“Decline of the Christian Church”
Throughout history, the Christian Church’s importance in society rose and declined. In every culture, there has been a love-hate relationship between religion and politics; the political leaders used the religious leaders to gain the support of a portion of the populace, and the religious leaders gladly acquiesced for some temporary influence.
The relationship between religion and politics is simple. The greater the religion’s influence in politics, the weaker the religious fervor. Usually, it ends up with the political empires declining in power and religious organization shrinking or disappearing.
This was especially true with the Christian Church in the U.S. Christianity is an imported Middle Eastern religion, so when the culture thrives, the religion is forgotten. When the political powers lose their influence, the Christian Church declines in its influence. When the Church focuses on political power, the Church is spiritually weak but is not aware of its weakness. They mistakenly believe that their political power is spiritual vitality, so they do not realize how hollow their religious institutions have become and how they have lost their way.
The rise of the spirituality of the Church was when the Church was most separate from politics. In U.S. church history, we talk about two Great Awakenings that occurred when the Church had the least influence on the pollical scene. Just before the First Great Awakening, the churches were closing across the country as the era of state church was coming to an end. As the colonies expanded beyond New England, the clergy were no longer being paid by the government taxes but by the donations of the congregation.
Following years after The First Great Awakening, the Church started to flex its muscle again politically. Thomas Jefferson and the founders of the new country wrote into the Constitution that the Church and the State must be separated. The clergy cried about how the U.S. was losing its way, and they vilified Jefferson, who did not believe in the supernatural influences of God. However, as the Church focused on its emphasis on serving the need of the people, The Second Great Awakening occurred, only to die when the Church got involved in politics again and added Prohibition to the Constitution through the 18th Amendment.
Mere 14 years later, the error was corrected and removed Prohibition from the Constitution through the 21st Amendment. In the past century, the conservative NOT-christians found themselves on the opposite side of every important social progress: women’s right to vote, racial justice, ending slavery, apartheid, immigration, social safety nets for the underprivileged, abortion, LGBT rights, and more. They were against even Title IX, which gave equal opportunities for women in sports.
While we lament the overturning of Roe v Wade, it is only a matter of time before reproductive rights will be law and eventually will be added to the Constitution, like Kansas. The celebration of NOT-christians on this matter is short-lived. They mistakenly believe the Church flexed its muscle, but they are on their final hurrah. The glaring hypocrisy is evident to the people; the only ones fooled are conservative evangelical NOT-christians.
As Progressive Christians, we need not fight for power or recognition, but we just need to continue to focus on what Jesus lived and died for: justice, mercy, and humility. The revival will come after God prunes the religious nationalism from the Church, which he is doing right now. So let us turn to God and pray for God to come quickly and cleanse the Church.