How many times do I have to post on how right I am all the time?

In February 2014, I advanced the thesis that the age of evangelism is over, and Christendom, if she is to have a future, would need to focus on natalism and community.
The age of evangelism is over. The Church is fading because she frankly offers nothing to people that any other positive, purportedly compassionate movement--such as political liberalism--does not. The Church thrived under the pagans and the Bolsheviks by virtue of the contrast between her charitable practices and the godless brutality of the ruling regimes. Now, the secular state provides the poor with all the food, clothing, shelter and medical care they need. The poor now manifest the sins of the Biblical rich; secular capitalism generates sufficient tax revenue such that the poor need not even ponder marriage when deciding to reproduce. All that's left for the Church to do is lecture the well-nourished, sheltered and medicated citizenry on the need to curb their sexuality. Really? Or what--Hell?

The religious orders that are doing well these days seem to be the ones that are trying to knock the sharp corners off life for their adherents. For example, in exchange for being an Amish or Hasidic male, you get a job, a definite place in the community's pecking order, and a decent-looking wife who'll have sex with you, bear your children and keep your house. Likewise, Amish and Hasidic females get a guaranteed provider, standing in the community, a reprieve from the status games and career ambitions that occupy the lives of non-Amish and non-Hasidic women, and nuclear and extended family to keep you busy to the end of your days.

Until the Church can offer that sort of arrangement, then from the perspective of the world it's just a lifestyle and ideological choice among innumerable others.
Of all the things I say on the Internet, the above sentiments are the ones most likely not to make it through the moderation queue.

Turns out, once again, that I was just ahead of the curve:

Communion and community.

Orthodox Christians Must Now Learn To Live as Exiles in Our Own Country:
I believe that orthodox Christians today are called to be those new and very different St. Benedicts. How do we take the Benedict Option, and build resilient communities within our condition of internal exile, and under increasingly hostile conditions? I don’t know. But we had better figure this out together, and soon, while there is time. [Oh, I've had a few thoughts over the years, Rod. But I'd probably get sued or reported to Homeland Security.]

Christian Communities: From the comments, brother Orthodox and fellow-Tolkein fan Patrick Sheridan puts it beautifully and succinctly: "A way for the community to say 'come and see.'"

I've written this elsewhere and I will repeat it again: you cannot win a culture war if you do not offer a vision of a counter culture for people to adhere to. Putting a different shine on the veneer of the status quo does not suffice. You are still left with the same rotten culture as you had before, just more palatable for conservatives.

Whatever the future brings for Christianity in the West, neither compromise nor despair will prove the catalyst for a powerful response that leads to another awakening. Christianity will either benefit from events out of the control of any human agency, or it will come terms with the last vestiges of the Constantinian order being wiped away and look to its past for the means of engaging the present.

The Obergefell v. Hodges ruling appears to be something of a catalyst. There really is only room for one reigning ideology at the top, and the secular state has decided it has remained neutral long enough.

UPDATE: What's also puzzling is the rather hysterical "What-do-we-do-now?!" expressions. Rod, for example, says he has no idea where to start but that may be somewhat Straussian on his part. Dreher very deliberately carved out a cultural space for his family in rural Louisiana. Collectively, the Amish, Hasidim, Mormons and others seem to have been successful carving out their own cultural spaces. Fr. John Peck has been talking about this since September 2008, although on third reading, I think his homily could bear some modification:
Vastly diminished parishes, both in size and number. There will be a few exceptions, (and they will be exceptional!) but for the most part, most current Orthodox parishioners will age and die, and have no one to replace them. Why? Because as they have taught the context of their culture, instead teaching the context of their faith. Some parishes will simply be merged with others. Many will close outright. A few will change how they do ministry, with a new vision of parochial ecclesiology. These newer parishes will be lighthouses of genuine Orthodox piety and experience. Some parishes, I believe, will actually be formed specifically, in the old fashion, by purchasing land, building a chapel or Temple in the midst of it, and parishioners building or buying homes around it. The Church will be the center of their lives, and many will come from far and wide to experience their way of life.


