“Oddly, I leave this project [the National Study of Youth and Religion] strangely hopeful. The best news about Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is that teenagers do not buy it as faith. They but _into_ it – it shapes them nicely for fitting into American society, since it conforms so neatly to America’s dominant cultural ethos. Youth and parents are correct if they think Moralistic Therapeutic Deism will outfit them better for success in American society than Christianity will. Those who want to succeed in American life, and attain high levels of visibility in it, will find that being theologically bland helps immeasurably. Yet the gospel is very clear: God wants to liberate us from being defined by these circumstances, so that we are free to follow Jesus regardless of the culture we call home” (“Almost Christian”, by Kendra Creasy Dean, p. 192)
So then, what is our goal as the Church, as priests of the Church, and as the people who are the Church?
Will it be whatever gets us the most attention from the general public? Will it be what makes us the most successful within general society? Will it be whatever we think will cause those in power to like us? Will it be bland conformity to the cultural zeitgeist? Will it be the vain presumption that we (of a generation) can make up the religion that comes from the Faith under our own volition?
Or… or will it be faithfulness to the enduring way if Christ? The way that has not only survived but thrived through the millennia, through a vast array of cultures and languages, through very divergent circumstances – will it be by way of the wisdom of generations past who found life-to-the-full in the troublesome Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Change and adaptation are always with us! Change isn’t the enemy, but we must be wise about the change we engage in. We must be discerning concerning the change agents.
The adaptation we need most right now revolves around perception and intention. We will be, must be even now, trans-cultural with respect to the prevailing American culture and the Way of Christ – in the world and all that is positive and negative, yet not of it. We chart an independent course. We will acquire by the way if grace the strength and resulting freedom for doing so.
Why the Church? What good is organized religion?
“The Church comes into your life to bring you a knowledge of the presence of God. If one were going to live in a far country, would he not, if opportunity offered, make friends of the King of that country?
“The Church comes into your life to make life more joyous, more free from sin, more contented, more spiritually furnished, more sound in its judgement of things that are worth while. But likewise the Church nourishes that growing union with God through Christ which is man’s best heritage and the best compensation for his labors.”
From: “The Episcopal Church: Its Message for Men of Today,” by George Parkin Atwater, p.180. (New York: Morehouse-Gorham Co.; 1917, 1944)