We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Saturday, June 1, 2013

We Love Our Walls

The latest Presbyterian numbers are out (here).  In 2012, the Presbyterian Church (USA) recorded a 5.3% decline in membership from 1,952,287 in 2011 to 1,849,496 in 2012. The denomination organized 13 new churches, closed 86 churches, and dismissed 110 congregations to other denominations.  The total loss is on the high end.  In some "good years," it is half or less of 5.3%.  But, then, the loss of so many churches to other denominations was a significant factor last year.

It is a fair question to ask our evangelical sisters and brothers in those departing congregations how they intend to witness to Christ's love in an increasingly secular, religiously skeptical world when they can't even find ways to lovingly witness to people of faith who largely share their core values whatever the differences driven by the hot button issues.  As evangelicals across America continue to separate themselves from the rest of American society, they only serve to build the walls between themselves and the rest of society higher and thicker.  How will they ever meaningfully and effectively share God's love from behind those walls?

On the other hand, as I wrote a couple of posts back (here), it is an equally good question to ask of progressive and moderate Presbyterians, "When will we ever learn to share our faith in ways that bring people to Christ and to church?"  Many of the dying Presbyterian and other mainline congregations have impressive records of public service done in Christ's name.  From all of that service, however, few individuals outside of the church if any discovered faith in Christ.

So, there's the irony for you.  A recent Gallup Poll (here) indicates that most Americans agree that religion is losing its influence in society and, interestingly, many of them think we would be better off if it didn't lose its influence.  But those who have a heart for evangelism cut themselves off from those they would evangelize.  Those who can best share faith effectively in our secular age aren't interested in doing so.  Indeed, they often reject the idea of faith-sharing (witnessing, evangelizing) as being "like them," that is the like "those narrow-minded" evangelicals.  We love our walls.