Unknown said…
Whether secular or not, there are no legit competing ideologies. Politics is professional rasslin for the unathletic. And everything these days is politics.

All the little Obamasters need to eat their vitamins and say their prayers! Whachoo gonna do when Obamamania runs wild on you, brother!?
August said…
I was a bit hopeful, upon hearing that ROCOR won't have anything to do with state marriage now. Of course, they, as well as anyone else with sense, need to get people into real marriages- but assuming new families are founded clearly outside of the state, we eventually see a culture that can function over and against it.

Baby steps. I suppose it is too much to ask for a coronation, which would be one answer our country with no legitimate government.
What about people far-sundered, like me? I have no means at all, just a Bible and my own conviction.
Anonymous said…
I have thought similar thoughts to yours for a few years. I am a relatively new (Catholic) convert, that is essentially drifting away out of indifference. My observation of the Catholic experience is:
Catholic Church is boring. The routine activities of typical Catholics is: go to Mass every few weeks. Be bored. Give some money. Do a bit of volunteering that you don't enjoy (soup kitchens, sell Xmas trees, etc), because you feel like you should.

The only exceptions to this are: 1)kids (who attend Catholic school), and their parents (who are involved in the school Xmas play, kids activities, etc), and 2) old people (who are looking for a social life, and get it at the Church).

There is no wonder that religion is fading away. Its just not interesting/valuable. The State does a better job of giving money to poor people (better, not more efficient), and a secular culture does a better job of entertaining (i.e. playing golf on Sunday rather than going to Mass, watching sports that you happen to like, playing Bridge at the bridge club, gardening classes at Lowes, etc).

So what's left? I get the ultimate purpose of Christianity is a relationship with Jesus Christ, but that's just not enough. Or, rather, the simple belief in Jesus Christ, severed from everything else, is not enough.

Anonymous said…
p 2
In other words, currently, Christianity = saying "I accept Jesus." That is very easy, and there is no reason to commit a great deal of time to it.
But what should be, Christianity = accepting Jesus, and correspondingly living one's life with higher purpose (the purpose of a relationship with a spouse is to nurture love with that person, the purpose of family is to raise healthy children and nurture a relationship with elder relatives through their old age, the purpose of education is to nurture one's mind and be exposed to what is beautiful and true, and so on and so on). The Church is an organization that should nurture that striving for the beautiful and the good (through social activities like the Church baseball team and summer festival and bridge club and Dinners with Friends and so on and so on), through educational activities (through music concerts in the Church on Tuesday evenings and All Saints Days and Children's Bible Studies and so on and so on). In other words, Christianity is utterly judgemental: there is a beautiful and a good (in everything) and one should strive for that beautiful and good, and the purpose of the Church, rather than one of being a place where one attends Mass once a week, is an organization where one lives that good and beautiful life (with Mass being a small, necessary part of that lived life).

But simply being an organization that says 'do what ever you want, just say you love Jesus' is so easy it is irrelevant. So of course nobody sticks around.

So how does this relate to your post?
Churches have to regain the meaningful role in believers' lives. They have to be organizations that believers want to be a part of, and not simply organizations that believers feel some vague obligation to be a part of. Churches have to be attractive-not merely fun, though that is a big part of it (if I have to choose between cleaning garbage in a poor neighborhood or playing golf on Sunday, golf is usually going to win). They have to be 'fun' in such a way that the fun nurtures and communicates the Christian ideal (i.e take your elderly parents to some activity at the Church rather than just sit in their house and watch television for a few hours on Saturday).

I'm not saying this is easy to solve. Hanging around at Church is pretty fundamentally unfun, and just saying 'Bring your old parents to the Church and have coffee' is a blast isn't going to make it so. But without that-without the desire to do things at Church, people just aren't going to do them at Church.

