The Church's Weaknesses

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The church’s greatest weakness is that it requires priests.

While we have previously discussed their many strengths, advantages, and abilities, it is interesting that most pastors are in precarious situations. Essentially, they are being set up to fail, and do so at astonishing rates. The great majority of pastors will have short careers. Only 10% of pastors will make it to retirement, and (depending on the survey) 50-80% of ministers won’t last 5 years [1], and surveys show that this has been a constant, ongoing trend since 1975. The average Protestant priest (of any denomination) will, on average, only last for 2.5 years before quitting, and there is no evidence that this will change [2]. As of 2001, the average tenure of an American pastor (of all faiths, sects, and denominations) was 3.8 years. 50% priests report that they want to quit, and only remain priests simply because they have no other means to make a living [1]. In particular, the Catholic Church has suffered greatly from a want of vocations as demonstrated by the following: [3] • Between 1965 and 2002, the number of Catholic priests in the US dropped 22%, from 59,000 to 46,000. • In 1965, the number of ordinations exceeded the number of priests lost through death and departure, for a net gain of 725 American Catholic priests. In 1998, death and departures increased to such a degree that there was a net loss of 810 priests that year. • In 1965, 3% of churches had no resident priest; in 2002, it was 15%. • In 1965, there were 7.87 diocesan priests per 10,000 Catholics. In 2002, this number decreased to 4.6, a decline of 41%. • As of 1999, there are more diocesan priests in the 80-84 age group than in the 30-34 age group. • In 1965, there were 49,000 seminarians in the US; in 2002, there were only 4,700 -- despite an additional 20 million Catholics entering the US. • In 1965, there were 180,000 nuns in the US. By 2002, there were 75,500 -- and half of them were over age 75.

As a result, American pastors are quitting at a rate of 1,500-1,700 per month [1], despite having no other means of supporting themselves [1]. There are many, many more Reasons Why Pastors Quit [4]

Personality conflicts 43% Conflicting long-term goals 17% Financially strained congregations 7% Theological differences 5% Moral malfeasance 5% Unrealistic expectations 4% Other 19% pastors who want to leave their posts, but cannot due to the social stigmas they would face. It is difficult for clergy to leave the ministry to pursue another vocation without owing people explanations or apologies. Former priests are assumed to have: [1] • Committed a terrible sin, leading to their firing or resignation. • Been too weak to handle the pressure. • Rejected their “true” calling for secular work.

In addition to priests who quit, many are fired by their own congregations. 23% of pastors will experience a forced termination, and 91% of pastors know a pastor who has [5]. Many of these clergymen apply to become pastors at different churches, since for many, this is the only lifestyle that they know. However, since they did not have an opportunity to grow, learn, or correct their bad habits, so they will fail again somewhere else. As a result, a pastor with 15 years of experience often has only 3 years of experience, 5 times over [2].

Priests are severely weakened by burnout, indifferent or hostile congregations, and spiritual dilution. ________________________________________


The problem of burnout has always been a plague on Christian clergy; not even Paul was safe from its effects [2COR 1:8]. Despite their claims to access the divine and its unearthly power, clergymen are still mortals, and are therefore susceptible to all human frailties. It particular, relatively few pastors are capable of withstanding their job stress. Most of the clergy’s work-related problems cannot be outsourced or delegated to others -- they are personal issues, which the priest must face alone. Because of this, the clergy are more prone to burnout (15%) than the general population (8-12%) [4]. Burnout is technical term, used in forestry. Severe forest fires char the humus, rendering the soil infertile and unnourishing; the gutted forest cannot renew itself. Analogous to this is psychological burnout, which is caused when a person becomes exhausted with their major life activity to the point of malfunction [6]. Symptoms include: • Insomnia. [6] [7] • Weight loss/gain. [6] [7] • Loss of appetite. [6] • Headaches. [6] [7] • Gastrointestinal trouble. [6] • Chronic fatigue. Sleep cannot repair this, and vacations only temporarily alleviate it. [6] • Persistent low-level depression [6], as a result of mourning the death of their hope and ideals [7]. 70% of priests suffer from depression [1]. • Nagging boredom. [6] • Angry and/or resentful outbursts. [6] [7] • Spiritual emptiness (i.e., a lack of desire to pray or study scriptures) [7] • Avoiding accountable relationships [7] • Negativity [7] • Cynicism [7] • Paranoia [7] • Lack of self-worth [7] • Lack of satisfaction from achievements [7] • Anxiety/worry [7] • Panic attacks [7] • Use of vice as a form of escapism [7] • A craving for isolation and seclusion, leading to a withdrawal from friends and family. [7] • Social anxiety. [7]

Often pastors will burn out several times before quitting or getting fired. Each bout of despair is eventually met with a rededication and commitment to push themselves harder, which only sets them up on a downward spiral [7]. The clergy burnout for a number of interrelated and overlapping reasons: Overwork. Pastors confuse their ministry with their identity, and lose their sense of self; they literally become their job [1]. The perceived importance and responsibility of their work, and its eternal consequences, causes priests to work harder or longer than they should. There is no real way to gauge how many hours they work, or when they are “on the clock;” priests are always on-call. [2] This is why 90% of pastors work between 55-75 hours per week. Despite this, 50% of pastors still feel unable to meet the demands of their job [1], or to even meet its most basic criterion of being a “holy man” -- the average pastor only prays for 39 minutes per day, and 15% of pastors prays for < 15 minutes a day [7].

Since priests typically do not have formal job descriptions, they become overloaded with tasks. This is compounded by the fact that fatigue compromises efficiency, causing those who work longer hours to accomplish less. Many clergy will work even longer hours to make up for this lost productivity, only to establish a vicious circle that leaves them ragged and unaccomplished. The many long nights eventually take their toll on the clergyman; inadequate sleep strongly correlates with depression, anxiety, and other emotional problems [8] [9] [2].

The end result is that priests have difficulty renewing themselves, because they have little leisure time to do so. Since there is always something going on, their rest is often disturbed, and any interruption in relaxation forces them to start relaxing all over again [6].

• Lack of Closure. Ministry produces no tangible products. Carpenters can take pride in completed houses, and doctors can see patients improve. Priests, however, face an endless, Sisyphean cycle of masses, weddings funerals, crises, holidays, sick people, etc. A minister’s job is endlessly repetitive and never done. Holidays come and go, and masses take on the same form. One sick person dies, only to be replaced by another.

The clergy exists to maintain traditions; so there is never anything new or changing about their job. This lack of creativity leads to boredom and exhaustion once the novelty wears off. A pastor can guide their flocks for months or years without knowing if they have moved them spiritually.

“Of what value were doggerel hymns raggedly sung? What value in sermons, when the congregation seemed not at all different from people who never heard sermons? Were all ministers and all churches, Frank wondered, merely superstitious survivals, merely fire-insurance?" -- From Elmer Gantry

The immaterial nature of priestly work provides no metric for the clergy to gauge their results. The need to see that they have created something of lasting value leads many clergy to obsess over capital building projects [6]. This ongoing thirst for legacy is a persistent trend that is not confined to any one denomination. ( At one point, 10% of all American charitable giving was spent building church facilities. As a result, churches owned more land than the five largest corporations combined [10].)

