My family is really not all that messed up.
Yet, although he is a red-blooded, white American male, my brother-in-law says he’s not a Christian anymore. Now, he only refers to himself as “a follower of Jesus.”
Why? He doesn’t want to be associated with the stereotype of Christian Right Evangelicals – the ones who voted for Trump in droves.
What has happened to Christianity in the U.S.?
How is it that someone who was raised going to church at least three times a week and continued as a faithful member in a Christian church throughout his adult life is now, as a retired professional, ashamed to be associated with the most basic descriptor – the very name of his religion?
My granddaughter, a recent high school graduate, called me recently, asking about “midnight mass.” Although baptized (not in a Catholic church), she hasn’t been in a church in years. So, I began with Ann Landers’ standard inquiry, “Why do you ask?”
“Well, we were watching this horror movie,” she explained. “The guy was doing this midnight mass thing where he was offering bread to this girl in a wheelchair, but he backed up and made her get up and walk to him – and she did!”
“That seemed kinda’ cold hearted,” my granddaughter said. “Did people think Jesus was cold-hearted and mean when he did things like that?”
I was silent for a moment, trying to get a grip on the fact that young people, like my granddaughter, are first hearing about religious concepts and practices not from faithful adherents or trained clergy but from skewed depictions in horror movies!
And then there was that conversation I had with a daughter, our only child who continued some church involvement as an adult (except for our son who is a preacher, but that’s another story).
We were helping our daughter get settled after she moved to a different state, and I asked if they had selected a church yet. She looked me in the eyes and said (with finality), “Dad, we’re just not ‘church people.’”
Although that pained my heart, it was not completely surprising. Her children, my grandchildren, had been baptized as infants, but I knew they had only been doing an improvised “Chri-Easter” schedule, attending only a Christmas or Easter service on alternate years.
It appears there has been a major cultural shift, with my family exemplifying many of the larger trends regarding religious faith and practice in the U.S.
Only one in five children continued as church members, although all were raised in the church throughout their developmental years – baptized, confirmed, the whole nine-yards. And the only one who regularly attends church is a minister, so he gets paid to go!
Furthermore, it continues to be mystifying how support by self-identified white evangelical Christians was sufficient to elect Donald Trump as president, but church memberships and attendance have continued to drop.
So, was the underlying reason that there were simply too many men unable to stomach giving all that power to a woman?
Perhaps we are now in a time when the majority of Christians in the U.S. are political-cultural Christians, identifying as Christian to pollsters but not committed to church participation?
Or has selfish greed and using any means to retain power and control become the new predominant “religious” value in our country?
For the record, I participate in a Christian church regularly. So, that makes it hard for me to deny that I am a Christian, despite my struggle with what many self-professed evangelical Christians say and do in both the political and religious arenas.
Also, I don’t watch horror movies. Life is scary enough without that.
A mostly retired Licensed Clinical Psychotherapist living in Lawrence, Kansas, Bonner loves church, grandkids and learning.