1. Welcome to SportsJournalists.com, a friendly forum for discussing all things sports and journalism.

    Your voice is missing! You will need to register for a free account to get access to the following site features:
    • Reply to discussions and create your own threads.
    • Access to private conversations with other members.
    • Fewer ads.

    We hope to see you as a part of our community soon!

America's churches are dying

Discussion in 'Sports and News' started by Bob Cook, Sep 21, 2011.

  1. Lieslntx

    Lieslntx Active Member

  2. crimsonace

    crimsonace Well-Known Member

    Church attendance does tend to ebb and flow with cultural trends. And the recent cultural trend has been the fracturization/individualization of society, which means one finds an "individual" fit with a church/house of worship/religious experience.

    In the 1950s, we had a real revival of classic Americana -- in part as a response to the Red Scare. It was a real heyday for the church, and as mentioned above, the customs of the time became entrenched for quite a few churches. Billy Graham became a household name during this time, and the style of church seen in Billy Graham crusades personified this era.

    The 1960s-70s were, obviously, a time of rebellion, where the youth culture began to rebel against any societal norms and try to find meaning in politics. When the hippies realized they really couldn't just create a utopia on earth, that begat the personal fulfillment era of the 1970s. Out of that, people were searching for answers and the Jesus movement happened -- ex-hippies finding religion. The Calvary Chapel churches were a big part of this, but the megachurch movement also came out of this time (Willow Creek -- the prime megachurch in Chicago -- is a child of the movement).

    In the 1980s-90s-early 2000s, there was an explosion of suburban culture -- especially among young families -- and young evangelical churches with charismatic pastors and upbeat music reached those people, but with a very conservative bent. This was also the time of the Moral Majority. There was a natural backlash against that, and one began to see two forks -- conservative churches eschewing politics and the others digging in.

    In the last few years -- especially in the late Bush years -- there has been a strong backlash against suburban culture especially among youth culture. As a result, we've seen the "house church" movement grow (people leaving evangelical churches in exchange for meeting in homes and practicing what they believe to be "authentic Christianity" with more of an emphasis on service and less of an emphasis on paid clergy). We've also seen people just leave the church entirely or return to more traditional congregations ... at the same time the contemporary Christian music scene suddenly embraced old hymns.

    Needless to say, the fragmenting of culture is also seeing the fragmenting of the church. In the suburbs, the large evangelical churches are thriving (the two in my community have more than doubled in size the last 10 years, and primarily with 25-54 churchgoers, and as noted, most were people who moved into the community) and mainline churches are struggling. In the cities, churches are either struggling or the ones that are going strong are either more liberal mainline churches (especially as left-of-center young adults begin to move back into cities), ethnic churches that serve specific populations or traditional Catholic churches that draw parishoners from nearby suburbs.

    Another thing I've seen is an increased amount of religious commitment from my Catholic students. It's been really impressive -- to me -- even though our school community is served by three different parishes.
  3. linotype

    linotype Well-Known Member

    Heaven must have needed ... well, a church.
  4. EStreetJoe

    EStreetJoe Well-Known Member

    I too am a Conservative Jew and some of the services (Saturday morning for example) are too long. The synagogue I attend has all sorts of children's services on Saturday mornings as the main service is 2.5 + hours long.
    Friday nights on the other hand are over in a little over an hour.

    Part of the problem in many synagogues is that the older crowd determines the structure of the prayer service and they are resistant to change. The older crowd wants all the prayers, all the old, slow melodies, etc. and won't allow for omitting some prayers to speed the service along to make it more relevant to a younger generation. They are also very resistant to the use of musical instruments on Friday nights (and especially Saturday morning). Adding musical instruments to the service can make for a more spiritual experience. If you're Jewish and ever in NYC for a weekend, definitely go to the upper west side and check out a Friday night service at B'nai Jeshrun. It is an amazing service.