I lived in a town some years ago where one Church had a boardgame night every Friday (Eurogames-not just monopoly and Life). It was a sustained, popular activity. Elderly folks came (for the easy games) because it was a social activity for them, adult gamers came (including non-Church members) because it was a chance to play more complicated games, some kids came because kids just like games. No preaching, just games. But the activity was the preaching-folks of different ages interacting, social activity at the Church, social activity rather than computer screen activity.

Have you ever noticed that the donuts and coffee after Mass always has terrible coffee (and often has nowhere to sit down-people just mill around shoving donuts in their mouths, drinking bad coffee out of styrofoam, and leaving). Why is that? You wouldn't go to a coffee shop with that ambiance, why would you hang around Church for it? Why not have good coffee? Why not provide tables? Why not create a coffee shop environment rather than a 'drink and get out' ambiance?

In so many ways the Church fails pretty basic things, at being attractive, at creating an appealing culture. This is what has to change.

Thanks for your comment, anon. The Church has accomodated itself to secular society in an attempt to preserve its standing with the State. My perennial example, the Amish, took the opposite tack, and they're the ones with the positive birthrates.

It is not impossible to do, but there is a total failure of vision by Christians fixated on endless 'outreach.'
Cheech And Chong Found God said…
"They have to be 'fun' in such a way that the fun nurtures and communicates the Christian ideal (i.e take your elderly parents to some activity at the Church rather than just sit in their house and watch television for a few hours on Saturday)."

Not according to Orthodox Christian rituals. The use of an ancient liturgy promotes a sense of universality, as every member prays and worships in the same way. This repetition reflects the Orthodox Christians' belief in participation in a communion of saints, a community of Christians, past and present.

There is nothing spontaneous about the conduct of the liturgy. Every word and act is prescribed in minute detail. Every aspect of the service is symbolic.

I suggest you temper your enthusiasm for a church that wants to make Christianity "fun".
Anonymous said…
I would love to see a post on here about the fact that having a relationship with Jesus Christ IN NO WAY means you have to subscribe to any Church (Organized Religion). I am enamored by the self-proclaimed Catholics who do not see - or more aptly choose to ignore - the problems with and within the Vatican. There is much to have faith in, but faith in men is not one of them. The pope is a man like any other, his relationship to God isn't closer than yours or mine. Organized Church is just another playpen for those who need direction in their faith, who can't look inside their hearts and know what is right and wrong. As a Christian, one is supposed to be able to discern right and wrong internally and perhaps with guidance through prayer. I am not trying to say one practice is right and another is wrong, there are many paths to faith and truth, but more and more people seem to be waiting to be TOLD the answers. There are no answers nor truth emanating from a gold crown and staff.
Atomized Protestantism is the road to Hell. Grow up.
Bert said…
I see the shitposter has returned. I guess old habits really do die hard.
The Liturgy is the center of Christian life, but it doesn't get young women safely married off, get young men into patronage networks, or care for the elderly and sick. Church should be more than a redoubt for middle-aged intellectuals enamored of arcane theology and elaborate liturgics.
Anonymous said…
ill take note of that during the pope's climate change encyclical. c u guyz there
NZT said…
It's a provocative point you're making but I really think you're right. Churches today aren't shrinking from a lack of evangelism (as you say, how many people in the world have not heard of Christianity by now? Christ himself chose not to preach to Herod, and commanded us to not cast our pearls before swine), but from their refusal to offer members the chance to belong to a strong, coherent Christian community. The West groans for some means for individuals to live decent Christian lives and raise decent Christian families together without having to wade through the mire of self-centered secular hedonism and dog-eat-dog global capitalism. That may mean being a little poorer in worldly goods (though there's no need to go full Amish about it) but also vastly richer in community, family, and the chance to live out one's faith relatively free from persecution. I think the number of people who would be willing to sign up for a deal like that would be surprisingly large.

And for people who still want to moan about more, more, more evangelism, obviously it would be much, much more effective if there were examples of healthy Christian communities we could point to as an example of why and how it works.

Keep preaching it, brother!