I have some good news and some bad news.
The bad news is—you’re slowly dying.
Your buildings are clearing, your pews are emptying, your congregations are aging away.
There are many reasons for this, but here are a few:
You’re dying because of your hypocrisy.
People see the ever-widening chasm between who you say you are and what they regularly experience in your presence.
They see the great disparity between the expansive hospitality of Jesus and the narrow prejudice you are so often marked by.
They see Christ’s deep affection for the poor, hurting, and marginalized—and both your quiet indifference or your open hostility toward them.
They’ve listened to you preach incessantly about the immorality of the world, the dangers of greed, the corrupt nature of power, the poison of untruth, the evils of sexual perversion—and watched you willingly align with a President embodying all of these.
They see that you are so often the very kind of malevolent ugliness that you forever warned was coming to assail the world.
You’re dying because of your willful ignorance.
People are tired of your war on Science.
They are sick of your arguing with Biology.
They know the earth is round.
They know it is billions, not thousands of years old.
They know dinosaurs walked it.
They know that it is warming rapidly.
They know people here don’t choose their sexuality.
They know whoever and whatever God is—doesn’t appoint Presidents or sanction weapons or attack people with tornadoes.
You’re dying because of your devotion to cruelty.
People watch you dig in your heels against others because of their gender identity and sexual orientation; the way you continually exact violence upon them, the way you try and blame God and the Bible for your fearful bigotry.
They’ve seen your intolerance to other religious traditions; how you vilify anyone who finds spirituality and meaning outside of Christianity, how you so easily disregard the faith stories of those who don’t reflect your own.
They’ve watched you so revel in being the bully to those you’re called to protect.
You’re dying because of your complicity in violence.
They’ve seen you so often be a safe haven for misogynists, domestic abusers, sexual predators, and white supremacists—who all receive protection in your antiquated words, your personality cults, and your enabling culture.
They see your pastors and leaders misuse their positions and leverage their influence to victimize the most vulnerable.
They’ve watched you be the last, hateful holdout in matters of gender equality, racial diversity, sexuality, and theological difference; lagging behind almost everyone in the world in the kind of goodness you say you aspire to.
Because of these things, Church, people are rightly walking (some running) away, because they refuse to tolerate something that so regularly yields hatred while claiming to be made of love.
They are conscientious objectors in your unending holy wars; choosing to step away from you in order to create loving spiritual communities, grow deeper in personal faith, escape partisan politics, craft a healthier planet, reflect the character of Jesus, and hold onto their souls.
Yes, Church, the bad news is—you’re slowly but surely dying.
The good news, is that you’re dying—and something else is being born as you are.
Rising in these days is a sprawling community of disparate people, who want to create something life-giving here, who don’t care what it’s called and who gets the credit.
Yes, this bloated, mean-spirited version of you is slowly and most surely passing away; the hypocrisy and the enmity, all the violence and racism—these things are correctly being seen as irrelevant by a watching world who will no longer abide them or participate in them.
These newly-emancipated sojourners are creating something of compassion and generosity and hospitality—a faith that opens the table, a spirituality that welcomes the world, a religion that does no harm.
Church, though part of you is dying, you get to be resurrected differently now.
You get to live on in the lives of open-hearted human beings who want to unearth the beauty buried beneath heavy layers of rigid dogma, ornamental religion, and institutionalized discrimination.
These people are excavating your religion and releasing love from its man-made prison, and in this way—the best, truest parts of you will live on.
The bad news is that you are dying, Church.
And it’s the very good news, too.
Order John’s forthcoming book ‘HOPE AND OTHER SUPERPOWERS” here!