Why we should grieve grandma’s church
If we grieve fallen soldiers on Memorial Day, and we should, let me ask you something I’d like you to see and answer through a lens of nationalism. Why are we not acknowledging how churches have lost so much?
If we publicly and privately mourn and remember our nation’s defenders and battle heroes, and we have what I call a sacred day to do this, why aren’t we mourning a significant loss in religion today?
Religion has lost. All across the boards, and from every vantage point or theological location save Mennonites, the Amish and Mormons, my research clearly shows that all religious affiliations are down in number. Yes, there are pockets of growth in places, and, no matter where you stand on the religious spectrum, admit with me that this is a great joy, but I’m speaking overall. Some long-established denominations have had far more rapid declines than others, but there is something to not only see America, but also there is something to acknowledge, and it’s the decline or the slow death of many churches.
Grief is tricky business. I think most of us are in the denial phase. We just don’t see this happening, or, more specifically, we just don’t want to see this happening.
Then too, there are many who don’t care that religion is dimming on the American horizon. Those who harbor bad experiences, abuse, or metaphorical burns from religion look at less and less cars in church parking lots on Sunday mornings and think of the evolution of our culture, or that this is just the way it is supposed to be.
America, we have to grieve—even if you didn’t/don’t like religion. Why? Something has passed or is passing, and we need to see and feel what that is doing to us as individuals, and as a whole.
I get that some of you don’t like your grandma’s church. You were young. They were old. You saw “their” fallibilities at every turn; they saw that their vision just needed more work, patience and prayer.
While the specifics may have driven you away (and some of this parting is for the better as some past practices need to be broken), the generalities hold merit—and you know it. Teaching a society about love and acceptance, even if that message was poorly delivered, theologically disastrous, or just Plain Weird, we Americans are hearing less and less about love, each other, and how to get along.
We are also gathering less and arguing more. Some arguments need to happen, and sometimes we need to go off to quiet corners for a time, but the meeting ground for holiness is no longer what it was.
And we need to grieve that.
Think of a funeral of a loved one. From that service, I hope you carry pieces of that person inside you. Their values, philosophy, and way of life are not completely gone. They resonate within you.
Let this grief be for the church of yesterday, too. Some things need to go only so they can reinvent or reimagine themselves later. And they will. The gospel message does not die; it finds a way of retelling itself.
And God is not out of America. Instead, too many are not seeing God because they’re not seeing, hearing, and experiencing God in you and in those like you. Change that. Grieve. Reflect on what is lost and what remains. And then, after thinking of yesterday, go on in God’s love today.