Recently I came across an article with this title. I entered the major seminary in 1966, so I’ve been watching the church for more than a half-century at this point; and I think the author got things about right. He says near the start, “Carried along by inertia, churchmen have watched without comprehension while congregations have melted away, while the secularly educated younger generation increasingly has absented itself from worship and activity.” That’s been my experience, and quite possibly yours too. Later, diagnosing the problem, he continues, “If the Church is in any real sense to influence the world of tomorrow, it would seem that the Church must reform itself so that it can make a new and almost brutal proclamation of the ethics of Christ.” Here’s his list of items for that proclamation (all exact quotes, shortened with ellipses omitted so I can fit his list here):
The author goes on: “These ethical convictions are clear in the New Testament; recognized by reputable Christian theologians. In accordance with them Jesus lived. To them the saints have borne their witness. Because the Church of the late yesterdays soft-pedaled them, striking its forte on more comforting notes, stressing pious acts and subtle formulas with which to decorate an essential worldliness, the wisdom of Jesus is well-nigh forgotten. There are millions of Christians who simply do not know that the Christianity to which they give a vague and occasional allegiance involves obedience to such hard and searching sayings. (My emphasis.)
Why has the Church been dying around us? Look at the list above again. How often have you heard that preached, seen it put into practice by people who claim to be Christian? And if you want to blame it all on “the ‘60s,” or “Vatican II changes” or anything like that – the article was written in 1942. We have a long climb back. Until next week, peace.