This week has been incredibly busy. Trying to get caught up on some reading, working on a mid-term, trying to get my paper work lined up for our church's charge conference, and preparing a service for this week's laity sunday. There's been a definite need to purposefully slow down and focus. Luckily I've been able to make it to morning prayer twice this week. In and amongst all the scholarship and church stuff, I count those 30 minutes as a blessing. The other time I count as a blessing is when I'm driving back and forth to St. John's. This week has been a little distracting since the fall colors have been phenomenal. Otherwise it's a wonderful hour of reflection time.
One of the thoughts I've been working through, or at least attempting to (this is a "draft thought" if you will), is how much ownership should protestants take in the current state of our economy and the overall materialism that shapes our culture. I see a direct correlation to the self-interest and greed the has gripped society and the existentialism and self-based salvation that the likes of Bultmann and others have thrust into Protestant Theology. Before I go any further, I should note that I don't think Catholics can be let off the hook either. They've become what Stanely Hauerwas calls Super Americans, basically kicking their faith to the curb so they'd fit into society as well. Admittedly, that somewhat weakens my arguement for a direct correlation, but my response is that Catholics were merely falling in step with Protestants to fit into the culture. That isn't cause and effect. I also think that this existentialism is one of the main causes of the decline in mainline Protestantism. People have been preached about developing an individual relationship with God so much that the next step is to find and develop that relationship on their own. Who needs a church for that? That's exactly why new age shamans like Eckhart Tolle are so successful. Obviously, one can argue that the mega-churches and some evangelical modes have been quite successful using the existentialist thought and the personal relationship with God and Jesus. However, I'd counter argue that success if based on poor theology and false promises that manifest themselves in things like the prosperity gospel and weak or non-existent ritual and liturgy. In essence the success if based largely on super-sized existentialism and a capitalized Christianity.
I see mainline Protestantism struggling to overcome something of their own doing. The push to individualism has cost them community. Now, I'm certain people are reading this (all 5 of you) saying "but wait, I've got a vibrant church community". I'm equally certain you do. But I think we need to ask why we consider 30 to 40 percent of church membership on any given Sunday a good week. Why is the number of "unchurched" in our community becoming larger than those that do belong to a church? Do we offer them that sense of community? Even more, do we expect them to actively participate in that community?
In answering my initial question, I believe we need to take at least partial ownership in what's going on on Wall Street and even more on "Main Street". We're at least partially do blame for setting people down the path of individualism that has led to greed and materialism. I also believe it is our responsibility to bring them back.
One a more individual plane (don't think I can't see the irony here) I'm struggling on where I fit into this landscape of Christianity right now. Just another swirling thought that comes into my mind traveling down I-94 I guess.