Pastors have accountability issues because they work alone most of the time, and most parishioners, and leaders, have no idea how they spend that time. Even when there is a group of staff members, they work independently on their own tasks. Most pastors make no large moral failures, but many small ones that go unchecked, each one pushing the boundary a little further. Flaws are overlooked until catastrophic failure. [2]

Three factors that make pastoral success undefinable: 1. Much of a pastor’s work has an indirect effect. Programs and administration play a role in spiritual development, but it’s not clear what or how. 2. Much of makes a church succeed or fail is outside their control. 3. Expectations and success criteria vary from church to church, so there is no standard to measure success by. [2]

• Unsustainable Image. Clergy serve in the holy office of ministry; it is the office that is holy, not the person [11]. Regardless, people have unrealistic expectations and assumptions of clergymen as being extraordinarily gifted and holy. Priests are expected to be a great teachers, pastors, counselors, financial wizards, and maintainers of the old traditions. Clergy are expected to possess and use all of these talents to call on their parishioners and the sick; attend community events and social functions; to champion the poor and for civil rights; and to be a personal counselor and advisor to anyone who asks. No one has the power, talent, or energy to meet all of these expectations; yet the priest must constant fight to meet these unrealistic demands, because the parishioners hold power over them. It is the parishioners, via tithing, who pay the priest’s bills -- and in some denominations -- determine if they stay [6].

Image issues are a root cause of overwork. Since clergy exist to serve God and their fellow man, the denial of any request -- especially to make time for rest and leisure -- is perceived as selfishness. This problem is compounded by the misconception among the laity that priests only work a few days a week. People have great expectations of the clergy, and will react extremely negatively to any of their pastor’s failures or mistakes. This causes priests to live in cultivated personas, hiding their true selves under a metaphorical mask. Priests are expected to be a sort of third gender, asexual and sinless, shielded from the world’s corrupting influences; they are paid with the unrealistic expectation of not having problems of their own [2]. Priests must constantly look and act the part to everyone; they cannot appear tired or unhappy in public. Wearing this mask requires great energy and generates lots of negative feelings; this requires the priest to mask themselves further, establishing a vicious circle. Eventually, the priest loses touch with their true selves, and they will either suffer an identity crisis; or they will reduce themselves to a bland, humorous, and unlikable plastic caricature [6]. Humor and lightheartedness are notoriously difficult for clergymen, since their role requires solemnity, dignity, decorum, and piousness, all of which exclude humor, by definition [4]. As such, 70% of pastors claim to have a poor self-image as a direct result of their time as a pastor [11].

However, to defend one’s image and perception is to cater to and defend the ego, and a ministering person cannot serve both God and his egocentricity. The problem posed by the persona is the most important, for it strikes at the heart of spiritual development. The main attack Jesus made on the evils of his time was not against stealing, sexual sins, or even violence, but against hypocrisy (i.e., identification with a false persona that prevents one from being genuine or real). While this attack was focused at the Pharisees, Christ issued this as a general blanket statement that lead to Christ making many enemies, who in turn, crucified him. Since the ministering person functions in a role in which she is handed a persona by the persons she serves, they are constantly in danger of losing themselves. This is especially damning because creativity is a product of the real self; to cater to the ego is to abandon one’s creative gifts [6].

• Lack of Support Networks. Pastors are essentially professional Christians. Since they spend so much time at work, most of their friends are the other congregation members -- their social life is their profession. Since most people are not clergy, and are thus unable to understand what their job entails. The clergy lacks common ground with the members of their community. This sharply contrasts with restaurant workers or tradesmen, whose common plights allow them to quickly form deep friendships with coworkers and competitors alike. Their professional and personal lives are further complicated by the fact that the clergy often live and work in the communities which they try to support [8], so priests can never “cut loose [2].”

Because of this, 70% of pastors report that they have no close friends [1] [11]. While priests are expected to be friends to everyone, few are people are friends to them because no one feels comfortable about “letting their hair down” in front of a priest, and because priests are frequently called upon to love intrinsically unlovable people [2]. Without ordinary human relationships, people will become disconnected from their darker sides and become humorless, plastic caricatures of people [6]. This isolation results in subjectivity, which in turn leads to self-pity and poor decisions. The self-pitying perspectives born from isolation often breeds further isolation and greater self-pity; creating a vicious circle [2].

Without close friends, there is no one to give priests honest feedback and constructive criticism; as a result, priests have little accountability, and they cannot see their weakness or blind spots. Accountability is the only defense against mediocrity. Most parishioners won’t hold priests accountable, either out of politeness or other social obligation. Without corrective criticism, a priest will never reach excellence, because they will think they have already achieved it. The priest will lose satisfaction in their work, since it no longer provides a challenge, and the church will also suffer from their poor performance. [2]

• Inadequate Training. Despite the fact that over 50% of pastors have Master’s degrees, and 10% have doctorates [2], 90% of pastors feel that ministry was nothing like they imagined it to be [1], and they were inadequately trained [1] [11], to the point where 50% of pastors feel that they are unable to meet their job demands [11]. This is because a pastor has to perform several disparate job functions -- a spiritual counsellor/teacher, and corporate administrator level. They must serve two masters [10].

While seminaries and bible colleges offer specialized training for clergy, there is no “lab” or “practicum” component to their studies. Instead, they concentrate on hermeneutics, chrestomathy, pericopes, exegesis, homiletics, liturgics, isagogics, apologetics, hymnology, and classical languages (e.g., Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic). Few seminaries teach the skills which are critical to the actual day-to-day operations of a parish (e.g., accounting, psychology, project management) -- and even fewer cover these subjects in sufficient detail. Seminaries teach everything except what a priest needs to know, and much of what they do learn must be unlearned in order to succeed -- and the shock and frustration of this drives many pastors to quit. A seminary education teaches how to be true to one’s faith, but not how to communicate that faith in a turbulent world. Seminaries resist change and the inevitable theological implications of change -- but as a result, they prepare their students to face a long-forgotten Victorian world [2].

These issues are compounded by Christianity’s turbulent relationship with academia. While the churches founded the universities to train and educate their future leaders, this has historically backfired, as the exchange of ideas inevitably creates new heresies [12]. This aversion persists in the following forms: • The amount of religious training needed to become a priest comes at a considerable expense. In the United States, parochial schools must charge exorbitant tuitions, since the government only funds secular schools [12] • Religious schools tend to recruit subpar instructors, as the academic elite prefer to work for secular schools, where they are guaranteed freedom from church interference [12]. • Fundamentalists are discouraged from attending college, as they believe that higher education causes people to lose their faith [13]. Interestingly, this claim has no basis in reality. Among evangelicals, 90% of the twenty-somethings who de-converted did so prior to going to college; and 40% lost their faith before entering high school [14]. • There is a Christian tendency to view social science as subversive and morally compromising [15]. • Christianity has as long and stormy past with evolution, largely because of its strong parallels to Hinduism, and because it inspired Marxism [16]. • Christian (especially Catholic) theological arguments are based on Aristotelian logic, ignoring all of the advances in the field of logic since then [17]. • Christian homeschooling persists in the United States, despite its obvious shortcomings. Because Christian homeschooling is intrinsically nonconformist and individualized, there is no way to quantify its efficacy. No universal or random data samples can exist, so the performance of homeschoolers is intrinsically skewed because there is no norm to compare them too [13]. However: o 19% of homeschooling parents lack a high school diploma or GED, and only 10 states require that they have one. [13] o Polling data indicates that choice of schooling (public, parochial, or homeschooling) has no correlation as to whether or not a child will leave their church [14].

