Can This Be?
I’ve been haunted over the past 24 hours with the image I saw Sunday: a huge sanctuary in what was once considered a large denominational church with only a handful of people. It brought back the image of the National Cathedral in Washington when I visited it, a beautiful, magnificent edifice of granite, marble, and stained glass, but hardly any people in it, a place where the sculptures of past church leaders over their tombs surpassed the live of the saints who were alive. In the midst of architectural beauty was the absence of life.
As a public school teacher, since the 1990’s, all I have heard was the mantra about “failing schools”. American society has learned to blame institutions for their failures. Conservative talk radio blames everything on the President, liberals, and Democrats. People are always blaming the government. Locally the schools are targeted as the ill of society, yet as Americans we fail to look at ourselves in a mirror, or better yet, within ourselves.
Young adults in their 20-30’s claim that they do not want to do church, or are tired of church, yet they strive for relationships. Relationships are important to them, but they have to go elsewhere other than the church to find what they are shopping for, the consumer mentality of America.
Can we admit that maybe the church in America is failing too as an institution? In my area of America, there is a church in almost every block of the city, and every mile in the country, yet few if any are even half full. In fact, attendance is still declining. Or is criticizing the church a “sacred cow”? As institutions, churches always criticize other churches. They have it down to a science. I have heard it from the pulpit since my childhood how “they” aren’t following the Bible like “us”.
In the midst of our country in a “health care” battle debating if we should be taking care of the sick in this country who can not afford it, I find it hard to believe that once the church was very active in building hospitals, soup kitchens, food and clothing distribution centers, etc. Gosh, the Holy Spirit Hospital is only 30 miles from me! We did not need the government, or capitalism, etc. when the church clothed the naked, fed the hungry, visited the sick, etc. The church, for whatever reason, has abandoned many of the institutions they have founded. In the spirit of the critical mindset we have in American, should we also be wondering if, as an institution, the church too is failing?
Maybe the church should not be the “scapegoat”, but we should look to and for the “Savior”, Jesus Christ, to save us, you, me, from the relationships we have allowed to slip through out fingers resulting in institutions instead.