St. Thomas More church in New York City. Photo by Robert Deutsch, USA Today

5 ways churches inflicted pain on themselves (COMMENTARY)

(RNS) Let's be clear: The much-heralded "decline of Christianity in America" isn't about God losing faith in humankind.

It isn't about losing our moral compass thanks to whatever you happen to loathe. It isn't about fickle millennials. It isn't about zigging trendy or zagging traditional.

In fact, I would argue that Christianity isn't in trouble at all. Churches are in trouble. Denominations are in trouble. Religious institutions like seminaries are in trouble. Professional church leaders are in trouble.

But churches can't hold God hostage. God will do what God will do. Whether our churches stay open for business, God will keep on loving all that God has made. Loss of an institution won't deter God.

So let's relax about Christianity -- the faith -- going down the tubes. This isn't an existential crisis for God or for faith in God. Even if every church in America went dark, God would try another way.

St. Thomas More church in New York City. Photo by Robert Deutsch, USA Today

St. Thomas More church in New York City. Photo by Robert Deutsch, USA Today

 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

The tragedy -- in the classic sense of self-inflicted wounds and fatal flaws -- is that we did this to ourselves, and we hurt many people along the way. Here is what we did:

1. We stopped trying.

For a time, religious institutions in America were bold risk-takers. Then we settled into maintenance mode, because it felt safe and comfortable. We fought over churchy things that didn't matter because the things that did matter -- racism, inequality, demagoguery, corporate thievery, obsession with money and sex -- cut too close to home.

2. We stopped giving.

Over the past 50 years, our giving has dropped by more than half as a percentage of family income. We have starved our churches of resources. When tough budget choices had to be made, the facilities that we wanted usually defeated the mission that God wanted.

3. We turned inward.

Just as American houses went from porches in front to patios out back, we stopped connecting with our neighbors. We stopped looking outward, except for the occasional noblesse oblige charity. We opened our doors on Sunday and welcomed each other.

4. We fixated on Sunday morning.

Long after Sunday changed character in American life, we kept expecting Sunday worship to do our work. Rather than transform lives through mission work, circles of growth and personal spirituality, we had people sit in pews for a crammed hour of singing, praying, announcing, chatting, communing and learning. Then we sent people out to their cars and figured we had done our work for the week.

5. We trashed our reputation.

We became known as judgmental, angry, self-serving, smug, boring and old. As far as people outside can tell, we live to fight, we think too highly of ourselves, and we are moral scolds. Who needs that?

What, then, is the future? The future for God is as bright and glorious as ever. Our ever-changing, ever-dynamic, ever-loving and ever-transformational God will be just fine. We can say our prayers with confidence.

Churches, on the other hand, are in trouble. Many will run out of money. Many will lose heart. And yet some, perhaps many, will rise to the challenge. They will give up the old certainties and do what Jesus did.

Those challenge-meeters will look outward, proclaim good news, welcome strangers, serve "the least of these," give their lives and resources away, work for justice and mercy, be faith communities seven days a week and put love ahead of right opinion and kindness ahead of victory.

And God will be in the midst of them.

Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the president of Morning Walk Media and publisher of Fresh Day online magazine. Photo courtesy of Tom Ehrich

Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the president of Morning Walk Media and publisher of Fresh Day online magazine. Photo courtesy of Tom Ehrich

 This image is available for web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

(Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the author of “Just Wondering, Jesus” and founder of the Church Wellness Project. His website is



  1. Tom,

    “We became known as judgmental, angry, self-serving, smug….”

    As a priest, you (of all people) must know these things are baked very solidly into the Christian cake.

    Unlike a humanist, a Christian is commanded to be judgmental, myopic, single-minded, angry and smug:

    (1 Corinthians 5:11)
    “Bad company ruins good morals.” (1 Corinthians 15:33)
    DO NOT associate with anyone.. if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.” (1 Corinthians 5:11)
    “…do not receive him..or give him any greeting” (2 John 1:10)
    “Avoid Them” (Romans 16:17)
    “For whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.” (2 John 1:11)

    For 2000 years we’ve known the problem. It is Jesus Himself!

    “…go and tell him his fault.” – JESUS (Matthew 18:15)

  2. Anyone who thinks that God will ever try “another way” to the Church hasn’t got the slightest idea what the Church of Jesus Christ is.

    Try Mt 16, Eph 1 & Col 1 as a primer.

  3. Also baked into the Christian cake are comments by Jesus in defense of the woman caught in adultery spoken to keep her from being stoned. Also there are Christ’s words in Luke: “I say love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you”. You might want to take some time meditating on the whole passage (Luke:6:27-35).
    Yet there are times preachers should be powerful in condemnation of sin. Indeed, 6000 Catholic priests and some other clergy wound up in Hitler’s Dachau camp for speaking against Der Feuhrer or his policies. If only there had been more people being single-minded and judgmental, and myopic in damning Hitler and his minions, maybe there wouldn’t have been a Holocaust.