Stress-induced maladies. Burnout is not caused by stress and frustration, per se; it is caused by how one responds to stress and frustration [2]. 75% of pastors report going through a significant, ministry-related stress-induced crisis, and 40% of pastors have at least one serious conflict with a parishioner per month [11].

Excessive stress causes muscle tension, indigestion, headaches, and lowered immune function. Stress decreases productivity, since stress excites the limbic system and suppresses frontal lobe activity; emotions hinder problem-solving. Physically speaking, most pastors are train wrecks: • Only 50% of pastors receive the recommended minimum amount of exercise (i.e., 30 minutes a day, thrice a week) [7]. o 28% of pastors do not exercise at all [7]. • 68-76% of pastors are overweight or obese, which is higher than the general population (61%) [11]. o 15% of pastors are >50 lbs. overweight [7]. • ~66% of pastors skip meals at least once a week. o 39% of pastors skip 3+ meals per week. • 88% of pastors eat fast food on a weekly basis. o 33% of pastors eat fast food 3+ times /week. • ~39% of pastors experience weekly digestive troubles [7]. o 14% of pastors experience digestive trouble 3+ times/week [7]. • Only 16% of the clergy gets enough sleep. [7]. o 87% of clergy have insufficient sleep once a week [7]. o 47% of clergy have insufficient sleep 3+ times/week [7]. • ~60% of pastors feel that their jobs keep them away from their families [7]. • Interestingly, the youngest clergymen are the unhealthiest. This is likely due to the overwork needed further their careers and make name for themselves [7]. • Pastors are more likely to suffer from depression. (The exact figures vary greatly between surveys; between 16% [7] and 80% [5] of pastors are depressed, which is admittedly to much variation to draw a definitive conclusion; however, all of these surveys show that depression occurs more frequently in pastors than it does for the general population (~10%) [7]. o 40% of pastors have occasional bouts of depression or are feel “worn out” [5].

Not only are they [the clergy] not just taking care of themselves, but they often use a sort of eschatological fatalism or justify their lack of self-care. They feel that if they expend themselves completely in the Lord’s work, God will look after them -- body, mind, and spirit. Because their final goal is to be with the Lord, it’s alright to mortgage one’s body against this final eventuality [9].

These stress effects are compound by the effects they have on the priest’s family. 80% of pastors believe the ministry has a negative effect on their families, and 33% of pastors will clearly state that outright. 94% of minister’s wives, and 91% of their children feel they are under extra pressure; and 54% of the wives and 46% of the children strongly feel this way [11]. 10% of pastors will quit because their families cannot cope with these unwritten expectations [1].

• Inadequate funding. The Church lives off of the capital and clout it earned in the Constantinian era, which has dwindled since then. The church lost its political power in 200 years of revolutions, lost its social position in the Enlightenment, and lost its psychological power by the worldliness of the modern age. As a result, Christianity limps along with its ancient metaphysical baggage, along with the egotistic notion of its own importance acquired from when it was still the empire’s official ideology [12].

As a result, pastors constantly struggle to stretch and optimize extremely limited resources, on both institutional and personal levels. Despite all of their tax advantages, most churches struggle to keep the lights on. 70% of typical church revenues go to overhead. This why churches are, at all times, either planning, engaged in, or wrapping up capital drives, in order to: 1. Build an entirely “new, modern, and adequate church plant” at a recently acquired site 2. Extensively renovating an existing facility, by installing a new organ, central AC, Sunday school facilities, and parking complexes 3. Raising money for earlier multi-stage projects whose “last stage” has now arrived [10].

The average American church only consists of 85-100 people [2], there is a small pool of capital for churches to draw upon. This is why less than half of even the most liberal churches are able to engage in charity of any kind -- and this figure includes even the simplest things, like having children collect pennies for the poor [5]. This is why: • 80-85% of US churches are plateauing or declining [2], and 100,000 churches are caught in death spirals [18]. • Churches are closing at a rate of ~2800/year [1, 2]. Based on the approximation of 350,000 churches in the US [19] and assuming a linear continuation of this trend, American religion will be completely extinct by 2135. However, since linear trends are often confused for the beginning of exponential trends [20], this extinction date could come sooner, and at ever-accelerating rate. • $14.8 million (adjusted for inflation) dissolved church property is either given away annually [2]. Many dissolved churches are forced to sell their buildings, where they are converted into condominiums [CITATION!] town halls (Auburn, NH) and dōjōs (Bedford, NH) [14]. • The outflow of worshippers greatly exceeds the inflow. The majority of the “inflow” is actually “recirculation” -- most of the new churchgoers are not converts; they are existing Christians who have come from other churches [2].

In addition to these institutional-level struggles, pastors also equally struggle on a personal level. 70% of pastors feel grossly underpaid, and 30% of pastors will quit for this reason, because priests make less than garbagemen [1].

Additionally, many priests must pay “the costs of employment” (e.g., Social Security, insurance, retirement, etc.) out-of-pocket, and this can comprise as much as 40% of their salary, since the self-employed must pay Social Security tax at a higher rate. Granted, these costs are usually factored into their salaries, but this gives a false impression of how much pastors really earn. The most experienced pastors still make a median salary that is 30% more than a new priest, and much less than other professionals. 1 in 8 priests work two jobs. Cost-of-living increases do not keep up with inflation, giving them less purchasing power each year. Many priest wind up on government assistance programs, like food stamps. The wives’ of priests have a cultural expectation to do lots of unpaid volunteer work for the church, which is not factored into the pastor’s compensation package. The church essentially hires a pastoral couple, which is typically forced into a single-income lifestyle [2]. ________________________________________ The Indifference of Youth.

Like all cultures and institutions, Christianity is always one generation away from evaporation [14], since every generation of teenagers is essentially a “barbarian invasion;” they must be domesticated, they will overthrow society. Strangely though, most religious communities face no problem with teenage rebellion. Instead, they are being overwhelmed by teenage apathy [21].

Faith played a large role in daily life in the past, largely because Western culture was engineered to cultivate Christian faith through community, church, religious indoctrination, public schools (which had Bible reading), nuclear families, and popular entertainment (which was somewhat based on a biblical worldview). These power structures have since eroded [22], leading to our current “post-Christian era,” where Christianity still exists, no longer plays a significant role in the shaping of our culture. Many of the old ways were not designed for such a counterculture era, as they were born out of a time of Christian dominance (or at least of favored status). Church services are now merely a temporary respite from one’s daily burdens, where one can feel safety and a holy presence [11]. Churches, by nature, are having difficulty adapting to a changing world because they exist to resist change, and reinforce this with: [2] • A confusion of form with function, leading to a focus on the institution, rather than its reason-for-being. • A socially self-perpetuating nature. • A tendency to yield to minority rule. • Excessive reverence for “yesterday’s innovators.” • Risk-aversion / the unwillingness to suffer pain. As such, the church is seen as irrelevant. This is a result of hypocrisy, inflexibility in the face of cultural change, and a general “watering-down” of the religion itself to attract new members. This is especially true for young people. 47% of US teens feel that the church is irrelevant. While 50% of young people regularly attend church, it is mostly because they enjoy the music, because there is no correlation between church attendance and devotion. Many young people who go to church only do so out of social obligation or force-of-habit [14]. The theological foundations of even the most faithful youth are at risk because: [22] • They are skeptical about the original biblical manuscripts. • They read the Bible through the lens of pluralism. • Changing media behaviors and shorter attention spans make Scripture a less effective medium. • They are less convinced of scripture’s commands for obedience. • Secular culture interferes with religious commitments and obligations. • Questions of the role that faith plays in politics, sexuality, science, media, technology, etc. are usually framed in a way that makes faith irrelevant. • Youth today have more religiously diverse friends. • Even the biggest-names Christian leaders of earlier generations (i.e., Fulton Sheen) are unknown to the vast majority of today’s Christians. • Young adults consult the internet long before consulting their pastors. • Relativism (“What’s true for you might not be true for me”) is more-or-less an accepted cultural norm. • Peers serve as moral and spiritual compasses. • Young Christians are exposed to a variety of religious content with no means of evaluating it. • Young people are interested in exploring spirituality on their own terms. o It should be noted that many of the people calming to be “spiritual” are just use the term as a dodge, as they don’t want to open their beliefs to scrutiny [23].

