One of the most important aspects of the last 50 or so years in the U.S. has been the decline of organized religion, especially as compared to the surge in population. The combined membership of the so-called “mainline” denominations (United Methodist, Episcopal, Presbyterian [USA], Christian [Disciples], Evangelical Lutheran) declined between 1960 and 2012 by 32% while the population increased by 75%. The largest evangelical denomination (Southern Baptist) increased by 64% but has been losing members, 6% since 2007, at an alarming rate.
The main reason some give for this circumstance is that the culture has changed dramatically and that the church, account its staidness (real or imagined), has been left behind in the progressive, postmodern era just now getting started in spades. This reason may be far too simplistic and over-broad. Movements, including those of the church, are usually begun and perpetuated under the auspices of strong leadership. When that leadership weakens, the movement falters.
The leader of a church is its pastor. The “religion writer” of the Lexington Herald-Leader is a pastor who wrote this in a column of 29 June: “I don't have many strong opinions left: about religion, politics, marriage, economics.” The irony is obvious, to wit, that the writer who is paid to provide serious commentary has few strong opinions even about religion, ergo, nothing he writes is to be taken seriously because he obviously doesn't take it seriously.
By his own admission, this pastor has weak opinions, if any, to offer about things such as politics, marriage and economics. One wonders how an army would function if its generals had only weak opinions concerning the conduct of an operation or the behavior/effort of its soldiers. This question can be directed to churches and denominations. If their leaders have no strong opinions about anything, the obvious conclusion is that “anything goes,” as far as they're concerned.
Therein may lie the main reason accruing to the rise and fall of the church in the U.S., the entity supposedly advancing the cause of Christ, who, along with his followers, had virtually nothing but strong opinions. Christ and the biblical writers were believers in absolutes, which is a dirty word in today's version of Christendom because it indicates some things are absolutely right or wrong, but trying to find middle-ground is impossible. This would be like the platoon leader taking a vote among his squads before an operation—unbelievably silly.
The pastor having few strong opinions decided that the penultimate sin is pride, actually a strong opinion by the pastor's own accounting, which has as one of its definitions this: “a reasonable or justifiable self-respect.” The writer preferred this other definition, presumably: “inordinate self-esteem.” He explained: “Pride makes us feel superior to our fellow human beings.” No...that's arrogance which begets condescension. Or...it may be racism, not pride.
Predictably in the current glorification of homosexuality, the pastor asks if one feels disgust with two men having a romantic relationship, implying at least that he wouldn't be bothered by that...a weakened opinion? Romantic? Egad! The proper question for a pastor would concern what the Bible says about that, but the answer might be an absolute, so the question isn't asked. Both murder and homosexual behavior are unmistakably condemned in scripture, as are adultery and stealing, but the progressive is motivated by – get this – LOVE, according to the pastor.
Love is the most misused and overused term in the current Christian lexicon. It's a wimpish euphemism for tolerance of most anything. So, murder is wrong but sexual perversion, stealing and adultery are socially relative, notwithstanding the absolute that all four are intolerable to God.
In introducing homosexuality into his piece, the writer fingered much of the reason for the decline of the church, namely that biblical absolutes are to be disregarded by the enlightened “religion-mongers,” especially the most sophisticated. The Episcopal and Presbyterian hierarchies (and many church-members) approve of same-sex-marriage. The pressure is on the other “main-liners” to follow suit. The scripture condemns it out-of-hand, thus denominations/churches are at war with God, whom they pretend to worship and obey. Their decline will only accelerate, as those “having few strong opinions” run the churches.
In no small part because of the perverse positions of the church, the nation is in an amoral/immoral tailspin, too. The next thing to be handled with “love” may be bigamy, polygamy, incest or “group marriage.” Not having many strong opinions is the recipe for social and, ultimately, governmental disaster. Anything Goes! The church approves...but God, as promised (Galatians 6:7), will not be mocked.
And so it goes.