Exodus- Is the Christian Church Losing Critical Mass

There is very strong evidence that  Christianity is losing its appeal in the West.

Is Christianity facing an exodus of, well, Biblical proportions?

There  are clear signs that the passion of Jesus's followers is ebbing and the  congregation is losing critical mass.

On  July 28, in a spectacular renunciation of her faith, celebrated Christian  author Anne Rice announced on Facebook that she was quitting the Roman Catholic  Church.

Rice  wrote: "For those who care, and I understand if you don't: Today I quit  being a Christian. I'm out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to  being 'Christian' or to being part of Christianity. It's simply impossible for  me to 'belong' to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly  infamous group. For ten years, I've tried. I've failed. I'm an outsider. My  conscience will allow nothing else."

She  also pointed to recent statements from several radical Christian groups that  have threatened the lives of gay citizens. "In the name of Christ, I  refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be  anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be  anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be  anti-life," she added.

In  yet another celebrated case, in August, 42-year-old Hollywood actress Julia  Roberts declared she, her husband and their three children were practicing  Hindus. Roberts, who was born to Baptist and Catholic parents in Bible belt  Georgia, is thought to have made the religious conversion while in India where  she was shooting her new film, Eat, Pray, Love, in which she plays a woman  hoping to find herself through Hindu spirituality.

Heartland Crisis
While  these high-profile exits, coming shortly after the damaging exposes of rampant  pedophilia in Christian churches worldwide, have no doubt caused disquiet in  the over 2000-year-old faith, it is the less publicized but inexorable exit of  once staunch members that is a pointer to the real crisis.

According  to the 2009 American Religious Identification Survey, the number of Americans  who claim no religious affiliation has nearly doubled since 1990, rising from 8  to 15 percent. Overall, the percentage of self-identified Christians has fallen  10 percentage points since 1990, from 86 to 76 percent.

The  proportion of Americans who think religion "can answer all or most of  today's problems" is now at a historic low of 48 percent. Meanwhile, the  number of people willing to describe themselves as atheist or agnostic has  increased nearly fourfold from 1990 to 2009, from 1 million to about 3.6  million.
Worse,  the biggest decline in US church affiliation was concentrated in the  north-east, America's Christian heartland. This massive decline in the  Mayflower sector, where Christians first settled has caused acute anguish among  conservative Christian leaders who fear America will soon become a  post-Christian country.

Of  course, there is denial. Christian commentators like to talk about revolving  door membership that people quitting the traditional churches are signing up at  Born Again denominations. Sure, more than 34 percent of adult church goers  today consider themselves Born Again or Evangelical Christians, but as the  surveys says, "The challenge to Christianity in the US does not come from  other religions but rather from a rejection of all forms of organized  religion."

Indeed,  27 percent of Americans do not expect a religious funeral at their death,  indicating that they dismiss Christianity's zero-sum offer of heaven or hell.

European Sector
Across  the Atlantic, Northern Europe is a virtual graveyard of abandoned churches.  Further south, in predominantly Catholic Italy, over 60 percent of Italians  have stopped attending confession. An entire generation of European Catholics  has become indifferent -- or openly hostile -- to the church, mainly because of  the sexual abuse of young children by priests.

In  fact, there is a rapidly growing movement that seeks to rediscover the original  and vibrant fertility religions of pre-Christian Europe, Wicca being the most  well known. Incidentally Wicca practitioners, or witches and warlocks, were  Europe's medicine people. Falsely accused of black deeds, millions of them were  burned at the stake by the church.

Born Again Arrogance
Born  Again Christians have long lived under the delusion that their storm troopers,  a new breed of uncompromisingly fundamentalist pastors, are ready to kick in  the doors and spread the Lord's faith worldwide. They also believe their moral  compass is perfectly tuned towards god. According to them, they are simply  better human beings with special suites reserved for them in heaven.

But  surveys have repeatedly proved there's little measurable difference between the  moral behavior of churchgoers and the rest. Evangelist George Barna, the  founder of The Barna Group, a market research firm specializing in studying the  religious beliefs and behavior of Americans, has found that born-again  Christians are more likely to divorce than atheists and agnostics, and are more  likely to be racist than others.

And  while evangelical adolescents overwhelmingly say they believe in abstaining  from premarital sex, they are more likely to be sexually active -- and at an  earlier age -- than peers who are mainline Protestants, Mormons or Jews, says  University of Texas researcher Mark Regnerus.

Christian  activist Ronald J. Sider writes in his book, The Scandal of the Evangelical  Conscience: "By their daily activity, most Christians regularly commit  treason. With their mouths they claim that Jesus is their Lord, but with their  actions they demonstrate their allegiance to money, sex, and personal  self-fulfillment."

Counter Attack and  Reform
However,  the Christian church is not giving up without a fight. In a debate last year on  "The Uniqueness of Christ in Multi-Faith Britain", Nezlin Sterling,  general secretary of the New Testament Assembly, a black majority church, told  the Church of England's governing body, the General Synod: "There is no  room for complacency, no room to procrastinate or retreat but like a mighty  army of the church we Christians must go forward, spread the Gospel and the  good news of salvation. Every person in my mind is a potential convert."

While  missionaries such as Sterling want to revert to their lapel grabbing mode,  others have tried more creative methods. A pastor in New Zealand, hoping to  arrest falling church attendance, delivers his Sunday sermon in rap form.  However, it's the Catholic Church's charade of modernization that is most  comical. In March 2008, the Pope, playing God, announced seven new sins to be  placed alongside the Biblical seven deadly sins.

To  add onto Envy, Pride, Gluttony, Greed, Lust, Hate, and Sloth, the seven  "mortal" ones are: Environmental Pollution, Genetic Manipulation,  Excessive Wealth, Inflicting Poverty, Drug Trafficking and Consumption, Morally  Debatable Experiments, and the Violation of Human Rights.

Observe  that pedophilia has been conveniently left out.

Eastern Comfort
Instead  of being obsessed with the harvest of souls, the church needs to build a new  order that values spirituality, which millions of former Christians have found  in, for instance, Hinduism and its associated faiths. It is indeed ironic that  while the flock is seeking spirituality in the East, the church is seeking  adherents in the same catchment area. Or is the church abandoning the  questioning West and seeking converts in countries where people are (as yet)  unaware of its human rights record?

As  Anne Rice summed up, "People despise us, Christians, and think we are an  ignorant and violent lot. I don't blame them. This kind of thing makes me weep.  Maybe commitment to Christ means not being a Christian."

If  that isn't a wakeup call for the church, what is?

Editor  – is it because of declining numbers in the West that the Church is remitting  billions of dollars every year into India to convert the poor and innocent thus  compensate for falling numbers in the West?

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