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The Future of American Christianity

Cor Luctis

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A recent opinion article attributes the decline in Christian affiliation and church attendance at least in part to a backlash against the "Christian right", especially among young people.

While prominent progressive Christian voices exist, too often the loudest voices in American Christianity often sound nothing like Jesus — the radical healer and teacher who taught his followers to love their neighbor and free the oppressed. The "Jesus Saves" signs at the US Capitol insurrection, Franklin Graham and Marjorie Taylor Greene's excoriations of LGBTQ rights and the US Catholic hierarchy's abysmal response to the sexual abuse scandal all make a mockery of Christian teaching about love, dignity and justice.

Recent legislation on the state level such as that allowing doctors to refuse to treat LGBT patients on the basis of religious conviction seems to run contrary to the example of Christ himself. The actions of many who claim to be Christians often fail that test of "What Would Jesus Do?" (WWJD) once popularized on everything from t-shirts to jewelry to coffee mugs.

This decline isn't limited to Christianity:
Consternation about church decline and the secularization of America reached a fever pitch this Holy Week when Gallup released a new poll that found a majority of Americans do not belong to church, synagogue or mosque. This was the first time the membership percentage fell below a majority since Gallup first started asking the question in 1937.

These findings are troubling to many. "This is perhaps the most distressing graph related to the future of America," Eric Sammons, editor-in-chief of the conservative Catholic Crisis Magazine wrote on Twitter, adding, "We are officially living in a pagan nation."
It is worth observing that paganism is a religion, too, but that's not the point here. The author continues with the hope (wishful thinking?) that:
This Easter, I hope my fellow Christians who deeply care about the future of our movement to spread the Gospel of love will recommit ourselves to build a movement that more people want to join. We must contest the popular depiction of what it means to be a Christian today. Church decline is not a rejection of our message of love, it's a rejection of our movement's failure to model that message for the world.

. . . we as Christians should not look for the living Jesus movement among the dead remains of conservative Christian hate that looks nothing like the love Jesus embodied. Instead, we should look forward to a resurrection of Christianity that fights system oppression and stands in solidarity with the most vulnerable. We should look for the living of the Gospel among America's youth today. Alongside their relative lack of formal religious devotion, today's young Americans are known for their commitment to social justice.

Even in our threads here, people have bemoaned the bad name some Christian groups give to the faith. It is hardly surprising that some people are driven away by that. Is tapping into the desire for social justice of American youth the way for Christian churches to be revitalized?

Thoughts?
 

Totenkindly

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Even in our threads here, people have bemoaned the bad name some Christian groups give to the faith. It is hardly surprising that some people are driven away by that. Is tapping into the desire for social justice of American youth the way for Christian churches to be revitalized?

Thoughts?

Well, it's a good point. It's late and I don't have the mental acuity right now to wax on about it, but yeah -- I think if American Christians actually didn't obsess over abortion and anti-LGBT sentiment and trying to remake America into a "Christian nation" legally (by their definition) and instead tapped into fighting against racism, oppression, poverty / oppression by the rich, getting people a living wage, and all that jazz... well, hell, yes, that is a message that would resonate to people in their 40's and younger. Most of them can't even afford to get married, buy a house, pay off their education loans, and have children anymore -- Christianity is going to have to actually dig down and find the "rubber meets the road" instead of trying to legislate theocracy and doctrinal stances they get stoked about.

It's really ironic. Christianity in trying to "save the country" is going to lose it because they are just trying to control things harder and harder; meanwhile, if the followers would loosen up, focus on where people are and what they need, view them as people rather than as targets for conversion, and help those people with everything they have, then they are much more able to make Christianity look enticing and valuable. "The faith that seeks to save its life will lose it" so to speak.'

People haven't become "immoral," they have a strong morality they feel like the church doesn't care at all about, based on actual love of others.
 

Red Memories

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This is my post reminder to come back to this as a young 20-something Christian who left organized church I gotz an essay worth of thoughts.
 

