Monday, April 13, 2009

The End of Christian America?

That image is of the oldest church in the city of Amsterdam. It's called Oude Kerk. Outside the church is a monument to a prostitute. There are still services at the church on sunday I believe, but not many attend. Actually the main function of the church is as a museum. For six dollars, you can walk through this large and beautiful old building and see some amazing architecture, stained glass windows, and murals on the ceiling.

The oldest church in Amsterdam is functionally a museum. To me it is hard to believe that the huge structure that was built in 1280 AD serves better as a link to history than as a gathering place for those who have been radically changed by faith in Jesus.

All around the church, there are sex shops, hash-marijuana bars, and most shockingly, windows.

These windows aren't just any kind of window. The windows are outlined in red lights. Behind the windows, prostitutes stand. Many of these prostitutes are trafficked to be in those windows, so instead of prostitutes a better understanding is that they are slaves. Just outside the doors of a church there is slavery and prostitution. There are drug addicts and dealers. In some ways it seems like a perfect location for a church. But in other ways, it seems very indicting that the church has very little influence in the community directly around it.

This week, Newsweek had an article called The End of Christian America. If you read the article, you'll find no mention of prostitution or slavery, you'll just see that the church in America has a steadily declining influence, as well as a steadily declining percentage of the population who claim any affiliation.

The reasons for the decline are many and the article doesn't really generate many in it's four pages but instead points to this being a good thing. Because I believe that Jesus, and His church are the hope of the entire world, I have to say that I disagree. The author points out that people aren't becoming less religious, because religious devotion of some type has always been a part of society--even if it is a religious devotion to atheism, or agnosicism, or our own personal Gods. And if the truth be told, there has never truly been a "Christian America" although some would like to think so. Regardless, the level of influence that the Christian faith is demonstrating in America is in a marked decline.

People aren't becoming less religious, but they are becoming more individualistic. I believe that part of the reason for the departure is that Christians seem to know a lot about God and love, but often times we fail to be tangible demonstrations of that love. This is what I believe to be the foremost indictment against many who call upon the name of Jesus in America.

We have an unprecedented opportunity to stem the tide, but it might require a change of lifestyle and habit for many. By stemming the tide, I don't mean the creation of a "Christian America" as much as I mean an America where Christians, wherever they are exert a transforming influence on their communities for the better. The transforming influence of Christianity always starts, ends, and is sustained by love. Yesterday, we celebrated Easter, and we saw that love can get you into a lot of trouble with the powers that be, but love is always the best way, and in the end it is victorious.

May you examine your own heart and life, and begin to ask for strength to make the changes in your life that need to happen so the Church can be a better sign of the Beautiful Kingdom of Jesus.

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