  4. Please do not impute unto me the transgressions of others, since I have enough of my own. Blaming “the church” as a whole is easy but not accurate.

  5. So the reminder to share GOD’s love should be an important part of every service. We do need to be reminded about that, since it does take effort and it does not come naturally. That is one thing that we all need to remeber.

  6. @Deacon John,

    “Also baked …are comments by Jesus in defense of the woman caught in adultery.. “I say love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you”.”

    Wrong. Jesus is a coin toss. “Execute my enemies in front of me” (Luke 19:27) Hitler, a devout Jew-Hating Christian took it seriously.

    “6000 Catholic priests…wound up in Hitler’s Dachau camp for speaking against Der Feuhrer or his policies.”
    WRONG. 70,000 priests fully supported Hitler as doing the work of Christ. Fr. Jozef Tiso and his holy orders ran Nazi Slovakia for years executing tens of thousands of innocent Jews.

    “If only there had been more people being single-minded and judgmental, and myopic in damning Hitler and his minions, maybe there wouldn’t have been a Holocaust.”
    Well, the Pope blessed Hitler HIMSELF! The Vatican Konkordat peace agreement of 1933 was Hitler’s FIRST PEACE TREATY!

  7. More so “The Church”, in the form we 20th/21st Century westerners know it.

  8. “Execute my enemies in front of me” (Luke 19:27)

    Gr8 b8 m8! I r8 it 8/8!

    But seriously, that’s a cherrypicked verse from a parable, regarding using what you’ve been given. I can cherrypick too 😛


    God commands us to have sex with prostitutes! It says so here:
    (Judges 16:1) “Samson went to Gaza, and there he saw a prostitute, and he went in to her.”

  9. @Evan,

    “Cherry picked”


    The Parable of the Minas (Luke 19:20) is a depraved story. The Nobleman (Jesus is veiling his own Parousia) promises to return to *reward the good servants* with the gift and the pleasure of killing the bad servants for him.

    It is a parable about blood lust and vengeance. And Jesus not only approves it – he holds it out as a carrot to his disciples.

    The depravity and primitive barbarism of the parable is a direct lesson from Jesus – and countless barbarians have used it as an excuse to murder various sinners as decreed by the command:

    “Bring to me those enemies of mine who would not have me as their King and Execute them in front of me” – JESUS (Luke 19:27)

    Notice how Jesus does not do the executions himself, but insists the good (righteous) servants have that special pleasure for themselves.

    It is depraved.

  10. The case was well stated such as it was, but as someone noted, the Western Church is not the whole Church. If, as I think, a great persecution is coming as a result of the growing ungodliness in our culture, the sheep will be separated from the goats, the wheat from the chaff, etc. The final question may be: How much will we be willing to suffer in order to remain true to our faith? That is a question few Western Christians seem willing to confront. *Note to Max, OK. I get that you have ‘progressed’ from belief to unbelief. I guess that works for you. But in the process you seem to have also rejected everything associated with a ‘traditional’ view of anything. Your posts seem to a show a penchant for everything ‘progressive’ and left wing. Is there no such thing as a ‘conservative’ atheist? In my own limited acquaintance with atheists I’ve never met one. I find that somehow odd.

  11. Even when refuting someone who professes faith, whom you view as a heretic or a cultist, one should be kind. I have to remind myself of this when contending with those who are extremely hostile to evangelical orthodoxy.

  12. There are lots of well-known conservative atheists and certainly many more lesser known ones. Winston Churchill was an agnostic at best, and probably an atheist. He definitely did not believe in an afterlife. George Will, Charles Krauthammer, S.E. Cupp, Charles C.W. Cooke, James Taranto, the late Leo Strauss — all either agnostics or atheists. The great Italian philosopher Benedetto Croce was an athiest. So, I understand, is journalist and former Conservative British MP/Defense Secretary Michael Portillo. On the radical right: Hitler and Mussolini were atheists. Mussolini made public displays of Catholicism, but his personal writings make it clear he never believed in God and despised clergymen. His wife was an atheist until she died. Hitler also courted religious groups when it suited his needs, but he did not believe in God. Eventually, Hitler became openly antagonistic toward all organized religion, except for the statist, Teutonic mysticism the Nazi had introduced.

  13. 1. You failed to recognize that the world had come of age.
    There is no reason why literate, highly educated people should look to clergy for teachingf or guidance. We can figure it out for ourselves or choose eclectically from a buffet of self-help programs, therapies and ‘philosophies’.

    2. You failed to recognize that churches were no longer the only show in town.
    Secular institutions now provide all the secular goods churches traditionally provided cheaper and better.

    3. You failed to recognize that you no longer had a captive audience.
    You imposed your idea of what church should be and do on us, & were surprised when laypeople who didn’t like it just went away.

