In my last post I said this:
the Church in America is in a bad position: the majority uneducated and indifferent, and too many in the serious minority easily caught up in stupid reactionary behavior or fighting for influence over an ever smaller number of believers.
I was speaking specifically about the Catholic Church but the same could be said for any church.
The Average American Christian, compared to past generations, is more aptly described as a Moral Therapeutic Deist, since he is quite ignorant of Christian doctrine and his moral life is indistinguishable from that of his unchurched neighbors. God is just a therapeutic instrument who helps him be nice… he’s not, you know… God. This is the result of our capitalistic culture of lowest-common-denominator, and piss-poor catechesis.
Then there is the Professional Christian: the clergyman, the theology professor, the hospital or university administrator, the salaried charity organizer. He or she is probably a very nice person (as long as you don’t push certain buttons), a competent professional, and has the habits and left-leaning politics of the liberally educated upper middle class. His faith is focused on serving people with Gospel efficiency, and he is not concerned about dogmas or morals unless of course it is the dogma of Single Payer Healthcare. He is basically a character out of a John Updike novel but with a boring sex life.
Then there is the irreducible Die-Hard Christian, the one with his ass in the pew every Sunday, who knows his faith and makes a serious (if often flawed) attempt to practice it. He is dismayed by the fact that his children or childhood friends have so easily and lightly abandoned the faith, or that the churches and schools his grandparents built are now empty. He resents the Professional Christian because that ilk designed the liturgies, catechetical programs, youth-groups and college courses that (to the Die-Hard’s mind) resulted in the abysmal ignorance of the Moral Therapeutic Deist. His politics are generally well to the right of the Professional Christian, and sometimes so far to the right that the Professional wonders how the Die-Hard can call himself Christian at all.
Thus the people who run the institutions of faith and the people who actually straight-up believe it hate each other.
Now, this dire situation has mollified itself in the last few years because the Die-Hards started forming their own institutions and networks while (in the case of the Catholic Church) the diocesan clergy became more conservative. But the fact remains that the church – all Christian churches – are shrinking in the United States, because being a Christian – even of the Professional kind – implies having a spine and that is not a popular attribute to have in an infantile and materialistic culture.
Some day very soon there will only be the Die-Hards and the Professionals left, loudly blaming one another for the state in which their once glorious church has found itself. Of course they both share some of the blame: the Professionals were blind guides who failed their flocks and preferred class solidarity to the faith of their fathers, and the Die-Hards did alienate people with their rough edges and strident politics, but most of it was simply beyond their control. The culture changed, and the people followed.