This trend is unlikely to end in the near future, as fewer than 20% of twenty-somethings regularly attend mass. 61% of American twenty-somethings were churchgoers as teens, but they have since become spiritually disengaged, (i.e., they do not actively attending a church, read the Bible, or pray). While 51% of twenty-somethings attend mass as “CEOs” (Christmas-Easter Only) to meet their family obligations, over 30% of twenty-somethings report that the thought of attending mass never crosses their mind. This may be to the fact that they were never introduced to faith, as 19% of twenty-somethings were never reached by the Christian community during their upbringing [14].

The National Study of Youth Religion (NSYR) Study from 2002-2005 highlighted a number of other interesting/disturbing trends: [21] • Most American teenagers have a positive view of religion -- but only because they don’t give it much thought. They don’t approve per se; they are simply too indifferent to be hostile. • Most US teens simply mirror their parent’s faith. • Teenagers are severely lacking the theological language needed to express their faith or interpret their experiences. o Teens don’t talk about religion because religious education in America is so shoddy that they simply don’t know how to talk about religious feelings or issues. o Church attendance does not correlate with improved theological language skills. o Teens don’t see faith as being too deep for words, but as to vapid to require its own jargon. • A significant minority (8%) of American teenagers say that religious faith is both important and that it makes a difference in their lives. While these teenagers are objectively doing better in life when compared to their less-religious peers, based on a number of metrics, it should be noted that: o Participating in any identity-bearing community, religious or otherwise, improves a young person’s likelihood to thrive. o Religion frequently anesthetizes young people into compliance, which is mainly responsible for their “doing well.” For the most part, compliance is all that is asked of teenagers, and those who are “doing well” in a broad sense are usually just conforming to social norms.  It should be noted that compliance with social norms occasionally contravenes with religious teachings, which is why these 8% who are “doing well” are often have reputations as troublemakers within their spiritual community. o These 8% view faith as a “way of life” rather than a “belief system.” o These high-devoted Christian teenagers have operationalized Christian hope as a generalized trust that God has the future under control, without showing much familiarity with (or interest in) traditional Christian teachings. Hope, for the most part, provided highly-devoted teenagers with a tool for dealing with present problems -- which in turn gave them confidence that they had the tools necessary to face future hardships. • When pressed about their faith, most of these teenagers are actually Moralistic Therapeutic Deists, and not Christians per se.

However, coupled to this is a much deeper problem -- it’s not that people aren’t going to church, it’s that droves of young people are abandoning the concept of religion altogether. There are as many reasons for de-conversion as there are de-converts, but the abandonment of faith typically stems from the church being perceived as: 1. Overprotective. Youth is coupled with an impulse towards creative and cultural engagement. They want to reimagine, rethink, and reinvent. Churches stifle creativity -- and with it, cultural relevance -- in favor of tradition. In particular: [22] a. Christians demonize everything, and everyone, that is not explicitly labeled as Christian. b. Christians fear pop-culture; in particular, movies and music. Although they young Christians are told to fear “the world,” upon exploration, they typically find that it’s not so bad, and often better at explaining and expressing the human experience. i. Movies were a disruptive technology to the religious establishment, as religious services were traditionally seen as a form of live theatre. Movies were easily portable and require no specific skills or education to watch. Movies have a wide appeal to all ages, genders, and social classes; they were cheap and profitable even after the expense of building theatres. Americans attended movie theatres weekly by the 1920s, mostly on Sundays. The movie-going audiences were thrice that of all churchgoers in 1937, despite it being at the height of the Great Depression [24]. ii. Christians have historically feared popular music because it offers a venue for free expression. Limiting expression is crucial for controlling discourse [25]. While heavy metal, and its subgenres, are historically the Christian’s frequent target, their ire touches all genres. For example, John Denver was once considered “Satanic,” for his claim that there was some degree of truth to every religion [26]. c. Many young Christians fail to establish a separation between the sacred and the secular. d. Christians seek to preserve the status quo, they inadvertently drive out creative youths, as they search for venues for their talents and creative urges.

2. Sheltered. Christians are thought of as being old-fashioned, boring, and out-of-touch with reality. This view is shared by ~66% of non-believers, as well as ~25% of churchgoing Christians [27]. Christians are seen as unable to respond to the grisliness of reality in appropriately complex ways, preferring simplistic solutions and answers [27] and assuming a rigid, black-or-white worldview [22], and are only able to communicate among themselves via a jargon designed to obfuscates communication with outsiders.

Christians enjoy being in their own community, even though the more they seclude themselves, the less they can function in the outside world [27]. To this end, many churches have refined denial into an artform, responding to harsh truths with the thought-terminating line “Don’t talk like that” as a means of escaping the pain that always comes coupled with the truth [11]. For this reason, Christians need to witness extreme, transparent, and blatant enmity before they can recognize their enemies for what they are. American Christians quickly became anti-Communist after watching the show trials and executions of clergymen. By contrast, it was not at all easy for German Christians to be anti-Nazi, since Hitler, who openly proclaimed himself to be anti-communist and anti-Jewish, did not openly proclaim himself to be anti-Christian. Thus, Christians found it easy to convince themselves, despite an enormous mass of evidence to the contrary, that Hitler and Nazism were not the enemies of their religion [3].

3. Shallow. Churches are boring, and only offering slogans and platitudes, rather than opportunities or young people to apply their individual gifts. According to a 2011 Barna Group survey, 23% of American Christians, ages 18-29 feel that the church does not help them find their purpose, or prepare them for life [22].

4. Anti-science. A 2011 Barna Group survey of revealed that 25% of American Christians, ages 18-29, believe that their church is an anti-science organization; and 18% believe their church is an anti-intellectual organization. In particular, 23% of young Christians have been turned off by the creationists. This is especially critical, because 52% of young Christians wish to pursue science-related careers, and only 1% of youth pastors/workers ever address scientific issues [22].

Part of this is resistance is because science grants a better quality-of-life than anything the Bible could provide with its outdated work ethic. The Bible assumes that all work is toil and labor, and makes no provisions for jobs which are enjoyable or spiritually rewarding. The Bible makes no thought of efficiency, of doing more with less, or with labor-saving machines [12].

Additionally, science trivializes much of the Bible’s most fantastic claims: When Jesus healed a leper, it was miraculous; but when the pharmaceutical industry cured every leper, it was merely business.

5. Repressive. Religious rules (especially sexual rules) stifle young people, and are seen as “tyrannical [22].” Activities and viewpoints that were on the fringe for Baby Boomers now define Generation X and the Millennials [27]. 21% of young people seek more freedom in life, and cannot find it in the church. 12% of young people cannot rectify the church’s desires with the world around them, forcing them to “live a double life [22].”