Abcdenfp

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Well, it's a good point. It's late and I don't have the mental acuity right now to wax on about it, but yeah -- I think if American Christians actually didn't obsess over abortion and anti-LGBT sentiment and trying to remake America into a "Christian nation" legally (by their definition) and instead tapped into fighting against racism, oppression, poverty / oppression by the rich, getting people a living wage, and all that jazz... well, hell, yes, that is a message that would resonate to people in their 40's and younger. Most of them can't even afford to get married, buy a house, pay off their education loans, and have children anymore -- Christianity is going to have to actually dig down and find the "rubber meets the road" instead of trying to legislate theocracy and doctrinal stances they get stoked about. It's really ironic. Christianity in trying to "save the country" is going to lose it because they are just trying to control things harder and harder; meanwhile, if the followers would loosen up, focus on where people are and what they need, view them as people rather than as targets for conversion, and help those people with everything they have, then they are much more able to make Christianity look enticing and valuable. "The faith that seeks to save its life will lose it" so to speak.' People haven't become "immoral," they have a strong morality they feel like the church doesn't care at all about, based on actual love of others.
^^^^ exactly.
 

Doctor Anaximander

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I blame evangelists. They brought this on themselves

They have the crudest, most rigid interpretation of scripture I’ve ever experienced. It goes hand in hand with political authoritarianism and materialism. I’ve rarely met one with an ounce of imagination, curiosity or intelligence, and if I did, they usually ended up eventually leaving religion or converting to a denomination like Unitarianism or Episcopalian. One split off to form his own ministry in the city that actually worked to help the poor and homeless get a leg up.

Sorry if I just repeated the obvious. I’m at work and will read the article later.
 

Doctor Anaximander

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Also, for all the right wingers’ complaints of leftists virtue signaling, in my experience it’s been fundamentalist Christians who tend to make the biggest show of signaling their supposed selflessness and charity to everyone in ear shot or everyone reading their social media feeds. That’s pride and vanity in a nutshell.

Your church knit a few scarves for the homeless? Great. Good for you, I see a lot of people liked your post about it on Facebook
 

Lark

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A recent opinion article attributes the decline in Christian affiliation and church attendance at least in part to a backlash against the "Christian right", especially among young people.



Recent legislation on the state level such as that allowing doctors to refuse to treat LGBT patients on the basis of religious conviction seems to run contrary to the example of Christ himself. The actions of many who claim to be Christians often fail that test of "What Would Jesus Do?" (WWJD) once popularized on everything from t-shirts to jewelry to coffee mugs.

This decline isn't limited to Christianity:

It is worth observing that paganism is a religion, too, but that's not the point here. The author continues with the hope (wishful thinking?) that:


Even in our threads here, people have bemoaned the bad name some Christian groups give to the faith. It is hardly surprising that some people are driven away by that. Is tapping into the desire for social justice of American youth the way for Christian churches to be revitalized?

Thoughts?

Was there an LGBT movement in Jesus day? I wonder if he would have been familiar with any of the behaviour of homosexuals let alone the others who make up those movements, I do wonder what Jesus would make of a lot of the normative struggles and culture wars which are typical of the american scene presently.

I do know that there are plenty of examples of Jesus in conflict with the authorities of his day, his teachings were entirely consistent with much of the tradition into which he was born but they also transcended it, I see it as a kind of conflict between a chaotic-good/neutral-good and lawful-good authority, there is the imperial occupation as a background but that is mainly it.

At the heart of Jesus teaching I think there is a perennial truth, the greater the formal law, the greater the need for enforcement, then the weaker the conscience or consciousness of what is right.

I think there are important lessons in that for those who are making greater and greater recourse to legal sanction in order to bring about their own personal and private morals, norms, mores as a public new world order. It will fail. If it does not then the likely end point will look very different from the hoped for one. And this time there will be no messiah to provoke any rethink or second thoughts on the matter.
 

Doctor Anaximander

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I do know Jesus wasn’t aftraid to mingle with prostitutes and the supposed dregs of society. He likely would have responded similarly to the lesbian or trans kid excommunicated by their church in the 21st century.
 

