In the April 13, 2009 issue of Newsweek, Jon Meacham wrote the article, “The End of Christian America,” exploring the idea that we are living in a time where many of those who identified themselves as Christians are now saying that they are skeptical about religion. Some have gone beyond skepticism and rejected religion altogether. In his article Meacham points out something that I find startling indeed: since 1990 the percentage of Americans who no longer claim a religious affiliation as risen from 8 to 15%. Plus, this group of religious non-affiliated has risen in the Northeast. Is this trend pointing to a real crisis or is Meacham creating havoc for the Church? Are Americans accepting secularlity over salvation? Are Christians to blame?
Certainly, experience shows that in many places, including religious houses, the liturgical rites and preaching are often so bad that one can understand why people leave the Church. How often do we go to Church encountering an unprepared priest, altar servers with little dignity and training and the poorly proclaimed Scriptures? Never mind the foolishness that passes for adequate, never mind “superb,” catechetical formation and social outreach to the poor, the sick and the elderly. Where is the formation in the faith for the adults, teens and children based on Scripture and Tradition and not some minister’s ideology? Is Christ only a one-day-a week event? Let’s ask a question about the credibility of the witness: do the priests really believe in Christ, sin, grace, salvation, Mary, etc? What about those who take religious vows: are they really living according to the mind of the Church AND constitutions of their particular order? The Church in recent times is famous for answering questions that are not being asked by the faithful.
If the Church wants to slow down or reverse the secularization of our culture then it needs holy and competent men and women, clergy and laity alike, who will live the faith in a serious manner. The gospel needs to be preached in such a way that is faithfully and poignantly breaks open the word of the Word AND the lives the liturgical rites. Salvation is a question of content and beauty.