This is especially true for young Catholics (18-29), 40% of whom [22] feel that the Catholic Church’s teachings on sexuality, which favor chastity over prudence [3], are out of date. No one leaves the Catholic Church because they reject the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception; it is usually due to other personal, and often sexually-motivated, reasons [22]. Catholics are forced to leave the church if they disagree with it, as they have no other means of recourse -- the Church is the very opposite of a democracy; it is an absolute monarchy, somewhat resembling the constitutional system of Louis XIV of France (“The state is me”) [3].

As a result, Christians have become famous for what they oppose, rather than what they are for [27]. This outrage only further compromises Christian credibility, since the average American church only has varying degrees of influence over 85-100 people [2], which is too little power to persecute anyone for their perceived infractions [3]. As such, the worst that punishment that churches can ever inflict are empty threats which can be easily shrugged aside.

6. Exclusive. The current generation of young people was raised in a culture that embraced open-mindedness, tolerance, and acceptance [22]. Compounding this is the fact that pretty much every religion that has ever existed has made the same claims: “Our god or gods will protect and heal you if you pray to them and help support their priests.” This is further complicated by the fact there is no way of proving or disproving any of these claims. (Faith cannot validate religious claims, because faith is not exclusive, and it can be used to equally validate any other religion. Likewise, miracles cannot be cited as evidence. Since most religions feature gods who can perform miracles, any unexplained phenomena can be used as a proof for most faiths.) Claiming that Christianity is the one, true faith is a hard sell -- even if one were to write off the rest of the world’s religions, one must still contend with the 41,000 denominations of Christianity [28].

Young people see Christians as obsessed with conveying an unreal, polished image; that the Church is only for virtuous and morally-pure people [27]. 22% of young people claim that the church is “like a country club, only for insiders” that “ignores the problems of the real world.” As such, 29% of young people feel forced to choose between their faith and their friends [22].

Among those who have quit attending their church, there is a common theme of “we did not leave the church, but rather, the Church left us” [22].

7. Doubtless. “A generation of young Christians believes that the churches in which they were raised are not safe and hospitable places to express doubts. Many feel that they have been offered slick or half-baked answers to their thorny, honest questions, and they are rejecting the “talking heads” and “talking points” they see among older generations. ” [22] Frequently, the church’s response is trivial and fact-focused, as though people can be talked out of doubting. This is not so, as 36% of people ages 18-29 don’t feel as though they can even ask their most pressing life questions in church, and 20% say that faith doesn’t help with their depression or other emotional problems [22].

Failure to address doubt is one of the leading causes of de-conversion, as those who leave Christianity altogether typically do so because their pastors were unable to provide answers to the “big questions,” namely: [22] i. The Problem of Evil ii. The fact that they were only Christian by default, as a result of geography and culture (had they been born in India, they would’ve been Hindu). iii. What to believe in the Bible, and why. iv. All religions converge on the same basic messages, so why does Christianity remain exclusive?

This doubtlessness borders on hubris, which will eventually become the Christians’ undoing. The Christians are so convinced of Christ’s return and triumph that they have lulled themselves into a sense of complacency. The Christians have become so assured in their assumption that they will be the final victors, they do not take the necessary actions required to ensure that victory, like a pompous wannabe athlete who thinks he is “too good to practice” [3].

8. Overly-focused on winning converts. Young people feel like targets and not people; they are skeptical as to whether Christians genuinely care about them. The continual push to get non-believers to learn about Christ to “become saved” fails because the majority (82%) of American non-Christians (ages 16-29) were previously church-going Christians. Evangelism fails to impress people who’ve seen the movie before. Most non-believers quit the church because they learned, contemplated, and understood the church’s teachings, and consciously rejected them [27].

Christians persist in their elaborate and costly mass evangelism efforts, despite the fact they are ineffective and counterproductive. Television, radio, and tracts have been shown to account for < 0.5% of converts; efforts which generate 3-10 times as much negative response as positive. Moreover, such mass evangelism efforts mostly reach marginally churched adults; they mass evangelists only “save” the low-hanging fruit of people who were “saved” once upon a time [27].

9. Anti-homosexual. 38% of young people view Christianity as an anti-LBGT organization [22] that is fixated on “curing” homosexuals and on leveraging political solutions against them [27].

10. Overly political. Christians are perceived as promoting and representing an agenda of politically conservative interests and issues [27]. Despite Christ’s liberal and groovy teachings, Christians tend to be conservative, because Authoritarian personalities are attracted to the hierarchy and dogma which the church provides [3].

Additionally, churches serve as fertile ground for extremist positions, since churches exist to create groups of people who are conditioned to accept dogmatism [29]. This is why most dangerous features of Communism were reminiscent of the medieval church (e.g., the fanatical acceptance of doctrines embodied in a sacred book; an unwillingness critically examine those doctrines critically; and the savage persecution of those who reject the doctrines [17].)

11. Judgmental. Christians seen as being quick to judge others, and are not honest about their attitudes and perspectives about other people. As such, their claim to “love thy neighbor” is doubted. This, when combined with the other listed items, cause young people to see Christians as hypocritical, and their morally-superior attitudes are met with skepticism. (e.g., “Born-again” Christians adamantly believe homosexuality is a sin, but 61% of “born-again” Christians believe divorce is not sinful, despite Jesus Christ explicitly forbidding non-adultery divorces [MAT 5:32] [27].) This is reinforced by the Christian tendency to reserve judgement against their own moral transgressions, writing off their own wrongdoings with a variety of stock platitudes like “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven [28].”

In the United States, 11% of Christians -- 1 in 9 -- will eventually de-convert [22]. Among those who leave: • 31% consider both the Bible and the church to be irrelevant, and they will never return [14]. o 61% of these de-converts regularly attended Sunday school. This is interesting, because a lack of faith is not a result of a lack of religious education; Sunday school simply has no impact on what young people believe. If anything, Sunday school causes de-conversions, since it only teaches on an inspirational or moral level, neither of which is relevant or useful within the secular world which exists outside the church’s doors [14]. • 69% consider the church to be irrelevant, but believe that the Bible is not. These people tend to return to church, but join a different sect, after having children [14, 22]. Among those who return: o 24% of those who return still do not believe, and only return to set an example for their children [14]. o 7% of those who return still do not believe, and only return because they like the music [14]. o 0% of those who return do so because the miss going to Sunday school [14]. • 56% said that their science classes led them to doubt the Bible. [14]

This ecclesiastical decline is an international phenomenon. Only 6.3% of the UK population is regular churchgoers, with only 2.5% of the population participating in Bible-based worship. The average British congregation consists of 84 people, with a despite a parishioner-to-church ratio of 1340:1 [14]. ________________________________________ Hostile Parishioners

Frustrated parishioners are a perpetual source of conflict. 40% of pastors experience a serious conflict with parishioners at least once a month [1]. Churches are magnets for weirdos and troublemakers, since unlike other professionals (e.g., doctors, lawyers, psychotherapists), priests cannot dismiss problematic people without being seen as cruel. Priests must stroke these parishioner’s egos, lest they become resentful and problematic from a lack of attention. This constant, fruitless work bleeds priests of their energy and willpower, which they must supply, even when there is no one there for them [6].

