By Hans Zeiger
to be a proliferation of television ads for Viagra, Cialis, and the other
mass-market impotence drugs. There are nearly three times as many Google hits
for "Viagra" as for "George Bush." Then there is the most
frequently deleted spam title from my email box, something about potions that
one can order online to restore vitality. I suppose with the market as it is,
Bob Dole's crusade against E.D. is moving toward a victorious end. Yet the
question remains, what about the vitality of the soul?
It is a question neglected by an age that wants to feel good in the flesh, but has systematically and painstakingly ignored the overwhelming questions about the spirit. The greatest plague of our time is a drastic spiritual impotence that we might say requires a heavy dose of spiritual Viagra.
It seems that
the church would be the source of America's strength, but a new survey shows
that a smaller proportion of Americans are going to church than ever before.
the Barna Group, the number of American adults who do not attend church has
doubled from 39 million to 75 million in the past 13 years, despite a 15 percent
rise in the American population. While 21 percent of adults never attended
church during a six-month period (with the exception of weddings, funerals,
Christmas, or Easter) in 1991, 34 percent are un-churched today.
particularly alienated men. 55 percent of the un-churched are men. And only 38
percent of Americans who consider themselves "born again" are men. 9
million American men use Viagra. Fewer men have joined churches in the past
un-churched are radical individualists. According to the pollster George Barna,
they are less likely to vote, contribute financially to non-profit
organizations, or become involved in community activities. Nearly 40 percent of
the un-churched are single, never-married adults, compared to 26 percent of the
general adult population.
The un-churched are also younger, at 38, than the median age of Americans, 43. Combining the Barna information on age and gender, church demographics are seriously lacking in young and middle-aged men. The face of the American church in 2004 is the elderly woman.
sissification of the American church has been occurring for over a century now.
The release of the Barna survey coincided appropriately with my reading
of J. Gresham Machen's 1923 landmark treatise Christianity and Liberalism.
"The greatest menace to the Christian church today comes not from the
enemies outside, but from the enemies within; it comes from the presence within
the Church of a type of faith and practice that is anti-Christian to the
core," Machen declared.
has so infected American churches since Machen wrote that it is now impossible
to speak of churches being entirely Christian. Christianity is not dead, and in
fact cannot be. Christianity is dependent on grace that transcends the weakness
of humanity. But churches, which can be either churches of God or churches of
man, have too often chosen the latter course and find themselves dying.
that so few Americans attend church is that so few churches are Christian.
Liberal pastors speak much of unity and peace and social justice and harmony and
the like. The human condition and the Cross are seldom preached in many
churches. And if the claim seems too vague, I will name names (generally
speaking): Presbyterian Church USA, United Methodist Church, United Church of
Christ, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, and the Episcopal Church USA, to
name a few.
of the American church is reason enough to despair about the future of America.
Yet there are
some signs of hope amongst young Christians. I spent last week on the shores of
Lake Huron with hundreds of fellow college students at an Intervarsity Christian
Fellowship conference. There seems to be a newfound passion and drive amongst
young Christians for evangelism and Biblical doctrine, a theme I will further
explore in an upcoming column.
trends, the key to our national survival is clear: a new generation of American
Christians must seek the grace of God for the renewal of America's religious and
Zeiger is a student at Hillsdale College and president of the Scout Honor
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