The Morning After: Relevant or Retro?
“Their relevancy has moved away from them.” That statement bubbled up on cable TV’s Morning Joe the morning after Barak Obama won re-election as president of the United States.
It was one commentator’s sound bite assessment of the Republican presidential defeat. Another analyst reported that President Obama received some 71 percent of the Latino vote to Gov. Mitt Romney’s 27 percent, solid evidence of a “demographic time bomb” already reshaping political parties and the country at large.
The ever-wizened Tom Brokaw observed that the Obama team ran “a postmodern campaign” while the Republican efforts were decidedly “retro,” reflecting old political approaches with limited long-term viability.
The ever loquacious Chris Matthews entered the commentary fray asserting that Americans should disavow the idea that big money (over $2 billion spent on the presidential campaign alone) can determine elections, as many seemed to think it would.
Political opinions abound on the morning after the night before.
Whatever their political implications, those fascinating responses on the morning after Obama’s re-election might also be asked of American religious communities. At this decisive moment of the nation’s life, has their relevancy “moved away from them?” What “demographic time bombs” lie implicitly or explicitly ahead? Are churches and Christian institutions necessarily “retro” in proclaiming a 2,000-year-old gospel, or are there certain “postmodern” resources for confronting current demographic and cultural realities?
A recent study released by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life raises the issue of relevancy as seen in the declining percentage of Protestants in the U.S., a number now approximating 48 percent. While the actual number of Protestants remains about the same, they are outnumbered by non-Protestants for the first time in polling history. That development parallels the rise of the “nones,” those Americans who claim no discernable religious affiliation.
The Pew study suggests that the group of persons who consider themselves “nones” represents some 20 percent of the population, a dramatic increase in the last 10 years. Among persons age 18 to 22 those numbers rise to 30 percent, with one third of that age group claiming no religious affiliation. One Pew staff member told the New York Times that this was a unique phenomenon in polling since the non-affiliated reflected a smaller portion in previous generations.
Why is this happening and does it indeed imply that the church ceased to be relevant for a growing number of Americans? To paraphrase Brokaw, does it suggest a “retro” church in a “postmodern” world?
The Times article cited various explanations offered by Pew investigators for understanding the results of their study. One possibility is that the exodus of “nones” was precipitated by the political engagement of certain Protestants and Catholics in assorted controversies related to sexuality, church/state issues and family life.
Another possibility involves the decision of numerous Americans to distance themselves from participation in group or institutional experiences in general -- the so-called “bowling alone” phenomenon identified by sociologist Robert Putnam. Or perhaps it is further evidence of the long predicted expansion of secularism throughout the American population.
Faith-based communities might also ask if they have contributed to this religious disengagement, and explore the implications of such a “demographic time bomb” for America’s religious future. While the gospel itself has a haunting relevancy for every era of human history, the church as an institution has not always been relevant in doing the gospel, applying it to particular moments in time.
Where might questions regarding relevance begin?
First, churches might revisit their message. What exactly is the Jesus story and how is that story to be retold again and again, here and now? In a society where many have limited knowledge of the details, can Christian communities articulate that message with clarity, passion and compassion? Are certain elements of the Jesus story more relevant now than in the past?
Second, what does it mean to call oneself a Christian? What are the spiritual trajectories that may lead to vital faith?
Third, what does it mean to live as a Christian? What is the nature of Christian action -- spiritually and pragmatically -- in the world? Where does worship of and service to God intersect for living a Christian life in a postmodern world?
Fourth, what changes in the life and work of a contemporary congregation are necessary for extending the church’s mission and how will those changes impact the church’s message? Amid the changing sociology of Sunday, where will churches best engage affiliated and non-affiliated alike?
Finally, what communal needs or issues are important enough to unite disparate Christian communities in common effort? For example, might religious leaders across the theological spectrum join in calling politicians to reduce the huge sums of money poured into campaigns while urging donors, especially those who give millions, to contribute such funds to long-term community needs such as student scholarships, housing, or rehabilitation programs? Imagine what half of the $2 billion spent in this presidential campaign would have meant to the social and educational infrastructure of American society. What relevancy!
- Anna Brown published the blogpost 5 Content Marketing Facts That Will Make You Feel Shocked.
- Wayne Stiles published the blogpost I’m Writing a New Book, and I’d Like Your Opinion [Survey].
- Mark McIntyre published the blogpost Christianity Boosts Education, Quality of Life in Asian Countries.
- Diane Paddison published the blogpost Mentors, Millennials and Monthly Favorites in This Week’s Friday Faves.
- Barry Pearman published the blogpost Do You Have A Soul Believer? 3 Qualities To Look For.
- Adam Smith published the blogpost No Time for Social Media? Hire a Virtual Assistant – Reade Milner.
- George Krickl published the blogpost The Plow: Moving from Biblical Examples to Our Ministry Manifesto.
- Janet Ridgeway published the blogpost Get Clean With Cottonelle And Save With A High Value Coupon.
- Jeffrey Totey published the blogpost Jet City's 'Wise Guys' - Squeaky Clean Show with F-Bombs.
- FaithVillage Administrator published the blogpost Emote Control - Part 8 - Depression - Emote Control.
- FaithVillage Administrator published the blogpost Emote Control - Part 9 - Cultivating Godly Emotions(1) - Emote Control.
- FaithVillage Administrator published the blogpost Emote Control - Part 10 - Cultivating Godly Emotions(2) - Emote Control.
- Brad Russell published the audio Social Media Mastery with Nils Smith | Pro Church Podcast.
- Brad Russell published the video No Man Is An Island | Tenth Avenue North [Music Video].
- Brad Russell published the video Promoting Charities on Social Media | Reggie Escalante.
- Brad Russell published the video The Difference Between 'Studying' and 'Reading' the Bible | Eugene Peterson.
- Brian Niece published the blogpost Street Theology Vol. 1 :: Lecrae “My Whole Life Changed”.
- Michael Ramsey published the blogpost The Essential Art of Saying "No" and How You Can Get Better At It.
- Kelley Mathews published the article How to Make Your Wedding Day the Best Day of Your Life.
- Mike Kim published the blogpost Free Webinar: How To Write An Effective Support Letter.
- Brad Russell published the article 'The Good of Politics' | James W. Skillen [Book Review].
- Brad Russell published the article 4 Questions to Ask When Creating A Church Social Media Position.
- Juan Galloway just moved in. Take time to say hey.
- Kelley Mathews published the video Engaging with LGBT Persons | Dallas Theological Seminary.
- Kelley Mathews published the video Ministering to People Wrestling with Sexual Identity | Darrell Bock.
- John BeckThere are Christians and
there are “Born Again” Christians
Which one ARE YOU? - See more at: http://www.faithvillage.com/member/7v9I6eh0P77DKemwWCrxt4/newsfeed#sthash.DadySJXK.dpuf
- Kelley Mathews published the article "The Power of One-on-One" by Jim Stump [Book Review].
- Kelley Mathews published the audio Stones of Remembrance | The Journey with Ron Moore.