There are as many reasons for parishioner hostility as there are hostile parishioners. It should be noted that their behavior is usually not troublesome unless they are ignored or put down. They only cause problems for clergy when their needs go unattended [4]. Some of the more common hostile parishioners include: • These are the members who are bored, floundering, underused, or unrecognized [4]. • Older people who are unable to influence the congregation’s agenda as much as they want to [4]. • Older people who seek a traditional church experience, because those are one of the few things from their youth that still remain. This includes regularly visiting his parishioners [2]. • Younger people choose churches by the services they provide, and view pastors not as holy men, but as community center managers [2]. • New members who are eager to make their mark [4]. • Deeply dedicated and energetic members who have not found adequate outlets for service. • Straight-up troublemakers who enjoy drama [4]. • Rugged individualists who make poor “team-players [4].” • Hyper-devout members who are “more Catholic then the pope,” and see heresy where none exists [3]. • Troubled people assume they can go to any ministering person, at any time, and expect to be helped with their troubles -- even if they are not a member of that congregation [30]. While these people expect psychologists to charge for their services, they also expect priests to perform similar services for free [6]. o This sets up an unequal one-way relationship that makes the client feel guilty, which impedes their healing [6]. o Likewise, since the client doesn’t pay, they will not take their counseling seriously [6]. o Some people (e.g., paranoid delusionals, psychopaths, sociopaths) simply cannot be saved, since they lack the requisite sense of moral values and desire to change [6]. o Some people are “clinging vines” who demand to be propped up by other people or institutions, using the strength of others exclusively, rather than cultivate any of their own. This is usually achieved via the use guilt to manipulate others into helping them [6]. Each hostile parishioner drains a portion the priest’s time, forcing the pastor to work a little harder and little longer -- and burnout a little quicker. While the actions of individual hostile parishioners are trivial, their cumulative effect is profound. 63% of ex-pastors said that the resistance to their leadership is what drove them to quit; it is the leading cause of clergy attrition [1]. Likewise, 43% of people who leave their church do so because of issues with their pastor [5]. Stone’s meta-analysis of Lifeway and Barna Group data reveals that while parishioners and pastors agree on church commitment and Christian walk issues, parishioners are frequently unaware of leadership, directional, and relational issues [5]. Many hostile parishioners cause trouble inadvertently; 40% of parishioners have no clue what frustrates their pastors -- and 12% of parishioners thinking that nothing does [5]. Even if the pastor does everything right, there is literally a thankless job -- only 4% of congregants will affirm their clergyman in anyway -- and 46% of those who do merely call or write to say “thank you” [5].

Much of these struggles are based around the harsh fact that priests have no authority beyond their ability to persuade people [2]. Priests are leaders, but not bosses. In the typical parish, the ministers aren’t the permanent fixture; the congregation is. Priestly promotions and demotions are typically not determined by the higher church echelons, but by the organization-minded laymen who have been entrusted with some degree of leadership because of their community status or business know-how. Priests are forced to outsource the business aspects of their parish’s operations to the congregation, since priests receive little to no business training in seminary. As a result, congregations can’t be pushed in ways that they don’t want to go -- they’ll only rebel, and replace the plucky minister another, and another, until they find one that agrees with them. Economic and political pressure trumps ecclesial pressure [10]. Even Catholics, who do not select their own priests, can still mount rebellions against them. When priests do not respond to parishioner’s actions, they can appeal by petitioning their bishop - and if if the bishop does not respond, the parishioner can petition the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and/or the pope directly, to address the bishop’s heresy [3].

The parish’s prime motivation is to ensure its own survival, and then to ensure its security. The pastors success and career survival are measured by the degree of their performance on those two metrics. As such, churches and their pastors are under constant pressure to increase their membership; growth signifies success. Additionally, churches and pastors must periodically expand or renovate their buildings, to signify progress. These acts require funding, and an enormous consumption of the minister’s time, energy, and supervision at the expense of other goals [10]. This is complicated by the fact that churches grow rapidly, but slowly erode over time; parishioners are unable to see the need to change, even if it is in their best interest [18].

Hostile parishioners are allowed to prosper because of: [4] • Volunteer or paid leaders undergo little or no pre-hire screening. • Secondary channels are used to work outside of accepted procedures. This grants special privileges to individuals, robbing the existing political structure of its power. • Attempts to quell a parishioner’s anger without finding out why they were angry to begin with. • Underuse of existing pastoral support systems. • Support systems failing to address issues or defend the pastor. • The denomination and/or bishop failing to intervene, because their power and situational involvement is typically limited. However, even if they can’t directly intervene, they should still be able to assert authority and/or mandate compliance. • A failure to understand how unresolved past issues continue to influence the present. • A failure to quell gossip. • Seminaries fail to teach their students how to deal with hostility. • Pastors failing to explore other options and opportunities. • Allowing the “collateral damage” of drama/conflict to compromise a support system. • Pastors often have no pastors to turn too or collaborate with. o Note that this does not apply to Catholic priests, who are procedurally required to have their own designated confessor. • Pastors who fail to assert their authority. o Pastors are unusually prone to guilt, which makes them more vulnerable to manipulation from con artists or others who wish to use leverage to extort money or services from the pastor. • Pastors who fail to employ a “good-vs.-evil” mentality. Clergy often delude themselves into thinking that Christian love can conquer all; and will deny, pamper, or excuse the actions of subversives as a result. Likewise, this mentality renders pastors completely unable to deal with the mentally ill, or with the truly evil. o Rational arguments, love, and negotiations are ineffective against the truly evil. o The mentally ill become completely predictable once they’ve been diagnosed. • An uninformed and theologically-illiterate laity is vulnerable to the threats, flattery, cajolery, misrepresentation, etc. of those who are trying to undermine their pastors. • Harmful or toxic pastors undermine themselves. This typically occurs with misfit pastors, whose personality, style, and conviction does not match those of their congregation. • Well-adjusted and successful Christians at the top of their fields eventually quit attending church services because they lose interest or consider it to be a waste of time [5]. • Meetings to alter the church structure just let the parishioners blow off some steam before returning to their business. Such meetings accomplish less than nothing to alter the structure of a system, because they give the deceptive appearance that something is really happening [12]. • Devoted Christians have a reluctance to stop their own persecution. Christ taught that their allegiance will result in persecution [MAT 5:10-11, 22; 13:13, LUK 6:22; 21:17, 1COR 1:18]. This negative treatment is accepted as proof of being on the right path [27]. ________________________________________ Spiritual Dilution

To be frank, the world has changed and the churches have not, despite the fact that the foundations of American society have undergone drastic changes which were as profound as the Exodus was to the Jews -- and this has happened twice. In 1900, 33% Americans worked in agriculture, as of 1998, only 3% were. (This is why Sunday mass is at 11 AM; because it’s between milking times.) In 1956, most Americans were worked in manufacturing; as of 1998, only 13% were, while 60-70% of people worked in information-related jobs [2].

