Thinking Out Loud

August 4, 2018

Secularization in Europe: Where it Begins

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:05 am

You won’t see a picture like this often: Just 5 minutes earlier this Cathedral in Strasbourg was teeming with tourists, but they shut it down at 11:15 AM every day, evacuating all the guests. Empty churches is the theme of my writing on our concerns for Christianity in Europe.

I’m not a social scientist, though I play one on television.

However, in the informal interviews we had with people in July (and the year before) there is much anecdotal evidence to suggest that the secularization taking place in Europe has two very strong nodes; two places where it begins from which the ripple effects spread out throughout each respective country. Furthermore, I’m predicting that in the future, things won’t be much different in Canada and the United States.

One is cities. I know the stereotype. Country people are closer to the land, and it better lends itself to worshiping God in creation. But so many things reinforced the continued devoutness of the people in the smaller communities, as opposed to the secularized society we witnessed in the urban environments. Rural values are more spiritual.

For now.

The second is the young. Even as secularization spreads from the cities to the towns, it spreads as those in their teens advance into their twenties, have their own families for which church attendance is not a part of normal life.

We used to say, “Just wait until they have children.” The theory was that the children would ask questions that would force the parents to provide a structure to help them answer the metaphysical, philosophical, and spiritual questions of life.

Then studies proved that didn’t happen.

I’ve quoted this (source unknown) before:

A faith community that does not impart its sacred writings to its young people is one generation away from extinction.

I would add another today:

A faith community which has lost its children and teens is one generation away from extinction.

…and all the organ concerts and gift shop sales won’t be enough to stop that.

February 10, 2012

Praying Out of Habit, Not Belief

I’m currently 50 pages into a biography of Moishe Rosen, the founder of a high profile U.S.-based ministry to those of Jewish background or ancestry.* I’ll review the book in detail later on, but I was struck by a story of an interaction between Moise and his father, Ben.

Busy as he was, Ben [Moishe’s father] set aside an hour or so each evening to teach his sons his philosophy of life. Moishe recalled this as, “a combination of the Jewish sense of culture and achievement and his own brand of homey diligence.” He said, “Dad periodically made sure we could recite our Hebrew prayers and he stressed business principles that, had we written them down, would have made a valuable course in any business school. He taught us how to deal with people, how to determine the value of an item, and how to buy and sell.”

Regarding the prayers, Ben never hid the fact that he did not think much of religion in general.  Moishe knew that if his father believed in God at all, it was not the God of the Jewish religion.  At one point he asked, “Dad, why do we say these prayers if you don’t believe God is listening?”

“Sonny boy;” his father replied, “We say the pledge of allegiance to the flag because we are Americans. I don’t think the flag can hear us, do you?  We say the prayers because we are Jews. If we don’t do these things, how else will people know we are Jews?”

And so Moishe learned from his father that the Jewish religion, though not necessarily to be believed in, was to be respected and practiced because it was part of what made people to be Jews.

This got me wondering if there are those within the fold of Christianity whose attendance at worship or performance of perfunctory (because the children are watching) prayers is no different.

  • “Of course we go to Church on Sunday. How else will people know we are Christians?”
  • “No, I’m not sure God is listening to my prayer, but hey, I say the Pledge of Allegiance don’t I?”
  • “Of course we’re Christian. Our family has always been Christians. But that identifies us socially and culturally, it doesn’t mean we believe the Bible.”

There’s probably more of this going on in local churches than anyone of us would care to admit.

II Timothy 3:5 (NLT) They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!

The full context of the verse is that this trend increases as “the last days” get closer. But the passage isn’t about predicting a trend, the passage is a warning! Why “steer clear” (The Message translation) of such people?

I Tim 3:6-9These are the kind of people who smooth-talk themselves into the homes of unstable and needy women and take advantage of them; women who, depressed by their sinfulness, take up with every new religious fad that calls itself “truth.” They get exploited every time and never really learn.

But that’s the opposite of how we view things.

We view the people who are nominal Christians or apostate Christians or social Christians as somewhat innocuous; non-threatening. To be sure they need to be restored to the faith, but their presence — while it weakens a local church overall — isn’t exactly detrimental.

But the Bible calls such people dangerous.

*I’ll spell out that organization when I do the review. You know your blog is a hit when you’re trying not to attract search engines to a particular post; and I’d rather engage all those discussions all at once.

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