Good News, Church: You’re Dying

Church,

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!

 

 

175 thoughts on “Good News, Church: You’re Dying

  1. my post is here not to debate or convince right wing christian who obviously already are completely gone, but people like John, and left leaning , liberal christian.

    Do you guys realize that your belief system actually contradicted everything that you personally believed? religion teaches obedience, not love as you might want to interpret it that way. This is why I am not blaming fundamentalist right wing christian as they actually got the correct interpretation of the whole book , and not just cherry picked certain verses from Jesus and call it a day like most of you left leaning christian folks do to justify your narrative.

    Spare me with “love thy neighbor” from Jesus thing as it has been written back in the old testament too, he offered nothing new, he did not condemn slavery, even Paul wrote to obey your master.
    You cannot be progressive and tolerant when you hold a belief that people who are not straight has to be killed, people who criticized “God” shall be put to death , etc.

    people have changed their moral value as the time goes on, and when it reaches certain threshold where it contradicts what your thousand years old book said, you have to choose whether to continue supporting it or abandon it , there’s no way that human rights and religion can go hand-to-hand together. At the end of the day, you have to choose whether you want to side with “God” or humanity. I chose humanity.

    • If God doesn’t condemn slavery then why do we have the story of God freeing the Israelites from slavery through Moses in the Old Testament?

  2. As a simple atheist, according to all the different comments, I can tell that none of you can agree about your own religion. Wow. I’m so glad I know longer have to deal with all that nonsense.

  3. it’s such a comfort knowing that John Pavlovitz is the only one in America doing Christianity right.

    • I get it. The ancients didn’t much like it, either, when Jeremiah pointed out that people who thought of themselves as “holy” weren’t actually the ones condemned by God for their cruelty to others.

  4. I tried being a Christian, I really did but it did not work out for me. I have several issues with religion and here are some:

    1. Prayer
    You talk to an invisible “Daddy” (Abba) or whatever in the sky with faith that he/she/it loves you dearly and has a plan for you. Then you have to relate to this Being who is invisible somehow and you need to muster faith to believe in that and you should love this Being more than you love anybody else. It doesn’t make sense to me.

    2. Jesus loves you
    No! You CANNOT love someone who you haven’t touched, seen, felt or been vulnerable with. Jesus loved his disciples and his followers truly. He symbolized true love but only living people can love living people. Yeah he’s resurrected but he’s still not with us in body so its not real love.

    3. Sin
    “All have sinned an fallen short of the glory of God!” Why do you think that is the case? This is because God gave humans an impersonal law designed to beat the humanity out of us. Jesus restored some sanity into the equation but demanded full allegiance to him. Why???? Maybe one can interpret this and say Jesus demanded allegiance to love as a way of life and I’m okay with that.

    4. Living for Christ
    Its like saying “Living for Buddha or Confucius”. All noble figures from the past but one has to live their own lives for themselves and the ones they love. Staying true to your heart and being real is way better than trying to please “Christ”. That was such a heartache.

    In short Christianity de-naturalizes you. It makes you hate your instinct and your creativity and replaces your love for life with the love for a false daddy/mommy in the sky. I’m through being a Christian! Its a waste of life! I’d rather become human and love other humans with scant regard for salvation/enlightenment/ nirvana.

    • Very well stated! All of these, plus the superiority complex of being the OTROW (One True Right & Only Way) make it untenable.

  5. Forget all the overly-repeated rhetoric about hypocrisy regarding sexuality, adversion to science etc. Yes, some folks believe that these are the causes – and there is some truth to these types of allegations – but underneath all that is a huge underlying problem. The churches – ALL of them, Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and any other assorted – have way, way over-expanded over the past 40-50 years. Too many buildings, too many employees, too many adminisistrative units (dioceses etc), too many ecclesiastical officials – be they called bishops or “whatever.” Now many of these folks are in retirement, or are soon looking towards retirement. The healthcare outlays for these retired clergy and other employees are skyrocketing. The younger generations, who can barely pay rent, much less purchase a home or pay for their own healthcare, have NO interest in “pledging” to underwrite all this. Even many of the previously faithful are backing off. It’s all about money and what it is being used for. Lots of people still have “faith, ” but they just cannot see why having “faith” should also have to entail paying for all these salaries, housing allowances, car mileages, pensions, healthcare, etc.