Our culture is not merely different; it is discontinuously different. The modern culture is far different than the culture the Millennials were raised in -- which in turn was far different than the culture the Baby Boomers were raised in -- which in turn was far different than the culture the WWII Generation was raised in. No group has lived through such a rapidly-changing world. While Christians face far less persecution, the cultural changes are greater and more daunting: [22] • Teachers and pastors can all be fact-checked in real-time. • Young people expect to participate as well as consume. • The phenomena of “learning piracy,” where the Church is not seen as the sole arbiter of spiritual content. • An expectation of flattened hierarchies. • Globally connection to, and awareness of, others. • A desire to stay connected at all times The Christians are applying a static theology to an age of accelerating change -- and since the phrase “rapid social change” is merely as a euphemism for “revolution,” they are trying to live in revolutionary times without a theology of revolution. This is especially problematic, as Christian ideology makes no provisions for revolutions, or counter-revolutions. While the action of God sometimes occurs through what theologians call “historical events,” this is just a euphemism for “social change.” The doctrines of the church are infected with the ideology of preservation and permanence. Almost entirely past-oriented, they derive their authority from various classical periods; from an alleged resemblance to an earlier form of church life; or from a theory of historical continuity -- but a church whose life is defined and shaped by what God is now doing in the world cannot be imprisoned in antiquated specifications [12].

While the American conservatives have become preoccupied with threat of secular humanists encroaching on their hegemony, they ignore their own secularization -- science, technology, politics, and wealth have become the tools they means used to justify their ends [15]. This is because “secular” really means “non-religious,” not “anti-religious.” Everything that is not a church or church-related -- e.g., restaurants, public libraries, roads, parks, shopping plazas, parking garages, etc. -- are, by definition, secular institutions [3]. In reality, the forces of secularization have no serious interest in persecuting any religion; secularization simply bypasses and undercuts religion, and goes on to do other things. Secularization merely relativized religious worldviews, rendering them innocuous. Religion has been privatized; it has been accepted as the particular prerogative and point of view. Secularization has merely convinced people that they could be wrong, and that there are more important things than dying for one’s faith. The traditional gods aren’t needed to play a role in the public life of the secular metropolis [12].

Because of this, religious orders are gradually being replaced by organizations, which are: [12] • Flexible: These groups must make no claim to ultimate origin, and must change to meet their needs -- reorganizing, merging, and disbanding on a whim. While traditions can form, they are of a secondary importance. • Future-oriented: Religious orders views the present in terms of the past; whereas organizations establishes and works towards goals. • Secularized: Tradition, ceremony, and taboo are replaced with technical procedures, which are criticized and refined. Traditions can exist, but these are frills that do not define the group. Organizations are non-exclusive; members can join many other organizations, and are free to come and go as they please. • Limited claim on members: Organizations only influence on a small portion of the member’s life, since the organization’s authority is relative and not absolute. Organizations are like labor unions, whereas religious orders are like trade guilds.

The only way the clergy can ever compete is to change the way that the world perceives them, and refuse to play the role of antiquarian and medicine man -- but this is difficult, because that is their job. The only hope of achieving this is to address the three key problems facing modern city life, which neither the Christians, nor anyone else, have a standardized solution for: [12] 1. The Decentralization of Authority. There is a lack of political structures to address each and every issue, causing some problems to go ignored or improperly treated. 2. Problems must be dealt with on a society-wide basis. The city’s problems are actually the problems of the entire society; cities just make those problems seem more prevalent because of their larger population. 3. The powerlessness of oppressed peoples. The poor and/or minorities are voiceless, since they lack the readiness, capacity, or channels needed to voice their legitimate needs. The Christians are unlikely to address these issues though, since these issues operate on the motifs of pragmatism and worldliness, which have historically been the Christian’s worst events. Even the much-touted weekend service projects just make these problems worse, as they establish a sense of co-dependency, and a dichotomy of those who do, and those who have things done for them [12].

The only way that Christianity can compete with cultural change is to be assimilated by it; and while it will to some degree dissolve itself in the process, the part that remains may have some hope of influencing culture once again. While this is unpalatable to most Christians, it is also unstoppable. Even conservatism falters in the face of cultural change -- while conservatism is defined to be the resistance to cultural changes -- the turbulent currents of change can push conservatism into any direction, and force it to take on any role [15]. Even the Catholic Church, which stood stalwart through centuries of falling empires and countless wars, faltered before the “perfect storm” of social upheavals brought on by the Baby Boomer generation: [3]. 1. Vatican II, which was a groundbreaking upheaval not because of the changes it made -- but because it allowed for changes at all 2. The end of the “Catholic ghetto.” American Catholics, like many other faiths, were once relegated to cloistered enclaves of ethnic neighborhoods, which reinforced their own cultural norms. American culture is more homogenized and pluralistic [21]. 3. The American countercultural revolution of the 1960-70’s. The Civil Rights movement was really an anti-authority movement -- it challenged the state’s authority to enact Jim Crow laws, and was a rebellion against the political, social, business, and education leadership for failing to stand up against Jim Crow. This is why Pope Pius X tried and failed to stop the modernization of the church with his 1907 encyclical letter, Pascendi Dominici Gregis [3]. However, this failed to save the church from the social upheavals of the Baby Boomer Generation, much as it falters before the cultural changes of the present, let alone those which will be induced by climate change and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The only alternative to assimilation -- the eventual victory of traditionalists in the American church landscape -- can only be a pyrrhic victory. The churches will become pessimistic and carry a memory of failure, realizing that they will play an important role in what will, by that point, be America’s thoroughly-secularized dominant culture. This saving remnant will have little or no influence on the larger American society, and be no different that the Amish or the Hasidic Jews [3]. “In the age of video games, Middle-town-wherever will always be closer to Mars than Jerusalem [15].”

Christians have lost their sense of certainty in the face of modernization, leading to a melting down of faith. Secularization makes Christian faith seem less real, privatization turns it into a private preference, and cultural pluralization makes the Christian religion into one among many. Religion has been so deeply relegated to the private sphere it’s disappearance from the public sphere goes unnoticed. To combat this this, Christians attempt to re-enter the public sphere by uncritically reduplicating the stances and styles of the public sphere itself (e.g., Christian rock, Christian superheroes, etc.). However, using the secular world’s tools on the secular world’s terms just compromises the Christians, and holds them captive again [15].

The American church-state separation broke up the monopoly held by the state churches. Since they were no longer monopolies, they have to compete on the free market for parishioners, and they became to act more like marketing agencies [15]. This is a unique situation; the various national Churches of Europe always viewed themselves as being a part of one, larger collective church, and that their version was just the only valid one within the confines of their borders [3]. In the US, all 41,000 denominations of Christianity [28] are at odds with each other, and with every other faith, for members. The struggle is compounded by the fact the average American church has 85-100 parishioners [2], limiting resources to a degree that they struggle to maintain their overhead, let alone their hegemony. As troublesome as it is for Christians, even the American right-wing Conservative Christian establishment is forced to acknowledge the importance of the church-state boundary -- not out of respect for the law -- but since pure Christianity elicits universalistic feelings that can subvert their dogma of nationalism [12].

Churches in the US are forming their own organizations, in a response to the threat that flexible, future-oriented, secularized, membership-limited organizations pose. To get along with one another, these church groups must ignore the theological differences (especially the subtle differences) between one another, and only focus on what unites them -- what they have in common -- instead of what divides them, or what is distinctive to each. However, this is flatly incompatible with the notion of dogmatism. The end result, a generic Christian faith, is a diluted form of Protestantism, which makes pithy attacks at Catholics, and no makes claims of Christ’s divinity to please Unitarians and Jews. It merely consists of the notion of God’s providence, the afterlife, the Ten Commandments, and the ambiguously-interpreted Bible. This denominational consensus erodes loyalty, since no one church -- and not one religion -- has any real advantage over another. These “Cafeteria Christians” then freely pick and choose which dogma to follow, like picking items off of an à la carte line. This is generally accepted to be a recipe for recipe for disintegration via a gradual ecclesial suicide. Denominational consensus is the first step on the slippery slope to skepticism. By conceding their religion’s claim on a monopoly on the truth, these churches grow increasingly tolerant until they are incapable of opposing unorthodox beliefs, even inside their own church walls. In the end, they are not even able to outright oppose outright agnosticism and atheism, or to oppose Christianity’s historically condemned practices (e.g., abortion, homosexuality, and suicide). They will be left with no means for combatting secularism, since non-denominationalists have no dogmas aside from anti-dogmatism, since they tolerate all religious as being equal, except for those which do not support that view [3].