Lark

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There's nothing new in this to be honest, I also think some of the conflating with political causes is regrettable, highly regrettable, as while there are temporal dimensions to most belief systems the spiritual is not the temporal. Jesus was pretty clear on that point. Repeatedly so actually. Its something I know has been endlessly considered by liberation theologians in my own tradition.

I dont think that it is simply religions which are considered at their worst rather than at their best, unfortunately I see most of religion's detractors or most of the possible alternatives repeating the faults, failings and well trodden paths of the supposed precursor (if you believe the linear progress idea).

The history of socialism is pretty sobering as an early attempt at finding a substitute, Marx thought that philosophy was the substitute, as did a lot of his contemporaries, after Hegel, and they largely thought that religion would vanish in their life time or the life time of their immediate grandchildren. It didnt. Instead the new movements took on A HELL OF A LOT of the traits of the older earlier, critically appraised, ones, Engels devoted books to it, Karl Kautsky, a marxist philosophy, wrote a history of chirstianity, so did Bernstein, an early democrat and revisionist of marxism.

Its part of why I got so interested in psychology, typology and psycho-analysis, the seems to be something else working itself out which is deeper seated and politics, culture, norms, conventions, the works are all vassels, vehicles and flags of convenience for it. At least its my take. So far as christianity goes, I think Kirkegaard wrote a lot of good stuff about being a Christian contra formal, official, established Christendom, although in a much less secularized context, the priests he criticized really where officials, civil servants or aparratniks in his society.

Personally, I think the LGBT movement is in its ascendency, just as other movements once were, protestantism, liberalism, socialism/communism, neo-liberalism, neo-conservatism and I expect they'll royally fuck things up exactly how their precursors did, no lessons will be learned in the process, either by themselves or by their opposition and the wheel will turn again. This is not even the pseudo-hegelian thesis, antithesis, new synthesis playing out and I'm not even sure its demography cycling either. Its just a mess.
 

Lark

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This is my post reminder to come back to this as a young 20-something Christian who left organized church I gotz an essay worth of thoughts.

I've found that much as people may complain on organized anything it is usually preferable to the unorganized or "spontaneous" varieties. At least there is an authority to respond to complaint in the former, usually, no matter how illegitimate you may consider it to be or have actually found it to be.

That said I'm very clearly neutral/lawful in my outlook, I always preferred castles to caravans.
 

Doctor Anaximander

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Yep. And the religious right brought this by going out of their way to marry the political, that which is concerned primarily with the physical and material, to the religious, that which is concerned with the spiritual and metaphysical.

Jesus and Buddha understood you can’t focus fully on both simultaneously and thus opted out of the former

Those like Gandhi and MLK Jr, I would argue weren’t really political actors to begin with. They brushed arms with political actors, but that was about it. They knew it was a losing battle to try to work within a political system that was inherently designed and rigged toward material distribution and wealth.
 

Lark

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I do know Jesus wasn’t aftraid to mingle with prostitutes and the supposed dregs of society. He likely would have responded similarly to the lesbian or trans kid excommunicated by their church in the 21st century.

The thing about that is there is very little within the scriptures to say he actually did. He makes mention of them as examples of the virtue signalling of his day was a shallow expression of faith and changed very little about how people lived and their enjoyment/lack thereof of life. Like someone unappreciative of a great gift from an anonymous benefactor.

Also the dregs of society could have looked pretty differently, maybe, I'm not sure. Depends on whether you by into the "good old days", "savage old times" version of history I guess. Like the dregs I remember him consorting with were tax collectors and imperial servants, not always "down and outs" exactly, although he did spend a lot of time as a physician of the sick, and at the time sickness was seen as divine sanction or affliction, punishment for sin from a vengeful God. His ministry, as I understand it, was all about overturning that particular idea.