    Financial problems aren't limited to churches. There have been several synagogue mergers near me over the last few years as the boards of two shuls realize that they each can't survive on their own, but combined, they can thrive as one.
  5. UPChip

    UPChip Well-Known Member

    Musings of an atypical Christian:

    The core trend in society that is leading to this decline, is, to me, the 'balkanization' of American society as a whole -- everyone is trained to seek out and demand exactly what they want. Look at the cable line-up. 40 years ago, it was three networks, public TV and basically it (with some exceptions). Now, not only do we have an all-sports cable channel, but we've got one for all sports. The Tennis Channel, anyone? Likewise, the emphasis is not on what I can contribute to the community, but what can it contribute to me -- baby-boomer selfishness writ large.

    I've been United Methodist basically since birth, and I'm on our church's worship team (in a small college town). We try to design services that appeal to a greatest common denominatior, and it's even harder to do than designing a sports section to the same end. Move the service too much to the contemporary side, and the traditionalists complain. Get out the organ and the high church stuff, and the contemporary people get on your case. And it's not the usual demographics. At 27, I strongly prefer majestic high church stuff, and I know grandparents who would prefer the organ be scrapped. Aim for the middle (which doesn't exist) and you make nobody happy.

    40 years ago, people would be more likely to grin and bear it. Now, because my generation has little or no use for denominational labels, they are much more prone to give up and shop around for a new church, which they can attend until it makes them feel good or they give up on it, too. I'm a high-church loving Democrat who goes to a conservative church led by a pastor who never wears robes.

    Another trend I've noticed is that people are more interested in being told they're wrong and directed what to do than to think for themselves. The message I hear from the Christian right is pretty simple and seems to be fairly un-nuanced. Basically, it's "You're a sinner, you're broken. This is the path to salvation, take it or leave it, do good, tell others. The end." and I think people respond to that because they'd rather know definitively that they're wrong than have to deal with the consequences of not knowing. Where I think this bears itself out is in the clergy. To be a pastor in the United Methodist, or any, church requires significant religious study and critical thinking. If it were just about serving people, I don't think you'd see the massive decline in people choosing the calling (our conference had something like 20 retirements to 2 ordinations in the last year), because my generation has a pretty good record of public service in various forms.
  6. Bubbler

    Bubbler Well-Known Member

    Was it something like this?

    "He came down from heaven because you look so fine
    He created Eve for Adam, He's going to make you grind
    (Your God loves your awesome bod)
    So get down on your knees and give much respect
    Immerse that body into His baptismal pool and get all wet
    (Your God loves your awesome bod)
    Lay it all down for the Glory of Him
    And don't forget to shake that ass when the lights go dim
    He shed His blood, His Body and His Life for you
    He came back to get his freak on, have faith, its true ...
    ... that your God loves your awesome bod ..."
  7. BYH

    BYH Active Member

    Can't the ACC just leave well enough alone?
  8. Point of Order

    Point of Order Active Member

    I couldn't be so lucky.
  9. Big Circus

    Big Circus Well-Known Member


  10. BYH

    BYH Active Member

    Hey Marge. Remember when we used to make out to this hymn?
  11. Point of Order

    Point of Order Active Member

    This thread reminds me of a story in the Pensacola News Journal this past week about a 14-year-old boy who was arrested for indecent exposure in the pews during church service. The boy admitted to police that he was playing with it, and said he did so because he was bored. It drew a lot of complains in the comments and they must have removed it from their site because I can't find it now.
  12. RickStain

    RickStain Well-Known Member

    When I was 12 or 13, my dad took a new church and we moved. No big deal, happened every few years. But this time, the new church didn't have a traditional parsonge. Instead, a wing of the church had been converted into housing. My room was an old Sunday School room, and from there it was a very short hallway to a door that led into the sanctuary.

    I spend a lot of time in the weeks leading up to the move resolving myself that I was certainly *not* going to do that sort of thing in a Sunday School room with the sanctuary right there. Being a boy of that age, I'm not even sure I made it through the first night.

    Cool story, amiright?
Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page