The younger a person is, the less they understand the Christian faith. People mostly parrot what their parents taught them, but the mass-media has assumed much of this role [28], pitching a bland form of non-denominational Christianity like it were toothpaste, laundry detergent or any other consumer product [15]. As a result, a significant Americans are only tenuously Christian in any sense that that they are a historical Christian tradition. Christianity has succeeded in resisting secularization, but only degenerating into a weaker version of itself, until it is colonized and displaced by Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is an “alternative faith that co-opts if not devours” established religious traditions, as it “generally does not and cannot stand on its own.”

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism has little to do with God or a sense of divine mission in the world. It offers comfort, bolsters self-esteem, helps solve problems, and lubricates interpersonal relationships by encouraging people to sticking to a mutually-bland common ground. Moralistic Thereputic Deism makes no pretense at changing lives; churches are seen only as useful communities to help people feel good about themselves via communicating a sanitized, culturally-cooperative but wildly truncated version of Christianity. Moralistic Therapeutic Deism disrupts the faith of young people. Even if teenagers participate fully in youth ministry programs and churches, while avoid distractions, trauma, and counter-influences, they are unlikely to take hold of a “god” who is too limp to take hold of them. Apart from “being nice,” teenagers do not think that religion influences their decisions, choice of friends, or behaviors. It does not help them obey God, work towards a common good, compose an identity, or belonging to a distinctive community. Teenagers do not see religion as being personally useful, as it just supports the decisions that they were going to make anyway [21].

Young people practice Moralistic Therapeutic Deism not because they have misunderstood what they were taught at church, but because it was what they were taught at church. Preaching and evangelism are ineffective against Moralistic Therapeutic Deism because the call to worship also generalized and non-specific. Besides, events being preached about (e.g., Christ’s death and resurrection) happened so long ago that they no offer anything new to get people excited about [12]. As a result, young people lack an articulate faith because the faith they are shown is too spineless to merit much in the way of conversation. They don’t see faith as being too deep for words, but as to vapid to require its own jargon [21]. Even the Parochial schools and religiously-affiliated colleges cannot stop Moralistic Therapeutic Deism from spreading, because maintaining orthodoxy assumes orthodox doctrine will be taught, and that their students will never discover or experiment with it on their own. Religiously-affiliated schools and colleges have become more secularized to compete and survive in the academic free market -- their Boards of Trustees have been laicized; the schools became co-ed; and teaching roles were replaced with lay teachers or Ph.D. faculty -- many of whom are non-Christian. Clergy are mostly relegated to administrative and counseling roles. Even theology has been secularized into “religious studies [3],” which teaches about Christianity via its documents, doctrines, history, and moral codes [31]. The individual churches do no better at teaching, since Christian education has been reduced to preparations to rituals (e.g., pre-baptism counseling, first communion classes, confirmation classes, pre-marriage classes). This develops cliques instead of communities -- cliques which disband and disappear after the ritual [31].

Even if there were a sudden revival of traditional religious education, it would prove ineffective. The word “catechism” is derived from “catechize,” meaning “to echo back” -- it’s rote learning, and that’s problematic since the modern youth identifies as members of the Creative Class, and that intuitional framework of the church chases them away. Theirs is a participatory culture, which seeks: [21] • Low barriers to artistic and civic engagement. • Strong support for creative collaborations. • Informal mentorships that pass on experience to newcomers. • Confidence that their contributions will matter. • Social connection between group members, if only through appreciating their contributions. Additionally, if positions of influence and importance in the church are held only by men, or from those of the upper socioeconomic classes, or if particular races are either implicitly or explicitly excluded from membership, a different lesson is learned [31].

Thanks to the overwhelming challenge of modernity and the chronically divided Christian response, a credible, united Christianity is no longer possible [15]. Christianity can survive as a personal religion based on individuals reading the Bible -- but this too is problematic, since: [28] • 93% of Americans own a Bible o 41% of these are the KJV. o 61% of Americans think the Bible should be easier to read. o 29% believe that the Bible must be difficult to read since it “must convey the loftiness of God’s word.” • 14% of Americans are enrolled in a Bible study class. o 41% of Americans rarely or never read the Bible. • 49% of Americans believe the Bible is the “actual word of God.” o 13% of Americans know that the KJV was paraphrased from earlier English translations. • 30% of Americans believe that the Bible is “inspired by the word of God, but not everything is to be taken literally.” • 17% of Americans believe that the Bible is an “ancient book of fables, legends, history, and moral precepts recorded by man.” This has always been a large problem -- the Christian faith requires belief in the Bible, and that is a stumbling block for many [32]. Christianity, in nearly all of its varied forms, depends upon the authority of a divinely-inspired Bible; if people don’t buy into this, the Christians suddenly have nothing to control others with [33]. This is made worse since by holding Christians to their own declarations one biblical authority, one can forced to take on absurd and indefensible positions [34]. For example: • The writers of the New Testament had the opportunity to fix the errors in the Old Testament and in earlier gospels by drawing bullseye’s around the arrows they shot -- but still didn’t. • Christians cannot write off, ignore, or rationalize their way out of any of the Old Testament laws, or the horrors which they have spawned, since Christ explicitly mentions on several occasions that every character of the old law is true and correct, and must be obeyed [MAT 5:17-19; JOH 7:19; LUK 16:17]. Any attempt to dance around this problem defies Christ’s direct teachings [28]. • Many of God’s laws are presented without any justification or explanation. The Bible tells us, via a revelation, that it’s against God’s law to boil a baby goat in its mother’s milk -- but the Bible never explains why that’s a problem, or why it would offend God [29]. • There is a large burden of proof on the resurrection. This is crucial, because if the resurrection is not true, then the entire Christian religion is invalid [1COR 15:17] [28]. • Christians must entirely abandon the entire concept of jurisprudence in order to comply with Christ’s maxim of “judge not lest ye be judged [29].” • Catholic canon law appears to have recognized and enforced serfdom [35], which it rationalized as being a result of sin, which was further justified on economic grounds [36]. • The Gospel of Luke claims to be an eyewitness account (LUK 1:1-4), in contrast with basically the entire corpus of study done on Biblical history [32]. • God became Jesus to experience despair, rejection, loneliness, poverty, bereavement, imprisonment, torture and death to feel our pain and suffer with us. However, feeling pain does nothing to alleviate it [32]. • While ancient slavery was more like indentured servitude, and did not involve the ownership of people in the “chattel” slavery of the American South, the Bible was still used to endorse and rationalize that unforgivable practice, despite its clear prohibitions on kidnapping [1TIM 1:9-11] and slave trafficking [DEU 24:7] [32]. • Many, many, many more examples can be found elsewhere on this website. Bibliography

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