Although my own outlook is biased by that of my native land, the version of Christianity that emerged in Ireland, along with the Irish saints and scholars, was a pretty optimistic creed about good times, forgiveness, no eternal damnation, even the sale of tiths or masses for the dead and intercession of saints was all originally pretty benevolent, leveling.

I also wonder if Jesus returned and as he'd once wiped out disease or disability "at a stroke", even resurrecting people from the dead (which he did on at least two occasions before himself), he caused all orientations besides heterosexuality and all gender dysmorphia or intersexed births to miraculous vanish how people would feel about it?

There where guys who tried to troll him in his day about his ideas about an afterlife, asking if a woman had been widowed and remarried who would be the spouse in the afterlife, he told them things are different in the afterlife pretty much. I wonder if people whose entire life has been spent focused on their sex lives, where its become everything pretty much, and they where to swap out their existence for another where that wasnt a feature if they'd not wind up totally and utterly dissatisfied. I'd imagine that would be culture shock times a hundred.
 

Lark

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Yep. And the religious right brought this by going out of their way to marry the political, that which is concerned primarily with the physical and material, to the religious, that which is concerned with the spiritual and metaphysical.

Jesus and Buddha understood you can’t focus fully on both simultaneously and thus opted out of the former

Those like Gandhi and MLK Jr, I would argue weren’t really political actors to begin with. They brushed arms with political actors, but that was about it. They knew it was a losing battle to try to work within a political system that was inherently designed and rigged toward material distribution and wealth.

Well, I think a spiritual focus should not leave people unchanged, although its personal, a matter of private conscience more or less.

I think a society ought to practice a "Godless morality", so that believers and non-believers alike can profess whatever they choose, and whatever sort of public life that allows for the greatest amount of pluralism possible, which at the minute, I think is a kind of secular society without any established or official religion(s).

Pluralism doesnt threaten truth, it allows people to discover it by comparing and contrasting and reaching their own conclusions hopefully.

All the issues, that I think are wrongly conflated with religion, ie compulsory sexual morality which promotes homosexuality, attempts to ameliorate past wrongs with present ones, state as an ultimate arbiter of conscience and culture, can be and should be discussed without the religious component because there ought to be rulings which can be applied irrespective of private beliefs.

I find it all weird that this is happening in the USA, a supposedly protestant christian nation, as I understood it protestantism was all about the individual, private conscience, disavowing good works and favouring what people believed in their heart of hearts etc. To my mind that would mean that religion and public life/politics/culture should never mix.
 

ceecee

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Well, it's a good point. It's late and I don't have the mental acuity right now to wax on about it, but yeah -- I think if American Christians actually didn't obsess over abortion and anti-LGBT sentiment and trying to remake America into a "Christian nation" legally (by their definition) and instead tapped into fighting against racism, oppression, poverty / oppression by the rich, getting people a living wage, and all that jazz... well, hell, yes, that is a message that would resonate to people in their 40's and younger. Most of them can't even afford to get married, buy a house, pay off their education loans, and have children anymore -- Christianity is going to have to actually dig down and find the "rubber meets the road" instead of trying to legislate theocracy and doctrinal stances they get stoked about.

It's really ironic. Christianity in trying to "save the country" is going to lose it because they are just trying to control things harder and harder; meanwhile, if the followers would loosen up, focus on where people are and what they need, view them as people rather than as targets for conversion, and help those people with everything they have, then they are much more able to make Christianity look enticing and valuable. "The faith that seeks to save its life will lose it" so to speak.'

People haven't become "immoral," they have a strong morality they feel like the church doesn't care at all about, based on actual love of others.

Perhaps a rebirth of the Jimmy Carter type of Christian Democrat would help but the evangelicals as group are unable to shake off that hateful core of their belief it seems.

All religion is man made and made up as they go along, changing with the world. Not the other way around. The religions that do survive embrace this. The ones that don't wither and die as they should. But none of this news is at all surprising - the Evangelical right are the cause for much of the strife in the US and have been for a long time.
 

