COMMENTARY: Sorry to burst your bubble

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bubble burst

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(RNS) The bubble I see bursting is establishment Christianity in America. It is bursting ever-so-slowly, even as millions of people still find life, meaning, safety and structure inside their bubbles. But one failing congregation at a time, the surface of shimmering shape is being breached.

  • David C.

    But we can pay money to subscribe to your blog. You give new meaning to pastoring the flock. I would not worry about the Catholics as the Episcopalians have been emptying the pews for years.

  • You are right about the bubble. Methodism is so invested in a “one size fits all” organizational structure for churches and so obsessed with analyzing itself via numbers (now we are expected to keep track of the gender of all members) resulting in analysis unto paralysis that if given the choice many local churches would give up Methodist structure while keeping Wesleyan theology. There is no longer any denomination in which those politically liberal and politically conservative can kneel together in some level of spiritual companionship. I see the house church as an option more and more will try.

  • Charlotte H.

    Lovely commentary. I enjoyed it thoroughly, especially the idea of the Spirit, freed of bubbles (which I interpret as manmade), roaming across the landscape. To me, this pertains to many aspects of Christianity in the U.S., from the breakdown of denominations to the growth of the Nones, many of whom are honest seekers after a truth they aren’t finding in their neighborhood churches. Will house churches prevail? Perhaps, for a while, as the old churches continue to dwindle and die. I think Christianity as a whole will dwindle, for I see little hope of Christianity freeing itself from its alliance with politics, particularly conservative politics; I see no impetus toward evangelization free of political particularization. Many thanks, however, for this thoughtful and nicely written commentary.

  • A bubble has indeed popped. A bubble of illusion.

    The church has long managed to convince its flock of all the central Christian claims: salvation, hell, resurrection, and so on.

    And this has always required a certain amount of prestidigitation. God is, after all, invisible, and the only information we have about him is found in increasingly ancient texts from the Middle East. It takes a certain pre-enlightenment mindset with an exaggerated regard for tradition and authority to maintain such a bubble of beliefs.

    Over the last few decades, with the accelerating dissemination of education and knowledge, the bubble of religion is looking increasingly weak and unsustainable.

    People just can’t suspend disbelief anymore, and the bubble looks set to burst.

  • Dear Mr. Harrison: First, you commit the common modern fallacy of assuming that anyone born before the twentieth century was superstitious, incapable of proving and disproving claims, easily duped and inherently weak. The number of pioneers of science like Vesalius, Harvey, Boyle, Leeuwenhoek, Newton and Pascal who saw no conflict between their religious faith and their scientific life challenges your point. Second, you confuse a weakening belief in the current way of organizing religion with giving up the essence of religion. While this may be happening in Europe it is certainly not happening in other areas of the world. Atheism has not made great strides in convincing folks that matter is all there is. In fact there have been major defections in atheism like Anthony Flew. I would respect Atheism more if I saw it producing anything equivalent to the hospice movement, orphanages, hospitals, programs for the homeless, Habitat for Humanity, free medical care, efforts to end drug addiction, and the list goes on and on. It focuses more on how dumb others are rather than trying to change anything significant.