[This is the transcript of my regular KVMR commentary broadcast on 15 March 2013.]
Cardinal of Argentina and Jesuit, Jorge Bergoglio, was elected Pope last Wednesday, the first from the Western Hemisphere to hold the Holy Office of Catholicism. He chose to be known as Pope Francis (the First), a name that fits his reputation and humble demeanor. His major tasks will be to straighten out the Vatican bureaucracy, also known as the Roman Curia, the standing of the Catholic priesthood, and halt the decline of Christianity in Europe and North America.
While the proportion of the world’s Christians has remained fairly constant over the last century, its center of gravity has overwhelmingly shifted from the north to south. The Pew Research Forum on Religion and Public Life reports –
“This apparent stability, however, masks a momentous shift. Although Europe and the Americas still are home to a majority of the world’s Christians (63%), that share is much lower than it was in 1910 (93%). And the proportion of Europeans and Americans who are Christian has dropped from 95% in 1910 to 76% in 2010 in Europe as a whole, and from 96% to 86% in the Americas as a whole.”
And even these statistics mask the actual declines in people who regularly attend church or even confess to believing in God. Protestant Northern Europe has become a Christian wasteland, and in North America secular humanism is making great strides in attracting both young and old away from the faith of their fathers.
Today in America the state is actively and selectively proscribing Christianity and purging its presence from public life. The ruling progressive mentality is dominant and has prescribed that we be sensitive to all religions in our midst save Christianity. When the perceived sensibilities of people of other faiths are somehow disrespected, there is an uproar in the media with America’s secular humanists lending their weight to restore those aggrieved. The only exception is the sound of crickets when a Christian or Christianity is disparaged or mocked.
Today Christians in America are a mobile bunch with over 50% having changed their religious affiliation at least once. And the churn continues as the overall numbers decline. To me that reflects an attitude that shopping religions is rapidly becoming the norm because people more and more are dissatisfied with what they learn or don’t learn during their encounter with this or that denomination.
As a Protestant Christian, I have seen that branch of the faith change markedly over my lifetime. Churches no longer feel that their theology, with its message of salvation and how to live, is sufficient to contain the faithful. Something different is required today if the pews are to be filled on Sunday. The overwhelming solution has been to adopt a new ‘contemporary’ style of service that concentrates on entertainment and expunges the wonders of Christian cosmology and theology from its sermons. ‘Sunday school light’ is the new liturgy in which a progressive ‘liberation theology’ focuses on current social issues during many Protestant and Catholic worship services.
The consequence is that altars have become rock band stages, the sacraments have been silenced, and an all-inclusive Christianity is the order of the day. The parishioner soon asks himself ‘is that all that there is?’, if so, then let’s go find a place that has a better band, cooler songs, and more skits to entertain us. If the church seeks first to be a social services club washed of irrelevant theology, then finding the best club is the order of the day. The Pew Forum describes it as “a very competitive religious marketplace.” And today that marketplace is more and more filled with Comfort Christians who cannot conceive of contending for what used to be their faith.
On an even bigger scale, respected scientists tell us (here) that the world is rapidly becoming an arena of clashing civilizations, each of which hew to one of the world’s great religious traditions. It is into that arena that the humble and evangelical Pope Francis now takes the Throne of St Peter as the de facto leader of Christians of all hues.
My name is Rebane, and I expand on this and related themes on georgerebane.com where the linked transcript of this commentary is posted, and where such issues are debated extensively. However these views are not necessarily shared by KVMR. Thank you for listening.