Red Memories

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This is my bold disclaimer. I have been part of 3 different church communities and my experiences are real. In this case, they are also very personal. IF I grow a bit hurt or hostile please keep this in perspective.
I first want to say I am tired of me being a Christian getting me the following assumptions:
1. I am anti-science
2. I am homophobic, transphobic, etc. etc. etc. :doh:
3. That everything I dislike is just because some preacher told me so.

As a child I became a Christian on my own terms. I hadn't even read much of the Bible, I just believed a higher power was there. Then I began studying Catholicism, and in particular St. Catherine of Siena and felt very inspired. I told my parents I wanted to be a Catholic. Grandpa got me involved in the Church.
I had a sort of particular dream, of this place of love, belonging. Where such closed-minded walls of hatred did not divide. Where those who could cared for those who could not. The truest sense of God, the charitable spirit of my favorite saints. Here is what I met instead.

1. My favorite priest, from Mexico, was ran out because he tried to get the church to be more reverent and focused on God and His love. They sent actual letters, telling him to go back to Mexico. It made me SICK. And extremely bitter. It still makes me cry. He almost quit being a priest entirely. I never saw my parish the same again.
2. I was bullied by my youth group for not having a smartphone. The youth minister didn't care much when I tried to discuss it. I ended up in a psyche ward during my time and she did not visit me, and gave me a judgmental look at my baptism like I was a pain in her ass.
3. I tried to participate in church activities and one time me and some other girls decorating was considered too pagan and was removed.
4. There was an actual homeless woman in the rosary group. I went to someone asking what could be done for her and they said there was little they could do outside the homeless shelter she was already in. Not even some offer of regular transportation. 5. There was constant bake sales and selling things but no sign of the money actually going to help those in needs.

I became extremely disenchanted with my church and stopped going. I felt conflicted about my leaving. But I had never felt farther from God than in that place.
I decided to try a different church, an evangelical lutheran church. I admit at first I liked this one a lot better. For one the priest is a woman. Secondarily, there was many many activities to partake in which actively went toward assisting the needy. I was thrilled to be part of something bigger. But the people were very...judgmental of other believers for one. They had a sort of holier than thou attitude. Secondarily, they sort of...made the Bible say whatever they liked which disturbed me and is why I ended up leaving.

My next experience was college church, the Nazarenes. Honestly, I loved it and it was different than I was used to. At first I felt sort of foreign in a strange land. They had people speaking real faith testimonials. Music done by a band. If someone was crying everyone would come pray over you. It was the deepest truest faith community I seen thus far. I think the only reason I didn't go back was just my already prevalent disenchantment with church. Like I was going to be very disappointed eventually. However this community, maybe not so ironically, was filled with young people. The other two were filled with elders.

As a young Christian, here's some things I really, really want to see of church and its people.

1. Faith is about transforming you, not the other way around. I do in a sense understand "religion is manmade" as the perceptions of God are relatively stemming from people, nevertheless God is not manmade and we cannot change that. Churches should promote a stronger personal relationship with God and knowing what God wants for you and truly seeking Him rather than this BS of the priest somehow knows all and you know nothing and you must listen to the "authority". It does not promote transformation, it promotes brainwashing.

I firmly believe a great deal of the bigotry happening stemming from Christianity has more to do with this issue. Rather than change their hearts, they twist the word to say what they want it to, ignore the parts they don't like, and use it to defend whatever false hurtful beliefs they have. They use it twistedly to defend anything from homophobia to abusing their own children. Considering the entire Bible is scattered with verses that say something along the lines of "love all" and "God is love" and "Don't be a judgmental self-righteous prick" everyone has become a Pharisee. Jesus HATED the Pharisees. And preachers do it because it makes them feel powerful, it gives them something. Few churches feel truly connected to God at this rate, filled with so much bitterness and twisting of words. God is the truth - but they tell nothing but lies. So as far as I see it, God does not live in Church anymore.