    4. You hid your light under a bushel.
    You (mainliners) did not aggressively advertise, evangelize or promote the Church.

    5. You lost faith in the value of church.
    You uncritically swallowed the critique of secularists, repeating the secularist mantra that the only good thing about religion was works of…

  14. I think everybody here is hyperventilating. A small drop in the proportion of people stating they are Christians and people are going on as if it is the end of the world as they know it!

    This is nonsense. States that are more religiously observant don’t seem to be any better than states that are less so. Even if the proportion of believers fell by another 20 per cent, I doubt that people would notice much of a difference.

  15. Luke 19:27 is a parable that describes how the world works, not how Jesus’ disciples are to behave. Their take home lesson, seems to me, is to be bold in God’s steadfast love, rather than being crippled by fear of meeting injustice.

  16. “19:27 is a parable..about how the world works…be bold in love… rather than crippled by fear.”

    The world most assuredly does not work that way in modern times.
    A nobleman would need to be ISIS or Hitler to behave the way Jesus describes.
    Besides, it has been the assumption of theologians for centuries that the only explanation of Luke 19:27 is the Second Coming or Parousia – when Christ returns to force a final Inquisition.

    Humans have repeatedly used the parable of the minas as an excuse to bring about hundreds of Inquisitions in their own time at the direction of Jesus Christ.

    And executions (by the good servants) have necessarily been part of those Inquistions every time.

    If Jesus were really God – he could not have been so foolish to leave such a depraved parable as a lesson. It can only be part of a grand fiction.

  17. @Tim Ireland,

    “Hitler…were atheists.”

    No. Hitler was a Christian influenced by Martin Luther which he points out repeatedly in Mein Kampf: Hitler outlawed Atheism from education. Hitler was among the most devoted Christians, believing the Aryan Race was angelic, truly divine with the sole responsibility to wipe out evil – The Jews.

    “Mussolini …never believed in God and despised clergymen.”
    No. He never denied his own divine Messianism – a religious impulse – it is exactly the enemy of humanity.

    “Hitler also courted religious groups when it suited his needs, but he did not believe in God.”
    Nonsense. The Vatican endorsed Hitler in 1933. The Pope knew Hitler’s plan and blessed it.

    “Hitler became openly antagonistic toward all organized religion, except for ..Teutonic mysticism”
    WRONG. Hitler had the most organized religion ever invented! A mission from God to destroy Jews built on the racism of Jesus Christ.
    “They are dogs” – JESUS

  18. What is depravity? That implies a moral judgment. Who made you judge, jury, and god?

  19. Thanks for being god on the ‘net and providing a moral compass for the sinners.

  20. That’s an awfully smug, angry, judgmental post for a humanist role-playing as a god.

  21. Hitler was atheist, or at least a secularist. Read about it on wikipedia.
    He worked to decrease Christianity’s influence and justified the holocaust using the rhetoric of the science of the times (Social Darwinism and eugenics). He generally permitted and encouraged anti-church radicals in his administration and made several statements against Christianity in private. While he directly tried to exterminate Jews and Jehovah’s Witnesses, he also closed down several Catholic institutions as well.

    “In Hitler’s eyes, Christianity was a religion fit only for slaves; he detested its ethics in particular. Its teaching, he declared, was a rebellion against the natural law of selection by struggle and the survival of the fittest.”
    — Excerpt from Hitler a Study in Tyranny by Alan Bullock

    However, Hitler was also a politician who tried to use religious rhetoric to garner support, hence your religious quotes in Mein Kampf.

  22. Hitler certainly sounds like a modern atheist sometimes:
    “The dogma of Christianity gets worn away before the advances of science. Religion will have to make more and more concessions. Gradually the myths crumble. All that’s left is to prove that in nature there is no frontier between the organic and the inorganic. When understanding of the universe has become widespread, when the majority of men know that the stars are not sources of light but worlds, perhaps inhabited worlds like ours, then the Christian doctrine will be convicted of absurdity.”
    — Adolf Hitler, from Hitler’s Table Talk (1941–1944)

    The wikipedia article on Hitler’s religion is very well documented and concludes that Hitler was hostile to religion (especially Judaism and certain forms of Christianity) but did not directly oppose it out of tactical reasons.

  23. @Tom Longes,

    “a humanist role-playing as a god.”

    I don’t follow your logic.
    When one stops believing in leprechauns, one doesn’t become a leprechaun. How does one become a god when one stops believing in gods?

    Also, all the smugness you find so offensive is in the New Testament – not in me. I am merely the messenger of an extraordinary set of smug claims:

    “Avoid Them!” – (Romans 16:17)
    “They are dogs!” – JESUS (Matthew 15:26)
    “they are swine!” – Jesus (Matthew 7:6)

    I would never be so vile.

  24. Of course you are your god:
    You condemn others and proudly raise up yourself as the moral standard against which others are measured.

