(For reference, I’ve been going to a small church for a few weeks with about three dozen members where the average age is 70. I’ve described it to friends and family as “acceptably inoffensive” and the pastor is pretty good.)
So at church last Sunday, the pastor did a digression about terrorists around the world who want to kill us for no reason except because we live freely in America. It put me in mind of a Japanese soldier abandoned on an island still fighting World War 2. I think that was a movie or something that was parodied in Archer. It really typifies the absolute power of the generational divide in America. These people may as well be living on a deserted island with no radio contact for all the understanding they have of people even twenty years younger.
The first day I was there, the pastor introduced himself to me and mentioned that he’s interested in getting more young people. I dread the day when he asks my opinion on that. How do you tell someone that despite his best intentions, his past decisions have formed him such that the best thing he could do is expire and be replaced by a half-wit Twitch streamer who, despite his functional illiteracy, at least has soured on wars in the Middle East? On the other hand, if he cared enough to actually pursue that supposed goal, he probably wouldn’t be living in a cultural fortress of solitude. So that day will probably never come. I think what I’d actually go with is “I’ve thought about it, and I think you need to focus on your strengths and serving the flock God has brought to you.”
But it really illustrates in microcosm the absolute failure of the Western church, as “in the world but not of it” has been interpreted in practice to mean “neither in the world nor of it”. I.e. Christians have given up on understanding literally anything around them. I suspect this is partly to blame for our inability to produce artists. I actually understand them, in contrast. The behavior can be explained as a response to economic precarity. Being in the world even a little bit puts your family in enormous danger. If I had money I’d be spending it on off-the-grid living solutions myself. But I won’t let them off the hook just because there are economic and psychological reasons to self-insulate.
First off, there are levels of insulation. It’s unconscionable to still support the Iraq war, and self-delusion is not a good excuse for treason. If a soldier sent confidential documents to an e-mail address he thought was Q, the military tribunal would laugh that defense out of the courtroom before sentencing him to death. Intention is revealed by patterns of behavior. If someone tells me he desperately seeks God and ten years later he’s never cracked a Bible (or any religious text at all, for that matter), then he’s a liar.
Second off, it doesn’t have to be everyone risking everything all the time. Where are the domestic mission trips? Where’s the baseline interest in what’s going on out there? Where are the service trips? The fact-finding commissions? I’m a big fan of the idea of playing superhero world savior as a side job and in my spare time. If nothing else, it’s a good reason to get up in the morning. You can’t tell me I’m the only single person in the American church with extra time in the evening to do constructive charity work. Those tens of thousands of singles groups might be completely feckless to marry off even one incel with a divorced single mother (the only two demographics you’ll find in singles groups), but they could put soup in bowls in the meantime.
And speaking of extra resources, why are the donors wasting their God-given money? Why does every fucking church plant feel their witness would benefit from a new God-damned building?
This is such a massive failure of leadership at all levels that I’m tempted to call for every church member in the world from the deacon level up to be shot. And any Christian who actually cares about the wretched state of the church would understand the emotion, even if they disagreed with the actual policy. Frankly, it’s worse than the medical system. The reason I’m not particularly upset about Ravi Zacharias’s embezzling and philandering is I still think he was the best the church had on offer. He was a sinner, but he at least gave a shit. At this point I’ll take a high-functioning meth head over all these harmless tubs of Jello.
What is the point of a harmless man? What use is he to anyone? Better to be smothered at birth than grow up to be so completely irrelevant that you may as well have been a vegetable on life support the whole time. That bleeds into a criticism of average Americans, as the Zoom meeting era has demonstrated, but I won’t moralize about Christian values to a population that doesn’t share them. And it’s probably explicable via systemic issues as in David Graeber’s book “Bullshit Jobs”.
tl;dr- Real desire is evidenced by discontent with failure. Therefore the Western church is dead and begs replacement, and it was the duty of church leaders to avoid this fate so they need to remove themselves or be removed. I suppose they could repent and change their lives too, but who ever heard of that happening in the Western church? The only thing Paul Washer did wrong is he didn’t go far enough.
Oh, speaking of, if you’re a pastor and the divorce rate at your church isn’t lower than the demographic average, then you should burn it down and kill yourself legally and with due process in Minecraft.