Lloyd Omdahl's May 19th column, "American churches are in big trouble," caught my attention. He addresses the decline in American church attendance and participation for over about the last two decades. I appreciate his calling attention to this, considering the institution of religion has been one of the pillars of American life from this country's founding to current times. Though I have no absolute, for-certain reasons for the decline to propose, perhaps I could offer some thoughts worth considering.
The topics of religion in general, the myriad Christian denominations, varied belief and interpretive systems, and the recent global movement of people living together today — Christian and other religions co-mingling — has been of great personal interest for about the past 10 years.
Scandal, abuse and corruption in major church organizations, seen often in news stories, is all that is needed for fringe churchgoers to pull the plug on further involvement in the church. Some would call themselves religious "nones" with no religious affiliation or simply "spiritual but not religious."
Not everybody can "keep the Sabbath holy" by being able to attend Sunday church services. Weekends are an opportunity for busy, hard-working and school achievement-oriented families to finally get out of town to see relatives and dear friends. Many churches have gone to Wednesday nights for worship and fellowship, but evening school activities, homework and work shifts can get in the way.
Many traditional denominations — fundamental and even some mainline — give almost exclusive voice to how God was conceptualized 2,000 or more years ago before the Renaissance and the scientific revolution gave new eyes to people to be able to have convictions about God being more than "the white-bearded man up in the sky."
Too many Christian churches present a rather narrow, constricted timeline on matters such the universe's creation, the age of the Earth, the so-called "end of time," and the second coming of Jesus. There is a vast difference among believers who endorse either thousands or millions, or even billions of years. Those churches holding to a limited and fatalistic time span could rub some attendees the wrong way.
It may be the impression of those who bale out that churches present the same old things over and over, and that worship services can be downright boring and monotonous.
And finally, there may be a shaking of heads in the debate of reading Biblical scripture passages in a literal way and viewed as inerrant or seen as symbolically metaphorical in line with styles of ancient storytelling. (I personally favor a combination of actual history and metaphoric truth, but done only with a well-read, open-minded scholarly approach).
The landscape of religion in America is no longer exclusively Christian. What lies over the horizon is a spiritual work in progress. Hence, there are today's vocabulary terms such as ecumenical, inter-faith, eco-theology (being good Earth stewards), progressive, emergent, and evolutionary (on a change-oriented path of divining the full expanse and presence of our Creator in a human quest to know God in a fuller, richer, and deeper way).