Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Experience vs. Trust

In my History of Christianity coarse, the course which was the subject of my previous entry, we have recently been studying the decline in church attendance (especially mainline protestant churches) within the past 50 or so years. While liberal theology churches have been really shrinking, it seems that fundamentalist charismatic churches have been exploding all across the world. Even still, the percentages of the public who are in church on Sunday mornings is way down. We're talking 1 out of every 4 people goes to church every Sunday. It sounds weird, but sociologists have been writing about it for some time and it seems like there are a few main reasons for this happening. I find it super interesting, so I'm posting about it hoping to generate a little more interest and awareness.

It seems like people want to EXPERIENCE their faith! Strange, eh? After Vietnam, there was this huge distrust of establishment by the Baby Boomer generation. Everyone is telling them to just trust that church is the right thing. There supposed to take the whole thing on trust, but trust is NOT a strong point for these folks. Thus, mainlines and liberal churches (ones that are pretty easy going and will pretty much accept everyone no matter what their background is) are on the decline. There is no experience required for these guys.

Conversely, charismatic fundamentalist churches explode. Everyone is leaving the mainlines to go to these charismatic churches that emphasize experiencing the faith and have all of these rules put forth for their members. One thing about churches like this is their kinda like clubs: they have lots of rules. Some kids are in, some are out. This creates a mentality of wanting to be in the club and follow the rules. Ergo, more devoted members.

The thing that I find particularly interesting about this topic is the fact that I never realized what I was looking for in my own personal quest. All I am really looking for is an experience. I haven't really found it in my churches even though they are charismatic and emphasize experience. This is a reason that you'll find lots of people in my generation saying things like, "well, I'm spiritual, but I'm not religious." They're looking for that experience. They want to feel that touch of the divine, but they're not finding it in church. They're finding it in eastern religion, in Taoism, in Buddhism, in Hinduism.

It's obvious that there is something wrong with the Christian church today. There are tons of Christian mystics who have experienced God and felt his presence, so why are people in Christianity today not having that experience? What do people want out of an experience? I dunno. The whole subject just seems really intriguing to me (probably because I'm so personally wrapped up in it). Sorry if I'm rambling. Any thoughts?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think I'm at a certain point in my life. The more I hear about modern Christianity, I don't get depressed so much as a I just feel sorry for it. Christianity, like all religions, has a lot of good ideas, but there's so much baggage that it's impossible for me to find it appealing.

It reminds me of what I was thinking in class today (and what I often think): if God DOES exist, then why doesn't He show it? I know there are a host of arguments to point out why and where he does show it, but I think I'm talking about the Biblical God, and I don't see anything resembling him at work in the world, so the arguments just seem like hot air to me.

I feel that Christianity has two options: they can chase after these momentary spiritual highs with charismatic churches and fundamentalism, or they can start completely over. Right now, I feel like the best course of action is to re-establish the core of Jesus' teaching, ditch EVERYTHING else, and begin again. Hasn't something like this happened before?