Sunday, October 30, 2022

What societal changes have created the "Nones"

Not all societal change moves at the speed of the lockdown’s spiritual and moral disruptions. Some take decades. So when Charlie Ollermann summarized in Sunday School on October 30 a few details about how Christianity and organized religion are losing both the numbers and the influence game, I took note. It went something like this (a quote from Pew site), “Pew's National Public Opinion Reference Survey found that the majority of Americans -- 63% -- consider themselves Christian, down from 78% in 2007. Meanwhile, 29% of adults list their religion as "none," meaning they consider themselves atheist, agnostic or "nothing in particular." That figure has increased since 2007, when 16% said they have no religion.” As he moved on to our lesson in 2 Thessalonians, I jotted down four societal changes which I thought were the root causes building over the last almost 60 years. I expanded my thoughts here at my blog.

1 ) The War on Poverty (launched January 1964). Trillions (est. 16 in 2014, 27 in 2019) have been spent, the power of the federal government has grown enormously, and both liberals and conservatives strongly disagree on results, or even how to describe poverty. In my opinion religious groups whose Biblical charge was charity, benevolence, feeding and clothing the poor, in short, following the commands of Jesus as outlined in Matthew 25, were severely compromised by taking grants to do their “good works.” (This worsened after GHW Bush’s “thousand points of light.” Yet, over 50% of Americans do not pay federal income tax, and 25 million workers are given money when they file for taxes (EITC, $60 billion). The median income of a single mother household is $49,214, and for a married couple household it is $101,517 (i.e., 2 incomes) according to U.S. Census, 2020. Uncle Sam is not a good step-father, but poverty pays well. Children of married parents rarely grow up in poverty. All four of my points directly or indirectly involve marriage. If poverty were to be ended tomorrow at noon, millions of people would be out of work. . . very well paid jobs with amazing benefits, most in government, but many in non-profits and NGOs. That would require new government programs to aid those recently unemployed.

2 ) Vatican II (1962-1965). Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, etc. don’t usually think that Vatican II affected us much, but in my opinion the Roman Catholic Church is our mother, or at least a grandmother in our major doctrines—Diety of Christ, the Trinity, a canon of scripture we call the Bible, sacraments as an expression of faith, the Christian life, evangelization, missions, what is heresy, etc. People catechized in the 70s or 80s speak about how poorly they were taught the basics of the faith. When we joined UALC in 1976 our “catechism” book cover was pink and orange with balloons. And that’s also a description of what was between the covers. I’d never seen a Luther’s Small Catechism until Dave and Pam Mann taught a night class at Mill Run about 20 years ago. I think growth of the “nones” reflects on the sloppy, silly and social justice Pablum people educated in the 70s and 80s received. They were not prepared to educate their own children when they were so poorly catechized—both Protestants and Catholics.

3) The Population Bomb and Earth Day (1970s) moving on to earth worship, Green New Deal and pantheism. Paul Ehrlich’s book “The population bomb” scared me to death. He said hundreds of millions of people would starve to death in spite of all the agriculture and aid programs we (many by churches) were supporting. Well, we’d already caved to contraception, so why not abortion? Now in the 21st century we can’t sustain a population replacement rate and killing the next generation is considered righteous even by many Christians. Now we’re forced to accept immigration, even illegal immigration, just to support our economy. But we’ve made a Faustian bargain (deal with the devil) and are taking in drugs, sex trafficking and criminals in the deal to maintain the population. Plus, Christian non-profits are taking huge grants from the government to manage all this. People from 200 countries now come through our southern border adding great stress to those states, which then make us all border states. Communing with nature now replaces “organized” religion designed for the family (which often seems very disorganized to some) with various efforts (and riots) to save the planet, our so-called Mother. This pantheism combined with demonizing men and marriage is reducing society’s need for churches.

4) Second Wave Feminism (early 70s for the general public). Although scholars would date this from the “pill” developed in the 1960s and various books, I didn’t pay much attention until “The women’s liberation movement” became a kitchen table topic among women. I was quite caught up in it myself. I had young children, had a master’s degree, and could really identify with the conversations so many were having. We were already active in a fair housing group, a prison reform group, and a race relations group (all loosely church based). Falling for the seductive message that the male/female differences were just cultural and should be changed was easy for my generation. Between the availability of the pill and free sex (which has never been free for women, only men) and the siren call of fabulous careers, prestige, and a bigger bank account, women were literally fleeing the home for the office. So who passes on the faith to the kids if both parents are working, exhausted in the evening, and using week-ends for family time, especially Sunday morning?

I do not point to the Baby Boomers (born after WWII and before 1965) for initiating these changes. The leaders of the various movements and authors of the transformational books were mostly born in the 1930s, or even the 1920s. But the Boomers as adolescents certainly bore the brunt of the changes and misinformation. They are the parents and grandparents of the “nones” who are not just skipping church-- many live in fear of a collapsing planet and won’t commit to anything, not even a job let alone marriage and a family, made worse lately by Covid, and no faith in Jesus.

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