One generation from Hell
The U.S. church is leading lemmings off a cliff
Yesterday I said I was going to write more about how different denominations deal with racial tensions and our ever-divided society. I’m going to take a slightly different path this morning, because as a general prayer, I want my writing to honor God, to open hearts, and to challenge minds, in that order.
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In just one generation, American religion has gone from 70% belonging to a specific church or synagogue, to under 50%—47% to be exact—according to a recent Gallup poll. The “nones” now outnumber the committed.
This should not be surprising, as the trend away from denominational churches, away from institutions, has been in play for decades. As trust in institutions like government, civic organizations, educational establishments, markets and businesses, banks, and churches erodes, the rise of the Reddit crowds leads the masses just following the latest fad, discarding it and moving to the next, and the next.
Every generation has its marker, and the Boomers, who relied on the institutions to rise up and make a better world for their kids, are aging quickly. The Gen-Xers found a world where Greed is Good, the Art of the Deal is found in the profit extracted from willing marks, and the church of their parents was a place to rub elbows with the people you wanted to be like.
Even in the world of social justice, after MLK, the seeds of hucksterism spread over the Black church, perverting a faith-word relationship of overcoming darkness with light, to one of political power in a zero-sum game. Scandals rocked denominations, and big-time televangelists fell to fraud, scams, and moral disintegration.
By the time Millennials rose, ethics had long ceased to be taught in business schools, other than as a path for social justice. So we have corporations run for profit, with no ethical boundaries, but a burning purpose to move wealth from one group to another, using the government to launder the filthy gains.
The latest generation rising now sees the world as a pitiless, uncharitable place, where politics is the litmus test for all good and evil. There is no longer any room for the concepts of grace, mercy, charity, selflessness, and moral discipline. These things are mocked and derided, as weakness. Strength, we’re told, is the path to “the greater good.” Whether that greater good is some Infinity Stone time warp back to the Boomer years, without the discipline and trust in institutions, but all the power, or a revolution where the historically oppressed (history starts wherever you rewrite it) get their full recompense, and vengeance is sweet, depends on your political orientation. Regardless of the orientation, the moral compass swings toward self and away from God.
Once the Boomers die off and Gen-X becomes shrill in the ears of Millennials and Gen-Y, meaning one generation, America will look like Europe, with empty churches, funny rituals, weird freaks who preach Jesus, and a lack of serious influence on the fabric of society. There will be a church, but it will be a true remnant, having fallen to the threshing floor as God’s winnowing fork blew the chaff to the wind.
We’re one generation from the chaff blowing and one generation from Hell for so many people who are being led off a cliff in an unending march of lemmings led by an ineffective, worldly, compromising church.
Russell Moore resigned his position as the head of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, of the Southern Baptist Convention. Moore has been known as a constant foe of Donald Trump and those who closely follow Trump. Moore announced on his website he is leaving the SBC and joining Christianity Today as a public theologian. He wrote about the latest poll trend in a piece he titled “Losing Our Religion.” Read the article, because it’s worth your time.
I just want to focus on one part where he talks about generations and politics, from Bill Clinton to Donald Trump. He wrote that “religion itself is a vehicle for the politics and cultural grievances—and not the other way around.”
And it’s not difficult to see why. I watched twenty years ago as people suggested that those waving away a president’s sexual behavior as irrelevant to his public office were the result of liberal forms of Baptist theology, and then lived long enough to watch the same people suggest that those who did not wave away such behavior from another president might not be “real Christians.” People can change their minds, of course. I certainly have done so on many things. But—as with the prophecy charts a generation ago—there is no talk of minds changing, just certainties in one direction and then certainties in the opposite direction, with the only difference being the tribal affiliations of the leaders under discussion.
In twenty years, about the time for one generation’s rise and another’s maturing, Christians went from condemning a president for sexual immorality to praising one for his public celebration of it, based on nothing more than the largely empty promises of the man running for political office.
Why should the generation growing up today believe anything we say? Why should they be anything but “nones”? Why should they believe in a loving God, a heavenly destination, salvation through grace, or eternal hellfire? These are just political terms thrown about in the battle between blue and red tribes. They have no relevance to today’s problems.
Today’s generation rising to their potential would rather align with populist movements like BLM, WallStreetBets, Antifa, or QAnon. At least the things those organizations want you to believe come with immediate benefits. Go hard left, and bathe in the limelight of the fawning media, get your fifteen minutes of fame, and build an online following. Go hard right, and get your speaking slot as a “patriotic youth” at a QAnon even hucking “God & Country” with a pat on the head from nutcase celebrities such as Lin Wood or Gen. Mike Flynn.
The Bible clearly says to turn neither to the left or the right, but let the Lord set your path. Few even know how to do that today because nobody is teaching them.
Even churches are basing their decisions on political litmus tests. One missionary friend told me that a pastor wrote him to inform him his church is suspending financial support because the missionary received a COVID-19 vaccine. I’ll publish the exchange when I’ve gone through it. A church that bases its support of spreading the Gospel on a political position, especially one fraught with such misinformation and conspiracy, is a church preparing its congregation to fly off the winnowing fork into Hell.
We’re one generation away from the fruit of this Godlessness. Even less than one generation, unless there’s repentance. Lord, let there be repentance.
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As one of the religious "nones" you mention, I don't have a lot to add to your discussion or about the intersection of politics and religion (other than to point out the many "mulligans" when someone's coming after me for being an immoral heathen).
That said, I wanted to say that as a reader, I really appreciate the honesty, curiosity, and intellectual consistency on display here at The Racket. You all are doing a great job and it's clear that you're pouring yourselves into it. Also, as someone who came over after Erik Erikson's Remnant shut down, it's been an absolute joy watching all of you make this not just a worthy successor of what came before, but to surpass the original in every way that matters.
Keep up the good work.
Russell Moore leaked a letter he sent to the ERLC.
In it he shreds the racism, idolatry, false teachers, and terrorists that plague not just the SBC but all of evangelicals. David French has been spending his time exploring the sexual, physical and mental abuse rampant throughout the church. For trying to speak truth they have been treated horrendously.
Meanwhile you have Erick Erickson, the son of slave owners and a proud descendant of the confederacy saying the reason you haven't heard of the Tulsa massacre is there "just isn't enough time" to teach it. You have you straight up saying that CRT is incompatible with christianity and to justify that nonsense you link to articles by the very people Moore is screaming about.
At some point maybe you should stop worrying about what is going on in black churches and wonder why you can come to a point in your life where you think voting for Donald Trump was the right answer.
Christianity has been a fake religion for decades more interested in political power and projecting a false morality than any sort of actual outreach. Churches spend more time demonizing Transgender people or gay people or black people than they do anything else. I just have to wonder how many "other" groups will the church harass and insult before they run out and finally have to look at what horrible trashy examples of humanity they are.
Oh and until that happens the church can't die quick enough as it is just a vehicle for hate and stupidity.