A billion opinions have been given on why the Church is dying in America. None of them are necessarily wrong, but there is really no way to know who is right. Everyone has their theories, and of course I have mine. While the reasons are ultimately very complex, personally I think each prediction probably has some merit in some way. But I an only talk about what I know, so here is my theory based on what I have been told by people that have left the church. People are tired of the arrogance and the “my way or the highway” attitudes over debatable issues. You either fall in line as a clone of what the leader says is the one right way to interpret obscure scriptures in the Bible, or Science, or politics, or all of these (liberally or conservatively) or get out.
I think a recent article called Softening Rhetoric on Homosexuality shows exactly what I am talking about. People that don’t agree with the conservative line on homosexuality are characterized as ignorant of scripture, rebellious, compromising, avoiding the topic, or greedy for numbers.
No where at all is there any consideration for people that have studied the scriptures long and hard, who have carefully and prayerfully weighed the topic from all angles, and have come to a different, intelligent reason for disagreeing with the EvageliRepubliChristian line.
This “my way or the highway” attitude is the reason I always run into for why people are leaving. You don’t agree with me? Then you are deceived. Or you are believing the liberal distortion of Christianity. Because there are no distortions on the conservative side…. right?
Or maybe people are leaving because they see that Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek, to not resist evil people, to live at peace with all people, and to love our enemies, but they see you buying guns left and right and fighting tooth and nail for the right get bigger and more powerful guns. Because nothing says love and non-resistance like a big gun.
Maybe they hear you telling them to not lean on their own understanding or strength but to trust God with all of your problems, but then see you packing heat to deal with the problem of crime.
Then when they tell you they think Christians should live at peace and not carry guns, you tell them that is their belief and if they don’t like guns they shouldn’t buy one. You tell them that just because their religious convictions lead them to believe that guns are immoral, this doesn’t mean they should force their religious beliefs on other people. That is not how America works.
They then ask, if this is how you feel, then why you are fighting to keep gay marriage illegal? If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t marry a gay person. This is how America works: just because your religious convictions lead you to believe that being gay is immoral, you shouldn’t force your religious beliefs on other people. After all… didn’t Jesus have something to say about legalism and leaders forcing people to follow religious beliefs that they didn’t truly believe in?
Then you point out to them that gay marriage is not God’s perfect plan for marriage, that He originally intended in the garden of Eden for marriage to be between a man and a woman. We can’t make laws that go against God’s perfect plan.
They point out that in the garden, everyone got along – humans and animals, so there was no need for weapons there. God also says at end of time we will lay down our weapons and our hostility. So God’s perfect plan in the beginning was for their to be no weapons. And we can’t make laws that go against God’s perfect plan.
Then you retort with “the Bible describes homosexuality as an abomination and unnatural” (because you are trying to move away from the gun debate realizing that nagging conviction thing is getting the best of you).
They point out that the Bible describes men with long hair as an abomination and unnatural (using the exact same words in Hebrew and Greek as the scriptures on gay sex that you have probably quoted by now). As well as shellfish, mixed source fabrics, and unisex clothing. So why aren’t you fighting to make those illegal? Oh, and not to mention pre-marital sex, second marriages, and loans with interest – all of which the Bible specifically forbids? Because all the scriptures on gay sex in the Bible are actually about weird temple sex rituals (according to the original languages), but the scriptures on those last three are pretty clear.
You come back with “because some one just can’t be a homosexual and follow Jesus. It just can’t happen.”
They point out that there are many gay Christians out there that do follow Jesus, and also that your use of the word “homosexual” is inappropriate in most contexts.
You then start ranting about liberal distortions of the truth and the war against Christianity and the marginalization of the Church views.
They then give up talking to you because it is not about distorted thinking – it is about using their brains. And you are now starting to look like this:
You see, you have not been marginalized by society. You have marginalized yourself by not learning how to express your positions in a consistent, non-hypocritical, loving way. The point I am trying to make here really has nothing to do with gun control or gay marriage or divorce even. The point is that if you continue to promote a distorted, contradictory set of beliefs and then condemn others for doing the same (in your eyes), you will cause people to leave the Church, become cynics, and question if your brand of evangelicalism will even last.