  25. @Tom Longes,

    “Who made you judge, jury, and god?”

    1. Nobody made me but my parents. If you have evidence of a god’s involvement it is your job to prove such.
    2. Killing of innocent people is wrong because I don’t want to live in a world where innocent people can be brutally killed and so I must do my part to behave accordingly. No gods are required for this moral code.
    3. I am free to determine by those moral standards the legends of Jesus Christ are depraved.

    The Golden Rule is adequate and socially normative.
    No gods are needed. Certainly such things as this are depraved:
    “Execute them” – JESUS (Luke 19:27)

    I don’t need to explain it.
    The burden is on you who say this belief is ‘good’ or that one needs god to be moral.

  26. @Tom Longes,

    The absence of a god does not make oneself ‘a god’.
    If I stop believing in Martians that doesn’t mean I become one!

    The absence of a god merely makes one personally responsible for one’s own actions.

  27. @Dan the Mormon,

    “Hitler was atheist”
    OUR Lord Jesus is A Soldier for God

    “My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter…who once in loneliness, surrounded by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God’s truth!
    In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was Christ’s fight for the world against the Jewish poison!

    -Adolf Hitler, 12 April 1922

  28. @Dan The Mormon,

    “Today, after two thousand years,

    “with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed His blood upon the Cross.”

    “As a Christian I have no duty to allow my self to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice… And if there is anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly it is the distress that daily grows .
    For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people.”

    -Adolf Hitler, in a speech on 12 April 1922

    “Bring to me those enemies of mine who would not have me as their King and execute them in front of me” – JESUS (Luke 19:27)

  29. @Atheist Max
    You are the one who keeps bringing up God.
    I find it a sad dodge on your part that you – the accuser – suddenly run and hide and say that the burden is on me – the one who called out your claim of moral superiority.
    Sorry, but if you are going to render moral judgments, at least have the courage to stand behind them. From what I can tell about Jesus, at least when he said stuff, he owned it and didn’t run from questions.

  30. @Dan The Mormon:

    Hitler and his SS were sworn Catholics and Christians. They forbade the teaching of Atheism. They enforced allegiance to the Fuhrer (father) under ‘God’, demanded faith in the divinity of the Aryan Race and demanded each Nazi wore the belt buckle which read ‘God on our side’ (“Gott Mit Uns”).

    Hitler’s first peace treaty was the Vatican Koncordat in 1933 where the church swore allegiance to Hitler. Hitler would choose the Bishops for Germany.

    Hitler’s hatred of Jews was founded on the writings of Martin Luther, Hitler declared Christ is ‘my model of the greatest soldier’ fighting against the evil of the Jews (Mein Kampf)

    Hitler’s favorite words of Jesus ended the Parable of the Minas; “Execute them in front of me.” – Jesus (Luke 19:27)

    That is not Atheism – it is devout CHRISTIAN FAITH.

  31. @Atheist Max
    Who made you the arbiter of what should go on at the final inquisition or whatever it is?
    And I don’t understand the hate – why trash others beliefs?

  32. @Tom Longes,

    “Of course you are your god:
    You condemn others..”

    Religions are just products, theories, ideas – like GM Cars or Jeeps.
    If I reject a GM car that doesn’t mean I reject GM drivers.
    Good grief!
    I once owned a GM and it was awful. That doesn’t mean I hate or judge the person stuck with a GM car. You are guilty of wild conflation!

    ” and proudly raise up yourself as the moral standard”
    I use the same moral standard everyone else uses.
    I don’t hurt others because I don’t want to get hurt. Same is true for you. The golden rule is how most of us survive. No gods are needed.

    I am very happy I left religion. But I wouldn’t say I am “proud” of it.
    There are many reasons to change one’s mind. Pride has nothing to do with it.

  33. @Atheist Max
    No, my moral standard is not to go to atheist web sites and trash their belief system.
    I find it funny that you say the problem is Jesus – and imply that extends to christians, then pretend that you’re not condemning others.

  34. @Tom Longes,

    “You are the one who keeps bringing up God.”
    Actually, God is shoved at us every day: ISIS, Al Qaeuda, the KKK, Gay bashers….these are the dire consequences of societies mindlessly soaked in religions.
    It doesn’t have to be this way.

    “I find it a sad dodge on your part that you – the accuser – suddenly run and hide and say that the burden is on me”
    I beg your pardon?
    You say God exists. I don’t see it. The burden is on you to answer the claim – where is your god?

    “moral superiority.”
    Do you know Jesus routinely called certain races of people ‘dogs’ and ‘swine’? I have never done that in my life. If that makes me morally superior by your judgement, thank you!

    “what I can tell about Jesus, at least when he said stuff, he owned it and didn’t run from questions.”
    I have never run from any question. Bring it on!
    You are the one claiming a god exists – not me – so where is it?

