The Peace Corps in ecclesiastical drag is what modern churches often resemble. You want to work for sustainable development? Well, then, off to church we go. It sounds a little silly, because it is silly. The government and a complex of secular organizations already address these concerns, often quite intelligently. The ordering of the human relationship to God is the normal purpose of religion. Of course, as the New York Times' front-page story reminds us, no one is required to believe in God. Whoever wants can form a secular humanist society in order to do whatever secular humanist societies do: chiefly, it seems, rail at religious "stupidities."
The non-beauty, sometimes, of the drift away from church affiliation is that the drifter -- as the Pew study shows -- wants to believe, but receives inadequate encouragement from those supposedly in the business of encouraging. Great numbers of Christian ministers seem to have missed their calling as research scientists, public policy experts, or congressmen.
No age is ever completely religious or completely secular. The present age takes some kind of cake for nearly complete confusion about what we're doing here in the first place. The modern churches' inability -- or unwillingness -- to connect human existence to human ends is undermining the churches themselves: Mrs. Jefferts Schori's (and my) church, for instance.
A committee of the Episcopal Church recently acknowledged that the church lost 10.5 percent of its members between 2003 and 2007, after it threw over traditional scriptural teaching about marriage relationships and consecrated a gay divorced man as bishop of New Hampshire.
Actions have consequences, the churches are finding. Non-actions, too. A Christian body isn't required by statute to soar in spirit at the idea of bringing others "to Christ." What happens when it doesn't soar would seem a topic for volumes of sermons.
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