2. Church is not a social playground.

I realize I hear many, many people my age say the Church is not "social" enough and I despise that. It is not about socializing. If you meet wonderful people there, great. But to expect church to cater to your want for friends or gossip or whatever is ridiculous. Church isn't meant to be "fun", it meant to make you reflect, think, and grow as a person. If you just want fun there's plenty of social clubs you can join. You could go to an actual club even. There's a time and place for everything and Church isn't that place.

3. "Moneychangers"

Jesus lashed out the people on the steps of the temple exchanging money and selling sacrificial animals. This kind of makes it hard to defend how much selling in the steps of the Church that the Catholic church does. I never heard a church begging for money more. Yet they are the church I saw do the absolute least. I found it disheartening. They are supposed to be the "true" original church. I think Jesus would've whipped them a few times at this rate.

4. Changing too much

I do not, however, feel the church should just cater to whatever social thing is in at the time, if it does go against the Word. There is growing with the current global issues and then there is just stoking fires and being part of the problem. I do not want my church to become a secondary political movement. As a matter of fact, Jesus himself said give to Caesar what is Caesars, and give to God what is His. The issue is many think in the flawed way of the apostles, seeing the earth as a kingdom of God. Jesus tried to tell them His kingdom is not of this world. I am going to be very different here and say I want politics out of the church PERIOD. I do not want things framed politically. I want the word of God taught as is, to defend life and love. I want the church to get out of politics, stop marching at capital buildings, and use their funds to actually fucking fix something instead of acting like they can even get their parishnors to do the right thing. The church was not made to BE political. It was made to feed your soul. Politics doesn't feed your soul. Anything remotely political should not be phrased toward lawmakers. There's a separation. We are not a theocracy. I don't want my church to have me going to BLM marches or things like that. I want them to use their funds and power to help those needy people reach a better place. To give them the equality and respect they deserve. Marches and crap is just more church virtue signalling that goes nowhere toward change. And I don't want to participate more in the virtue signalling of politics OR religion.

5. Contradictions

I will tell you, as a believer, I consider myself personally pro-life and pro-LGBT+. That may be a confusing stance, but here's the thing. The Bible promotes the importance of life and the sanctity of it. All lives. Not just one life, or a straight persons life, or a born babes life, or a white man's life. ALL life. Therefore I am for life. I am for love. I am for what Jesus taught us to be which is beacons of love to care for each other. He did not teach us to judge, to hate, to use His word as a weapon as it is now. Church people today make me sick with their sugarcoated explanations of pure bigotry, racism, and judgment. I thought joining a church would help me find more people who saw His word. I found fools in their folly. You cannot sit around and say gays go to hell but scream at a woman for having an abortion. Secondarily, less people would have abortions if the church spent as much money into fixing the systemic problems in the adoption/foster system than sitting on steps trying to pray it away.

I agree prayer is powerful. I think it is disheartening to tell people you don't want their prayers. However, God gave us feet, hands, and a brain and wants us to use it. He didn't give us this knowledge to just sit down and kneel at the altar of wrongdoing in the world. There are things we can do. They just don't want to tackle it. It is easier to bitch than to act.

6. Being part of something bigger

I think the sad reality is, it is a two way street. There were programs or groups in the church where they were actively trying to do positive things. But few people joined. People are lazy in their faith and lazy in their minds. They go to church on Sunday and feel they're good for the rest of the week. The issue with Christianity is how many false sheep there are. Those who don't participate in the transformation that could be and instead only weaponize it for hate and discontent. There are gardens to be grown, with food that can feed the poor. There are ways to help the homeless get back on their feet. There is a community need where people help and keep up with each other so in hard times they are not alone. Churches don't do this, partly because, the parishnors don't do this. They don't want to be an active part of their faith. Then don't be in a fucking church. Don't CATER to these people. But then, they'd rather have their big shrines than to have a small church with a few people who really do follow God, His word, and do the right thing.

