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Did MLK Jr predict the decline of mainline churches?

Did MLK Jr predict the decline of mainline churches?

[D]mergent believes that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. predicted the Predicted the Decline of the Mainline Church. Perhaps the blog speaks to all churches as all are in decline as the “nones” become the largest faith group:

…Unfortunately, Christianity—because of so many botched attempts at fitting in, at being relevant, at making sure society doesn’t think us metaphysical rubes and hayseeds—has domesticated the faith to such an extent that disbelief takes little effort. We have fostered a situation in which it is appallingly easy, as Terry Eagleton says, to reject faith “on the cheap.” Faith, in the hands of too many of Jesus’ loudest and most unremittingly convinced fans, cannot but feel like the spiritual equivalent of polyester underpants—unflattering, out-of-date, and scratchy in the tenderest places.1

Here’s the thing: If the “nones” find disbelief preferable (and Lord knows there are plenty of really good reasons to do so) why not try to give them something interesting in which to disbelieve? My fear is that at the heart of much disbelief sits a reality that I, as a Christian, don’t have any stake in believing in either.

If the “nones” are leaving the church (and again, anyone with a little sense and some walking around change admits that there exist arguably compelling grounds for doing so) why not give them a true picture of what is they’re leaving? My fear is that they’re leaving because they’ve gotten a taste of a Christianity that many of us have no desire to defend….

Fifty years out, Martin Luther King called it. He said that “the judgment of God is on the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.”

And guess what happened. Over the next fifty years, we have seen those millions cast whatever loyalty to the church they might once have held aside. Looking like a social club apparently just won’t get it done….

Read it all here.


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Rod Gillis

@ JC Fisher, a good place to look for the connection between mysticism and community/society within a Christian context is in the work of Bernard Lonergan.

In “Method in Theology” Lonergan identifies the ascetic and the mystic as a bearer of just one of a number of expressions of “differentiated” religious conciousness.

In “Insight”, commenting on the church as mystical body, ( phrase used by Anglicans)Lonergan notes that the seed of eternal life cannot bear fruit “without effecting a transfiguration of human living and, in turn, that transfiguraiton contians the solution not only to man’s individual but also to his social problem of evil.” He links, within the context of the mystical body, individual conversion, Catholic action, and collective responsibility.(B. Lonergan. Inisght. pp.742-743. Darton, longman and Todd 1957.)


Community OR Mysticism?

Social Justice OR Bliss?

Both/And, PLEASE!!!!

JC Fisher

Rod Gillis

Re Harriet Babers’ 1:31 post, I would agree that the grain of incense/bread from the mouths of the poor is a false dichtomy. So too would much of Catholic, including Anglo-Catholic, tradition.

However, mysticism has been defined variously from mystery religions,to Platonism, gnosticism, etc. However defined for Christians, mysticism cannot be understood in opposstion to the human experience as social and communal experience. The whole Hebrew Christian enterprise is profoundly communal and social.

The article linked in the previous post, regarding mystic experiences being not so rare, does not define mysticism in any susbantive way, makes no attempt to discern the genuine mystical expereince from self-defined subjective “highs”.

Love of God and love of neighbor are not opossing phenomena. I’m suspicious that what people often claim as mystical experience is merely what Michael Novak once described as a “service station of the soul” kind of experience.

Just as communal religious life can be lacking in authenticity so to can self-defined, self-created, religious “experiences”–indeed likley more so.

The “flight of the alone to the alone” is fine as long as its a return flight to human community, and as long as its a flight that does not make one a fugitive.

Harriet Baber

Nothing against “community” as such but against the tradition in which we were told that every grain of incense was bread from the mouths of the poor–that religion was “escapist.” And more so the endless attempts to promote the “horizontal dimension” in liturgy–from the “we” in the Creed to the Peace to all the attempts to make church services less formal, less impersonal–which suck out every bit of the numinous. Mysticism is “the flight of the alone to the Alone” and sociability destroys it.

Clint Davis

Community for community’s sake is not where it’s at, and Jesus never promised that. But community grows when people are committed to excellent worship in the beauty of holiness, and committed to dynamic social justice work that really helps and makes a difference, especially tending to needs and wants that are overlooked by other charities and whatever (including giving musicians a place to play and artists a place to show?) Dr. Baber, if you’re enjoying a high liturgy, would you pass up the opportunity to play a part in its production? Community happens when you are asked, invited, and say yes. It doesn’t happen because you’re supposed to be extroverted and all over everyone all the time. Lord knows Episcopalians aren’t generally the extroverted type.

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