  35. You are using a bad source for your assertion
    1) The reliability of the source (hearsay and editing by the anti-Catholic, Bormann)
    2) The reliability of multiple translations, from German to French to English.
    3) The bias of the translators (especially Genoud).
    4) The table-talk reflects thoughts that do not occur in Hitler’s other private or public conversations.
    5) Nowhere does Hitler denounce Jesus or his own brand of Christianity.
    6) The “anti-Christian” portions of Table-Talk does not concur with Hitler’s actions for “positive” Christianity.

    Not one of Hitler’s table talk conversations were recorded or captured by audio, film, or broadcast on radio. But more damaging to Trevor-Roper’s (the author’s) reasoning is that the Table-Talks were not private! Hitler knew all along that the scribes were there to give an account of him for future posterity.

  36. I’m a Christian and hyperventilating. But not because I think Christianity, or any religion, makes people better, or because it makes for a better society—it doesn’t—but because religiosity is an end in itself, a pleasurable luxury. We’re already seeing the result of the decline in numbers. Church buildings are closing—derelict, remodeled for secular use or, at best, being turned into museums. The myths and symbols of our Christian cultural tradition have been forgotten and much art, music, and literature has become unintelligible to most of the population.

    If the proportion of believers falls by another 20% more churches will close and more church ceremonies will become tedious affairs, populated by just a few wheezing geezers, and no fun. Moreover those of us who are religious believers will be further marginalized.

    Religion isn’t good for anything else—it’s valuable in and of itself. And when it dies out all that good stuff will be lost.

  37. I trust wikipedia before I trust a website called “” Table-Talk is not the only source for Hitler’s anti-religious views.

  38. @Tom Longes,

    “And I don’t understand the hate – why trash others beliefs?”

    I don’t mind if people believe in Gods. Why would I?
    It doesn’t bother me at all.

    But when Religion tries to get involved in the Law then I must object very loudly. There is no place for religion in our laws – including on matters of marriage or women’s rights or other such things.

    I object to religion in our laws.
    The problem with the churches in America is they have over-reached. Christian Evangelistic Politicians like Mike Huckabee, etc..financed by Christian Right wing are trying to push Christ on everybody.

    Not only will that effort fail miserably for Christians, it points out the divisive, absolutist, subversive and uncivilized qualities of Christianity.

    Keep religion out of our laws and we could all get along fine.

  39. Where did I say God exists? You constantly trash Jesus, then deny your “moral superiority”, bless your heart…
    Your real problem is that *you* are *your* moral basis. Frankly, I don’t accept your morals – but I don’t need God to reject you, because you’re no better than I. I just reject you because I find your “logic” inferior and based solely on setting up religious straw men and knocking them down.

  40. @Atheist Max
    You are totally inconsistent. You reject others’ belief solely because – in your apparently superior judgement – that the fact that you think it is religious, and you think religion is inferior – therefore what a religious person believes is inferior. That is the very definition of bigot.

  41. Like I said, Hitler used religion as long as it was politically expedient to advance his racist views that were based on the popular science of the day (social Darwinism and eugenics). Publicly he maintained a Christian affiliation but privately he derided Christianity and religion, as the memoirs of his close friends and associates affirm. Wikipedia approaches the subject from a very balanced perspective and is well documented. Cherry-picking quotes from political speeches and documents does not prove that Hitler was religious and he worked to diminish the power of Christianity.

    I’ll grant that he may not have been an atheist, but he definitely was not religious and he did not like the organized religion of his day.

  42. @Tom,

    ” my moral standard is not to go to atheist web sites and trash their belief system.”
    Well, this is not a Christian web site. It is a news website and I study religious news the way a doctor studies a disease.
    I want to learn about safer ways to treat the disease without harming the victims.

    “you say the problem is Jesus – and imply that extends to christians, then pretend that you’re not condemning others”
    Jesus is a philosophy, an idea. I don’t care if people want to believe in it. But they should be aware of the consequences of this philosophy – that’s all.
    One of the consequences of this religion is that it invokes ‘faith’ and not reason. So people surrender their right to ask questions and bias themselves against science.

    People have a Constitutional right to religion – and I defend and support your rights.
    But I also insist on our right to point out consequences, the price society pays for them and to question whether they are any good.

  43. @Atheist Max
    So people can have religious freedom – within the parameters you define. I get it. LOL

  44. @Tom,

    “You say…what a religious person believes is inferior. That is the very definition of bigot.”

    1. I was a Christian once. I did not get smarter when I lost belief in God. I never said I was superior to anyone – only that I don’t want what Christians are trying to force on me.

    2. It is the Christians who say they are superior to me, you have done this several times today already.

    3. If it is not bigoted to preach about Jesus to a non-believer, it CANNOT be bigoted to preach against jesus. Religion is just an idea – it is not: eye color, ethnicity, nationality, skin color, or gender!

