live out a common and universal faith with apostolic zeal, vigor and joy.
The lukewarm ones? I’m with Jesus. I want to spit them out.