    • Just want to say– good points.

      Religion/preaching/evangelizing is a vocation and serves (or served) a purpose– spreading the good news of Jesus to the whole world– and maybe now that job is done and complete– and perhaps the purpose is changing or fading or dying, I don’t know for sure but something is happening.

      Any person who spends their time mediating, praying, serving the community and spreading hope or ideas in the world needs to subsist. As well, in the meantime, they need cash to purchase their basic needs such as: food, shelter and clothing — so religious people have to lay out a manifesto, a purpose, a reason to ask for tithes and money from their followers and to evangelize constantly — as a goal — in order to grow their own revenue and meet their own needs.

      But, can we do it differently? Can we get rid of all the buildings and structures and just be one world working together towards a good purpose for each other? Well that would be awesome but for someone like me, although I want to, instead I work a full time job and look after my ailing parent. I don’t have much time for anything else.

      So it might mean there needs to be a different kind of economic system running the the world.

    • Elizabeth, I must admit that you’ve hit the nail on the head here; very astute observations. I hadn’t really thought about it until I read what you posted, but then I started to think about it and sure enough, the local Methodist church installed a huge industrial kitchen about ten years ago, and about once a month they use it for a pancake breakfast; these events aren’t well attended at all. Another Baptist church down the street had a huge fund drive for their latest expansion project which will include a huge auditorium, coffee shop/snacking plaza, office suites, classrooms, etc. They have a significant amount of the money pledged, but what happens if the economy continued to go south? What happens if people can’t follow through on their pledges? Another Presbyterian church just completed construction of their brand new church which is quite nice, but it seems a bit odd to build a brand new one when there are so many sitting empty all over the neighborhood. Eventually people begin to see stuff like that and see the wasteful spending, and just move on. One of the Catholic churches here has a few priests that are ready to retire and don’t do much of anything now. They have secretaries screen their calls and if someone is looking for some help from the priest, they’re usually “busy”.

  6. Well statistically, it’s leftist “churches” and denominations that are most rapidly dying and fading to irrelevance. One would think, reading this post, that abandoning historic Christianity and embracing postmodern leftism would be a surefire way to re-enliven one’s church. In reality, though, it’s the surefire way to kill it.

    Can you think of a single mainline denomination that has not been rapidly hemorrhaging members since adopting a leftist worldview?

    • Treating other people — especially the most vulnerable — the way you want to be treated is not “leftist.” It is following the very specific command of Jesus Christ.

  7. Hi John, first time reading on your site.

    Not looking at it through political, nor religious lens. Just through every day, mortal experiences and relationships. I see the rot too.

    Thanks for penning this.

  8. Jon, Many times you have made excellent statements regarding the So-Called Christian church. I only ask that you return to the preaching of Jesus and salvation, with your promotion of love for all. Yes, Jesus hung with sinners to heal. Likewise we should too, not condemn them. I ask too that you slow your attacks of the U.S President. Not because I like him; but because of Romans: 13: 1-7. We can disagree with our people in government & focus on change. However, we need to focus stronger on the message of salvation through Christ!

  9. There’s so much truth to this! As I’ve been to various churches, I see why the old churches are fading out. It’s because they lost the word. Churches aren’t meant to be a place of judgement, but value. They aren’t meant to be a form of government, but a family community. And quality church leaders aren’t meant to preach things they won’t even practice, but they’ll get their hands dirty to help anyone in the church. I’ve had the privilege of being part of a growing church that doesn’t alter the bible and meets the needs of it’s people. It makes me so sad that people have such a negative view of something that is meant to positively impact their lives.

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