    You cannot be permitted to hide wild religious claims behind a cry ‘bigotry.’

    These ideas (Yahweh, Allah, Jesus, Messiahs, Imams) must come out into the light of day and be judged for what they do to our societies. That doesn’t mean you don’t have the right to believe – only that we have the right to examine.

  45. @Dan the Mormon,

    “Cherry-picking quotes from political speeches and documents does not prove that Hitler was religious and he worked to diminish the power of Christianity.”

    You have absolutely no excuse in this internet age to be ignorant of the depth, and deep commitment Hitler had for Jesus Christ.
    Every Christian should understand the depravity of Messianism – the idea that someone will come and save us – this is the kernel of real misery which humanity must stop doing to itself.

    “I’ll grant that he may not have been an atheist, but he definitely was not religious and he did not like the organized religion of his day.”

    Hitler was the single MOST RELIGIOUS person of the 20th Century – bar none. Pol Pot and Dear Leader of North Korea pale in comparison – only Stalin compares – but all of them had Messianist Fervor at the core. There is no more fervent religion than Messianism.

  46. @Tom Longes,

    “Where did I say God exists?”
    When you claimed it is wrong to be Atheist – a non-believer.

    “You constantly trash Jesus, then deny your “moral superiority”
    Because the immorality of Jesus is obvious to everyone – even YOU!
    Would you abandon someone just because they are mentally unsure? No. But Jesus would!
    “shake the dust off…FOR A TESTIMONY AGAINST THEM.” – JESUS (MARK 6:11)
    That is ridiculously harsh and immoral.

    “Your real problem is that *you* are *your* moral basis.”
    Are you saying you are not responsible for your moral behavior? Who makes your moral decisions? Jesus?
    “deem them unworthy…remove your blessings of peace.” – JESUS (Matthew 10:13)
    So harsh!

    “I don’t need God to reject you, because you’re no better than I.”

    Actually God teaches that you must bless me (Romans 12:14)
    But God also tells you to shun me and curse me.(1 Corinthians 16:22)

    So regardless of what you do, it was your own morality. Not…

  47. Tom,

    Those parameters are mine – not yours. I dictate nothing.

    The law disallows religion:
    “Congress shall make no law establishing a religion..”
    – US Constitution.

    Believe whatever you want. Just keep it out of law.
    If that is too much for you, then you aren’t understanding the constitution.

  48. @Thecla,

    “Moreover those of us who are religious believers will be further marginalized.”

    The world is changing. Religion looks bad because it doesn’t answer any questions:

    Climate change? Religion denies science.
    Overpopulation? Religion denies birth control.
    Terrorism? Religion only says they have the wrong religion!
    Stem cell research? Religion denies science.
    Genital Mutilation? Religion denies a problem.
    Women’s rights? Religion claims they have none.
    Women’s rights to their own bodies? Religion claims they have no such right.
    Unsustainable food supplies? Religion says ‘don’t worry’ god is coming.
    Starvation? Religion says pray.

    All of the problems in the world have better solutions than whatever religion is providing. And we do need solutions – not luxurious, empty promises.

  49. The article is right on when it says that the problem lies with the so called “churches” and not with Christianity. God is in control, He always has been, and always will be. He is drawing men and women to Himself even now, while many “churches” are in decline. Legalism, compromise, and often running them more like businesses or social clubs then places of worship and Bible teaching and preaching is the reason. God is not mocked. He will let these so called “churches” fail. But His true Church will never fail, and “the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” Many churches today have gone underground, and I expect that to increase as lawlessness increases. It is NOT a denominational membership that matters, no, no, no. It is membership into the body of Christ that saves us. By receiving Jesus Christ as ones’ Lord and Savior, turning away from sin, and following the Lord as He leads that brings us into God’s family, and makes us a part of God’s true Church. God bless.

  50. Hey,it’s ol’Fran,everybody…she’s no longer an undercover Jehovah’s Witness; she’s actually outed herself!! Did you do that on purpose,Fran,and if so,why? I forsee some good times between you and the rest of the orthodox Christians on this site,so…buckle up,Fran!

  51. Oh, c’mon–same old same old. My religion doesn’t deny climate change, birth control, women’s rights or whatever.

    And of course religion isn’t a solution to either personal or social problems –any more than music, sport, or art needlework is. It’s an enjoyable human activity that enriches our culture and provides, for a few of us who have the taste, an opportunity for enjoyable metaphysical speculation.

  52. Thanks,Mark; you hit it right on the head.I myself have reached some of the conclusions you have inre the concept of what we have come to regard as”church”,and frankly,the Christian Faith needs a new Reformation,and I’m encouraged by thoughtful men like yourself.Take heart,my friend…Almighty God is hearing us,and I’m believing in faith that the much-needed,perhaps last Reformation,is on the way—JESUS IS STILL LORD!!!

