Letter: Our politically correct culture is destroying churches

Buddy ChristTo the Editor:

Multiple studies have shown that church attendance in the United States is declining. According to recent polls, the percentage of Americans who attend church on a regular basis (regular attendance defined as going to church at least three out of eight Sundays) is at less than 20% of the population. In a short 14 years, from 1990 to 2004, church attendance dropped from 20.4% to 17.7%. The biggest drops were seen in the Catholic church (11% decrease), mainline churches (down 10%), and Evangelicals (1%). The church is not keeping up with population growth by any means. By 2050, church attendance is expected to be half of what it was in 1990.  This is because Americans who did not grow up attending church regularly will not instill this habit in their children.

What may be surprising is that Bible reading has actually been on the rise. Bible reading increased from 40% to 47% in just six years between 2000 and 2007. This leads me to believe that Americans are no less faithful than they were before. What this indicates is that Americans still hold their religious values, but for some reason, they are dissatisfied with what they are finding in our churches.

I think that part of this disconnection from the church comes from the politically correct culture which has developed in the religious community. I am a case-in-point of this. I was raised Lutheran, and my parents and I attended church practically every Sunday. In addition to Sunday morning services, I was very active in my church’s youth group. However, I am ashamed to say that since my freshman year of college. I have joined the over 80% who do not go to church on a regular basis. This is not because my religious views have changed, or because I do not want to attend church. It is because I have moved away from my home church, and since then, I have not been able to find a church that provides the worship experience that I am looking for.

A friend of my parents said that when she goes to church, she wants to “feel like she’s been convicted”. I’m not a fire-and-brimstone kind of girl, but I think she makes a valid point. When I have gone to church lately, all I hear is the fluffy “feel good” stuff about salvation and forgiveness, but I don’t hear about why sin is wrong or even what sin is. What I am looking for is a church that tells me what I am doing wrong, making me feel a little uncomfortable, then counsels me on how I can live my life in a way that is more pleasing to God, and finally reassuring me of the promise of salvation and unconditional love. I know that my desired qualities in a church are not everyone’s expectations, and I can respect that. If you’re looking for a different worship experience, that doesn’t bother me. These are just my views.

In high school, I was elected to be a youth representative on my church’s synod council. At this time, the ELCA Lutheran church was trying to decide if they would allow gay marriage. I asked to talk to my pastor about this issue for more information and because I wanted to know what his opinion was. He was against the church performing gay marriage ceremonies, and he told me that he thinks that one of the reasons that the Catholic church has had more successful marriage rates is because of the Catholics condemnation of divorce. While this is not always a popular view, especially with half of marriages ending in divorce, I think that many churches have become lax in upholding the sanctity of marriage by allowing this institution to deteriorate among heterosexual couples. The church has failed to uphold marriage because they have been too afraid that they will offend somebody and push them away by telling the truth.

Last night, I attended an event hosted by Personhood Iowa called Bringing The Church Back To Life. The keynote speaker was a minister from Texas named Laurence White, and he started by describing a trip he went on to visit several concentration camps in Europe. He talked about the horrors that he saw, such as the bales of human hair, the medical experimentation suites, and the ovens where they burned the corpses. He compared the barbaric practices that occurred during the Holocaust to the tragedy that is taking place in Planned Parenthood clinics. White called on members of the church community to stop being afraid to take a stand on political issues for fear of violating the separation of church and state. He called us to action, to fight this ugliness that is taking place in our own country and claiming many innocent lives.

There is absolutely no reason for the church to remain silent on the issue of abortion. If the church speaks out against abortion, it is unlikely that anyone will be thrown in jail, because this is America, not the Soviet Union or Communist China. We have something called the First Amendment, which grants us both freedom of speech AND freedom of religion, and if we are foolish enough to not exercise these rights, perhaps we don’t deserve them. The church should stop being afraid of offending individuals who support Planned Parenthood, because it is highly unlikely that the church will be able to win these people over anyway. Instead, we should focus our message on igniting the spark to action in the faith community to speak out against the appalling acts of Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry. It is then that I believe that we will see a renewal that will breathe new life into our congregations.

MacKenzie Dreeszen
Des Moines