This morning, after church, my girlfriend Annie and I went to the Starbucks at Highland Park Village like we do most Sundays to read the New York Times. The Sunday Edition is always insightful and offers a lot of opinions and info that I don't get from Dallas media. While we were reading it this morning outside a man with a slight back east accent walked passed and said, "It is always nice to see some NY Times readers in Dallas."It was especially great to read this morning since we were just in NYC this week. All of the pictures and recommendations were even more potent since they were to places I had seen just this week. Also, there was a terribly interesting article that both Annie and I poured through and couldn't stop from nodding our heads and smiling because of the perspective and truth we found in the article. (Not the norm for me and the opinion pieces or editorials) The article was the cover story in The New York Times Magazine and is called "End Times for Evangelicals." (Read the whole article) The driving question of the article is how did the power house that was the Religious Right come apart so quickly? (some excerpts) "After the 2004 election, evangelical Christians lookiked like one of the most powerful and cohesive voting blocs in America. Three years later, they can't find a candidate and their leadership is split along generational and theological lines...."
" 'Even in Evangelical Circles, we are tired of the war, tired of body bags,' said the Rev. David Welsh of Wichita's Central Christian Church. 'I think it is to the point where they are saying: "Okay, we have done as much good as we can. Now let's just get out of there.' "
"For many younger Evangelicals, the "born-again" experience of accepting Jesus is just the beginning. What follows is a long-term process of spiritual formation that involves applying His teachings in the here and the now."
"If Giuliani captures the nomination, despite the threat of an Evangelical revolt, it will be a long time before Republican strategists pay attention to the demands of conservative Christian leaders again."
"People in that age group (20-30 year olds) are much more attracted to participatory theology, very resistant of being told what to do or what to think."
This article's premise and the information presented was very timely. I have been having similar conversations with friends of mine over the past few months. We have been thinking through the church experience that we were brought up with and the way we experience our faith now. The question of the relevance of the church and it's future has occupied more than a couple cups of coffee and glasses of wine recently. My friend Skinner Layne blogged about this recently: The Radical Message of Christ, The Mediocre Message of Christianity and expounds further upon that idea. Questioning the church and the direction that the leadership of the Evangelical movement has been an eye opening experience. The close minded and judgmental positions that are espoused by the national leadership of some of the big organizations and their loyal followings are repulsive to me and I can only imagine what they look like to those without any religious bacjground. The outward facade of 'we're right and everyone else is wrong' looks more like the second coming of the Pharisees than manifestation of Christ's message in today's world. What is the answer? Where will the American church find itself in 10 years? 20 years? If we take a look at the church in Europe as any indication, things don't look good. In less than two generations an entire continent moved to a predominately post modern "worldly" culture as the church went from a relevant and alive representation of Christ and His message to a fundamentalist and closed minded religion of dos and don'ts unable to adapt. If that is the case and something doesn't change, then we may have a whole new tourism industry popping up across America: Tours of now empty former Mega-Churches.