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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Recruiting, not reproducing

More on the shrinking American Church, from Byzantine, Texas.

The book reviewed at the link is more of the apologetic that the Church in America is still insufficiently Orthodox: "He argues that this parish structure, radically opposed to Orthodox ecclesiology, is what has allowed and even encouraged the attitudes and problems that continue to plague Orthodox Christianity in America."

This should seemingly doom the efforts of the Protestant churches in the US with zero ecclesial structure. But it doesn't. From what I can see, the Protestant tide just keeps rising and rising.

Traditional Orthodox ecclesiology enjoyed something that the Church in the United States will never have: a State-backed monopoly on Christian worship. Otherwise, the sheep scatter into a dozen competing sects, hence the argument for a national church. How can our Faith with its arcane theology and elaborate liturgics compete with a democratic faith that tells everybody they're priests and every two people are a church? I don't think she can.

The prior waves of immigration from Orthodox countries are over. The prior wave of converts to American Orthodoxy is over; people just have too many options at this point. The commentary I'm seeing is from relatively affluent, higher-g folks with enough energy and forward-thinking to ponder individual spirituality. Most people are just looking for something that can help them knock some of the sharp corners off of life.

I don't see anybody giving any thought to the most immediate source of growth: extended, multi-generational families. Again, we've lost the advantage of imperial and national status which the Faith previously enjoyed, but maybe we should give some thought to our own little 'nations.' Shouldn't we be as concerned with driving down the cost of family-rearing? That seems to be the sort of thing people are actually crying for.

As the secular institutions (the State, the Market) become increasingly rapacious and anti-human, people (in particular the non-affluent and non-intellectual) are more just looking for community. An institution that puts collective effort into helping them raise good Orthodox families would have more appeal than an institution that tells you good bye and good luck with your individual praxis out there in the cruel World.

To give a concrete example, we lecture our young people on Orthodox chastity and marriage. Then we send them out into a sex-saturated culture and tell them to postpone marriage and childbearing while they acquire marketable skills (going in debt to do so). After all this, they get put in head-to-head economic competition with prospective spouses, and the Church offers no respite. We should not be surprised when our children don't take us seriously, and freely exercise any of their dozens of options when they grow up and get to decide these things for themselves.

In sum, the Church in America seems focused on recruiting, not reproducing. This is cult-ish thinking.

8 comments:

August said...

I forget the precise percentage, but conversion rates are in the single digits. I couldn't do it myself, even though I was sorely tempted to.

The clergy of any denomination has the near term need of funding. Normally, the pews are full of more women than men, so they tend to cater to women. Even the anti-feminists do this, because women are like pharisees- they feel gratified to think they are not like 'those other women.' But this near term stuff is long term suicide. Fertility alone dictates this- women are most fertile during their 20s. Even if this decade is spent on good and holy stuff, but not procreation, there just isn't much of a future.

They may even like to think they are missionaries, but they are really more like political activists running around trying to chase an ever dwindling vote.

Bert said...

Anti-Gnostic, what exactly would you recommend that the churches start doing?

Northern Refugee said...

Within the next few decades, I believe the Mormons will come to dominate American Christianity. White fertility is about 1.9. Mormon fertility is over 4. The Mormons provide an amazing support structure for their members, allowing young couples to marry early and procreate often. Even affluent, educated Mormons I know get married in their early 20s and have their first child by about 23. Older Mormon women visit young mothers daily to help with chores and ensure they aren't overwhelmed by screaming babies. Congregations offer free babysitting to help young couples get some alone time.

Most mainstream denominations hold their nose and sneer at the Mormon crackpot theology, but it is hard to argue with success. Long after the last Episcopal church has been converted into lofts, the Mormons will be building new temples to accomodate their growth. The only thing that could derail them would be making concessions to leftist agitators. I read recently in the NYT about a group of feminist Mormons who were trying to pressure the church into changing their stance on the role of women. If they are smart, the church fathers will excommunicate liberally.

Bert said...

The Episcopalians will survive. The Africans will eventually overwhelm and expel the old white faggots that dominate the church now. The church will then transmogrify into a pan-African denomination with some small American and British outposts. Which is essentially what it is now.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

Bert: Broad statement - the Church should help people be good Orthodox. It's hard to think about theosis when your daily grind is so awful with bills to pay, education to attain, depraved media, brutal competition in so many areas. If the Church can help people with patronage networks: we do business with each other, find spouses for our kids, help out young families, pool risk, wall off evil from our communities, etc.

The Mormons, Amish, Hasidim and other groups do this sort of thing and they are the ones reproducing themselves in the pews. People seem horrified when I mention this though.

Bert said...

I like those ideas.

I believe during the 2008 campaign Mike Huckabee said something very similar to that, and all the banksters immediately attacked him as favoring "socialism".

Northern Refugee said...

AG:

They seem horrified because it flies in the face of the universalist do-gooder crap they've been fed their entire lives. Church running low on members? Kids want nothing to do with your faith? Well, do some outreach in the ghetto, and maybe the feral Negroes will be SOOOOO grateful for your efforts, they will attend your interfaith prayer breakfast. Or better yet, import some Africans! What a lovely fashion accesory that will make. But babysit a young couples children? Help a young mother change diapers? Hire a young father from your congregation over some illegal Hondoran? Well, that doesn't sound very glamourous at all. Can't brag about that at the prayer breakfast.

August said...

It is easy to see these examples move into illegal territory. This is the real crux of the issue. Clergy can have it pretty good here, but if they started getting serious, they'd be advocating and in some cases doing things that are illegal.
Discriminatory hiring practices.
Marriage without reference to the state.
If you go down this road, you notice the secular is in chaos, and the right thing to do is try to appoint judges for some semblance of order, and generate some kind of internal economy.
The state hates competition, so if it notices what you are doing, it tends to try and squash you. The clergy are worried about this. They probably already feel like targets, considering how political disputes can get within a church.