7. Being willing to correct their people

Obviously it would take a strong priest, preacher of any kind to look at their parishnor and say no, this one singular verse does not defend you hitting your wife. No, this verse does not defend your hatred of gay people. No this verse does not make you better than someone else. For these people I think they should be forced into a Bible study on the pharisees, as they were the example of corrupt self-righteous jews. They used the law to elevate themselves, to be better and higher than everyone else. But it was all false, none of their deeds came from the heart, and they made themselves like a god. They should be teaching the real word which is "the greatest of all these is love." There is no love in churches, only self-righteous false dignity to defend a life of horrible thoughts of other people. Jesus is up in heaven cringing at what we call a faith community. I've had hateful words thrown at me by atheists and anti-theistic people, but I have heard just as harsh words tossed by people who share a faith name with me. I consider us to have nothing in common.

Jesus made it clear that the way to bring people to Him, is love. Because He is love. If we live our lives with love, offering aid, and this person finds out we are a Christian, we're much more likely to see an interest than if someone is pushy. I know when I worked at gamestop, there was a transgender individual working there and one evening closing they were discussing religious stuff and I got into a long thing about the real words of Jesus rather than those who weaponize it. And they hadn't even heard such things from the Bible before. We're teaching hate before we teach love and mercy and I don't understand. It is Jesus mercy that drives people to Him. Not anger and hatred.

I feel nothing but anger and hatred - but for my own faith community, not Jesus. God has not changed. The messenger has. In the worst way possible.
St. Catherine of Siena fought against the poor popes, the greedy cardinals, and the uncaring people within actual faith communities. She still inspires me greatly. I think she would be angry today too - if she saw what her Church has become.
 

Totenkindly

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They have the crudest, most rigid interpretation of scripture I’ve ever experienced. It goes hand in hand with political authoritarianism and materialism. I’ve rarely met one with an ounce of imagination, curiosity or intelligence, and if I did, they usually ended up eventually leaving religion or converting to a denomination like Unitarianism or Episcopalian. One split off to form his own ministry in the city that actually worked to help the poor and homeless get a leg up.

In general, that is what I have seen happen. There is no room for differences in that sect. You either toe the line or you look for greener pastures. i've had friends who tried to stick it out, to try to effect change, but they all eventually left for churches that were more nourishing. I remember going church hunting in the past and immediately leaving a church after a visit and never going back, it was very clear there was no place for me there. (And not just regarding niche issues, but just in terms of what I needed as a human being and how much freedom there was to just exist and be oneself. I remember one that everyone just felt like a clone of the other, even down to how they dressed and talked, and sitting through Sunday School, everything was just about pat answers. The suburban minivan crew. They had a nice comfortable answer for anything, even if not overtly mean -- just stultifying and living in a tiny box. Never went back.)
 

JocktheMotie

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The decline of church membership, especially in the last 20 years, has been so sharp it's worth its own visual:

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20 years is incredibly fast for a cultural shift like that. But I do think it coincides with a general decline since 2000 of American and specifically young American institutional trust. Trust in the church, trust in the government, trust in media, trust in generalized leadership and authority is really at an all time low and religion/church is especially part of that institutional sect.
 

Cor Luctis

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Was there an LGBT movement in Jesus day? I wonder if he would have been familiar with any of the behaviour of homosexuals let alone the others who make up those movements, I do wonder what Jesus would make of a lot of the normative struggles and culture wars which are typical of the american scene presently.

I do know that there are plenty of examples of Jesus in conflict with the authorities of his day, his teachings were entirely consistent with much of the tradition into which he was born but they also transcended it, I see it as a kind of conflict between a chaotic-good/neutral-good and lawful-good authority, there is the imperial occupation as a background but that is mainly it.

At the heart of Jesus teaching I think there is a perennial truth, the greater the formal law, the greater the need for enforcement, then the weaker the conscience or consciousness of what is right.

I think there are important lessons in that for those who are making greater and greater recourse to legal sanction in order to bring about their own personal and private morals, norms, mores as a public new world order. It will fail. If it does not then the likely end point will look very different from the hoped for one. And this time there will be no messiah to provoke any rethink or second thoughts on the matter.
If only people trying to limit opportunities and even basic common decency for LGBT people (and blacks and women and Muslims and . . . ) would take this approach, affected groups and their allies wouldn't have to expend so many resources in the public sphere trying to prevent that.