  53. @Thecla,

    “It’s an enjoyable human activity that enriches our culture and provides, for a few of us who have the taste, an opportunity for enjoyable metaphysical speculation.”

    OK. I wish that is all religion was.
    A sunday club, like an extended gathering of friends and neighbors to appreciate each other, acknowledge each other, respect each other and to hear some encouraging words – why not? Sounds great.

    But preachments of Hell are traumatic for children. Faith is damaging to the intellect – especially when coupled with the emotional ‘loyalty’ and fear of shunning. Religion is based on a fearful sort of love.

    And by the way, we Atheists partake of the same ‘metaphysical speculation’ and camaraderie when we go to a concert, a poetry reading, a play, a dance, listen to music, read literature, go to a science museum, an art museum or just a picnic at the beach with friends.

    Religion robs more than it offers for many of us.

  54. Yes, Reformation…not Revival. Revivals tend to have little lasting impact, at least in the last 75 years. But Reformation where thoughtful people of God can assess the very issues raised by this article, and reassess our approach to fulfilling our mandate. Amen. JESUS IS STILL LORD.

  55. One of your best ever, Tom, and I’ve been following you for nearly 15 years now. (Yes, really!). Ignore the haters. You’re right on target. I’m linking to your column from our website, United Methodist Insight, and I suspect God’s Holy Spirit will slip you into my Pentecost sermon as well. Peace.

  56. This would be interesting if it was based on anything. How can you pretend to critique Christianity in a nation of 320 million people in 600 words with such gross generalizations? Maybe you’re limited by your own limited exposure to the vast range of expression of the Christian faith. If you really feel that the survival of the church is irrelevant to the survival of Christianity, then have the courage to lay aside your ordination credentials which contradict you.
    Another reason to blow up the internet.

  57. Wikipedia isn’t much of a support for your position either. appears to be taking their info from there.

    …Richard Carrier and Reinhold Mittschang, who went so far as to call them “entirely untrustworthy” suggesting they had been altered by Francois Genoud. Carrier’s thesis is that a textual analysis between Picker’s original German text and Genoud’s French translation reveals that Genoud’s version is at best a poor translation, and in some instances fraudulent. Many of the quotations used to support arguments in favor of Hitler’s anti-Christianity are derived from the Genoud–Trevor-Roper translation.

  58. Laurence,

    False religion is being exposed for what it truly is by its actions and inaction through the ages, which is why so many are leaving it today.

    In addition, the good news of God’s kingdom or heavenly government, as the only hope for mankind, is being preached worldwide as a witness to all the nations (Matthew 24:14) before the end of this wicked era comes (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21).

  59. Laurence and Diogenes, Amen Jesus is Lord! “forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Phillippians 3:13

  60. @Atheist Max

    Claims about religion as such are like claims about food as such. Steak and kidney pie is yummy; kale tastes like sh*t. Anglicanism is yummy; conservative evangelical Christianity is detestable, stinking garbage that harms people and whole societies.

    And by the way we Religionists go to concerts and poetry readings, listen to music, read literature and go to museums. Church is just one more enjoyable thing to do—and I, for one, BELIEVE IN MORE. Ceteris paribus, more is always better.

    As for metaphysics, there are lots of interesting metaphysical puzzles. The Trinity doctrine is just one of them, and one that I happen to enjoy playing with. I don’t imagine for a minute that anything hangs on getting it right—if there is a right. Metaphysics, including theology, is inconsequential. And fun!

    So, by all means, down with Evangelicalism–and kale!

  61. @Thecla,

    What is a savior and why do you need one?

    If Hell doesn’t exist you don’t need a savior to protect you from Hell.
    Jesus is reduced to being a moral teacher. And as a teacher, he is terrible.

    “Believe or be condemned” – JESUS (John 3:18)

    Who says this to a classroom? It is anti knowledge, anti-science and anti-evidence. It also happens to be Authoritarian – a terrible combination.

  62. I am an Episcopalian. And frankly, I don’t believe in everything Paul says–his letters are his words and not those of Jesus. I do give much more weight to what the Gospels say, although the John quote seems out of step with the examples shown by Christ. If anything Matthew 25 sounds more like Christ’s encounters with outcasts.

    Unfortunately most of the time I hear these quotes from Paul they are used either to justify the exclusion of others or to say that our faith is one of bigotry.

    But I like this article. I would add that many churches are dying because their eldest members are afraid to let go of the middle 20th century. The church needs to become more ancient and more contemporary. It needs to have more beauty, more art, and rediscover the ancient sacred theater. And it needs to welcome and stand up for society’s outcasts, felons, homeless, the ignorant, the damned, the impaired, and those with whom we would not want to be seen. Otherwise our parishes deserve to die.

  63. Worship is a relevant issue. In the 1950’s churches became more modern, more comfortable, and made our worship obligations seem to be less burdensome. They became brighter, carpeted, acoustically inert, extremely plain, and modern. And they were built during the last years of segregation.

