Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Christian Books II

Mary Eberstadt has written the definitive book
On the reasons for the decline in church attendance
At mainline Christian denominations in the classical "West,"
Entitled:  "How the West Really Lost God."

The title is a misnomer, probably dreamed up
By a publisher attempting to promote readership.
The subtitle is:  "A New Theory of Secularization,"
Which at least focuses on the principal conclusion.

And that is:  The decline of the traditional family
Has led directly to the decline of religious practice.
She sees the two as symbiotic, using the
Double helix of DNA as a metaphor.

She blames the sexual revolution, and all its manifestations,
And what is quaintly known as "womens' liberation"
As the proximate causes of church failure,
Without denigrating the merits of either social change.

This a scholarly work, bristling with references
That are carefully footnoted by chapter at the end.
But it is also an easy read, intelligible to anyone
With a modicum of education and interest in society.

Mrs. Eberstadt, wife, mother, and Roman Catholic
Critiques just about every relevant study of note.
She proves the universal fact about social science
Is that none of the applicable theories can be proven.

In the National Review of July 15, 2013,
W. Bradford Wilcox summarizes the book neatly.
Neither he nor the author propose any quick solution
Given the expanding trend of family dissolution.

One omitted element, which seems trivial at first,
Are the overwhelming demands on the time of two-earner parents.
Making church attendance a requisite for their children
Means giving up much of their unstructured time.

Eberstadt blames the mainline churches for retreating
From the proclamation of a moral code to their parishioners.
Perhaps they do not wish to chase anyone out of church,
Whereas fundamental churches center their faith upon it.

Neither Eberstadt nor Wilcox see a reversal anytime soon
In the "declining cultural and practical power of strong families."
And yet Eberstadt herself in a brief piece in First Things
Forecasts the possibility of reaction to the excesses of society.

Meanwhile, at our little church of modest means,
We cherish and praise the young parents in any family situation.
Our assistant pastor has revived the church school
To the point where it attracts more of them to regular attendance.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Community, Not Theology

A dear friend passed away last month
From Parkinson's disease.
He and his wife were our close friends
Until my wife died ten years ago.

When their older son died,
I suggested that they look for solace
In a church that offered "community,"
Relegating theology to later consideration.

So they joined the First Parish in Brewster
Where they found community
By plunging into church activities.
My friend managed the reconstruction
  of the historic meetinghouse.

The little church in which I now worship
Lost a third of the congregation to
  theological disputes.
It took our new pastor nearly four years
To rebuild a spirit of community.

Does that mean theology is not important?
Certainly not, but it does mean that
Splitting hairs about biblical interpretation
Results in conflicts that cannot be resolved.

Only God knows what is just and what is true.
A Christian denomination that stands on
Certain beliefs to the exclusion of everything else
Has arrogated to itself exclusive revelation
  from God.

The strength of the Anglican Communion
Has always been tolerance of diverse views
And different ways of worship among the
"High Church" and "Low Church" factions.

As Robin Williams has supposedly said:
"No matter what you believe,
You can always find one Episcopalian
Who agrees with you!"

To The Episcopal Church in the U.S.A., I wrote:
"You cannot force beliefs from the top down."
To the Anglican Church in North America, I wrote:
"You cannot build a church on being against something."

I have been to each, and survived by
Refusing to engage in theological debate,
Nor making my personal views known,
Instead, listening to what others reveal.

I have found godly people in each camp
And in churches that espouse no strong beliefs.
The principle that guides success for a church
Is respect for each person's discovery of faith.