There was no BLM movement in Jesus' day, either. No feminism of any wave. No Anti-Defamation League for Jews or anyone else. But Biblical accounts of the good Samaritan, Jesus healing the Roman official's daughter, his reaching out to Matthew and Zaccheus, his speaking to the woman at the well, his friendship with Mary Magdalene and other examples show that Jesus did not allow group membership or the rules of his day to override the fundamental humanity of everyone who crossed his path. I'm no Bible expert, but my understanding was that the following as stated in the Gospel of Matthew overrides all that came before:
Jesus declared, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’e This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
 

Red Memories

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If only people trying to limit opportunities and even basic common decency for LGBT people (and blacks and women and Muslims and . . . ) would take this approach, affected groups and their allies wouldn't have to expend so many resources in the public sphere trying to prevent that.

There was no BLM movement in Jesus' day, either. No feminism of any wave. No Anti-Defamation League for Jews or anyone else. But Biblical accounts of the good Samaritan, Jesus healing the Roman official's daughter, his reaching out to Matthew and Zaccheus, his speaking to the woman at the well, his friendship with Mary Magdalene and other examples show that Jesus did not allow group membership or the rules of his day to override the fundamental humanity of everyone who crossed his path. I'm no Bible expert, but my understanding was that the following as stated in the Gospel of Matthew overrides all that came before:

*Excuse me for being a theological buff and wanting to dive deeper into this*

There are cases of war, violence, rape, etc. within the Bible, particularly the historical nature of the Old Testament. There must be some understanding of the actual behavior involved though.

1. The reason the Israelites could not comingle with those of the other faiths is because instead of being beacons of God's life, they became pagans themselves! WHEN GOD WAS RIGHT OVER TOP OF THEM! Imagine the rash stupidity it takes to deny God to His face. A lot of these rash things happened because yes of course people have free will and God isn't going to take that but humanity was a mega facepalm and He DID promise Noah he wouldn't annihilate the human race again... :shock:

2. The sad reality is, we have man translating these documents and some of these Hebrew terms do not have strong english counterparts so there has been a bit of guessing when it comes to some words.

3. Several of the things relating to being stoned come from very strict jewish customs rather than directly something being of sin.

Given, most Christians do not take an objective theological deep dive into the text and rely on the messenger in the form of preachers and etc. to teach the fundamentals of faith. These messengers then gain a great deal of power over the minds of others who are complacent and lazy to their own spiritual growth. Quite sad actually. But not uncommon, a lot of people my age use social media as a news outlet without questioning the data shown to them either. We replace the Bible with other things, because there will always be the issue of the leaders and the followers. The pigs and the barn animals. Animal Farm is a fantastic commentary on how people tend to be. Even as to religion. Religion or not, people enjoy keeping things comfortable and as is. Change is tiring. So whether it be politically, intellectually, religion, etc. people will fight change. They want it to be easy. They want someone to do it for them.

There was no political movements in the Bible. Because the Bible coincides as a historical document filled with stories which shaped a faith and time. Some factual, some more parables. Nevertheless similar to our bylaws, the Bible in a sense is a "living document" where the morals and stories applied can apply to every day modern life if translated properly. God elevated women and even slaves with purpose within the Bible, and the stories of saints and etc. carry on this messenging. It is not so black and white as many try to make it.
 

Totenkindly

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20 years is incredibly fast for a cultural shift like that. But I do think it coincides with a general decline since 2000 of American and specifically young American institutional trust. Trust in the church, trust in the government, trust in media, trust in generalized leadership and authority is really at an all time low and religion/church is especially part of that institutional sect.

Interestingly, it also pretty much coincides with the onset of a generation that has always known the (more modern form of the) Internet, thus being easily exposed to ideas beyond the official channels and also beyond the boundaries of one's own country/tribe, and becoming old enough to start responding to these polls.
 
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