In my previous post, I discussed how the culture has made an indelible mark on today’s Church. There’s a statement making its way around social media which addresses culture and the church. While there are various versions, the image (below left) is one I screen-shot from Facebook.
Considering the number of places online where I’ve noticed this (and similar) expressions of concern, I think it’s safe to say many people are becoming more aware of the downward slide of the church. According to a 2019 Gallup poll, US church membership has declined sharply over the last two decades. An even more recent poll shows US church membership falling to its lowest level ever.
It’s difficult to identify the exact cause (or causes) of this decline. Some observers have even suggested the slide began in 1517 when a priest named Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the All Saints’ Church in Wittenburg (Germany). Luther was, after all, challenging church authority and doing so in a very public way.
I’m no scholar and it would be silly (audacious even!) for me to suggest solutions, other than encouraging personal holiness. However, I can’t help observing how often people refer to the “deep divide” (CNN, Pew Research, ABC, NPR, etc.) which is said to exist in politics, in race relations and also in American Christianity. Though I didn’t mention this divide in my previous post, its prominence seems obvious.
Within certain Christian circles, there’s an educated class way of thinking explained by Kristin Kobes DuMez’s book which I referenced in Part I. DuMez defines what’s bad … really, really, really, really bad: white evangelicalism mostly, as well as former President Trump and his associates, etc. There’s an us-versus-them flavor to the book –a deep divide, if you will.
After my initial post, I had planned for Part II to include additional comments about the DuMez book. My plan also included a review of Russell Moore’s most recent book, Losing Our Religion: An Altar Call for Evangelical America.
However, reflecting over the weeks since my original post, I acknowledged the deep divide is deep enough already. There are legitimate and specific criticisms which might be appropriate for both books, just not from me.
Having said that, I ask allowance for one minor transgression. DuMez uses the name of actor John Wayne in her book title. She states John Wayne “emerge(d) as an icon of Christian masculinity” who “occupies a prominent place in the pantheon of evangelical heroes ….” She goes on to detail the ways in which evangelical groups co-opted a version of John Wayne to suit their despicable desires for a hero to worship and adore.
Rather than debate this line of thinking, I did what I often do: I wrote a sonnet. The poem is posted below.
I’m likely to post again from time to time about culture and the church, but not by way of book or culture critique. I have more fun when I’m writing poetry!