    The price for this era was high. Ancient churches with soaring architecture, reverberent chant, brilliant glass that pierces dark interiors with color, beautiful pageantry were always what made worship beautiful. And the mid-century modernism is ugly.

    Many Episcopal churches that have never abandoned beauty or have rediscovered it are bustling with young people. A prospering Episcopal Church–St. Martin in Houston–has even built a new spectacular Gothic church.

    But beautiful worship should not be the privilege of a few. People in less affluent churches should insist that their congregations should also embrace artful worship and less sterile environs.


    “Execute them”- JESUS (Luke 19:27)
    “Hate Them” – JESUS (Luke 14:26)
    “Avoid Them” – ROMANS (16:17)
    “Do not associate with the GUILTY..” (1 Corinthians 5:11)
    “Bad company….” (1 Corinthians 15:33)
    “Do not even to eat with such a one.” (1 Corinthians 5:11)
    “Do not receive him…or greet him..” (2 John 1:10)
    “tell him his fault.” (Matthew 18:15)
    “Have nothing to do with him!” (Titus 3:9-11)
    “LET HIM BE REMOVED” (1 Corinthians 1:13)
    “In the name of Jesus..keep away from him!” (2 Thess 3:6)
    “CURSE HIM” – (1 Cor. 16:22)
    “Deem them unworthy” – JESUS (Matt 10:13)

  65. @ Max

    I have no idea of what a ‘savior’ is and don’t think I need one—whatever it is.

    Christianity is our culture-religion, the package of myths and metaphysical doctrines by which we—in what remains of Christendom—talk about the supernatural (if there is such a thing). I personally have no interest in the Historical Jesus, as a moral teacher or anything else, and have never found much of interest in the Bible. What matters is Church, which embodies the myth, metaphysics, ceremony, art and architecture that provides a way of talking about and experiencing the supernatural. And some interesting logic puzzles.

    What I believe is essentially what most ‘mainline’ Christians believe, thought most might not articulate it in this way. You are, to mix a metaphor, tilting at a straw man.

  66. @Thecla,

    “What matters is Church…myth, metaphysics, ceremony, art..architecture… experiencing the supernatural. And some interesting logic puzzles.”

    I think that is why churches are dying off.
    Churches are built on supernatural claims which are evidently untrue.

    I love cathedrals. Like the pyramids they are poetic places of lost gods – fascinating monuments of imagination and superstition.

    When looking at the pyramids of Giza and Chitzen Itza I wonder not about the gods long dead who ‘commanded’ these structures, but the powerful drive to deny death.

    I feel no love for Osiris, Isis, Aztec gods or Jesus.
    They are not real as far as I can tell – and man made ‘holy’ buildings do not make these gods real.
    The buildings only validate the longing. Gospel songs do the same.

    It isn’t “super”natural. It is the most natural thing ever – “I want to live.”
    Now go explain this to Al Queda and we can stop fearing religion.

  67. Try convincing the clergy. They took all this good stuff, including the 1928 Prayerbook, away from us. No one in the pews was demanding contemporary English; no laypeople were clamoring for the Peace. It wasn’t us who wanted churches stripped down. It was the priests who preached that every grain of incense was bread from the mouths of the poor, regarded religious/aesthetic experience as ‘escapist’ and worked to make liturgy a teaching tool to inculcate we-ism, to drum it into our heads corporate-good/individual bad.

  68. If in reason #1 one, the list of things we fought to change, you had added divorce, sex outside of marriage and abortion, you would have caught my attention. Those are the reasons our churches are failing, and that includes just about every church across the theological spectrum.

    In Christ,

    The enemy hates clarity

  69. The Apostles all interacted with criminals, thieves, prostitutes, and the very people Paul is telling us not to go down the same path as. As Christians, it is our duty to help, serve, and love our neighbors, including those listed above. This is what Jesus did. He Baptized anyone who believed that He is their Savior, whether thief, prostitute, prisoner, or Gentile (everyone….everyone all throughout the world not Jewish). The problem is that we as Christians often do a horrible job of carrying out the commandments to serve all in need. I admit it. Many Christians are judgemental…but face it. So are many non-Christians. I am the first to admit that we Christians fall far short of what Jesus commands (to love our neighbor as ourselves) but we also believe that Jesus died for us and forgives us for where we fall short. He did this out of His great love for us. Now we need to do a much better job of serving/loving our neighbor.. Which is the point of the article. BTW, I love science.

  70. When we stop seeing the church as an institution and seeing it as a group of people…when stop believing we build churches to make disciples…and start seeing we make disciples that in turn make disciples…then it doesnt matter where, when, or how people come together. It doesnt matter if a ordained or paid minister is in charge…it doesn’t matter what denomination, if any at all…when we travel among people and move outside the thinking of westerners and western mode of church…it doesnt take long to see amazing growth and expressions of faith

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