We are losing our religion.
That, with apologies to R.E.M., is the startling conclusion of a new study, the American Religious Identification Survey, conducted by researchers at Trinity College of Hartford, Conn. The poll of over 54,000 American adults found a sharp erosion in the number of people claiming religious affiliation.
A few highlights: The number of people who call themselves Christian is 76 percent, down 10 percentage points since 1990.
Thirty percent of married couples did not have a religious ceremony.
Better than one in four Americans do not expect a religious funeral.
People of faith usually respond to that ugliness -- by which I mean a seemingly endless cycle of scandal, controversy, hypocrisy, violence and TV preachers saying idiot things -- in one of two ways. Either they defend it (making them part of the problem), or they regard it as a series of isolated, albeit unfortunate, episodes. But irreligious people do neither.
And people of faith should ask themselves: What is the cumulative effect upon outside observers of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker living like lords on the largess of the poor, multiplied by Jimmy Swaggart's pornography addiction, plus Eric Rudolph bombing Olympians and gays in the name of God, plus Muslims hijacking airplanes in the name of God, multiplied by the church that kicked out some members because they voted Democrat, divided by people caterwauling on courthouse steps as a rock bearing the Ten Commandments was removed, multiplied by the square root of Catholic priests preying on little boys while the church looked on and did nothing, multiplied by Muslims rioting over cartoons, plus the ongoing demonization of gay men and lesbians, divided by all those ''traditional values'' coalitions and ''family values'' councils that try to bully public schools into becoming worship houses, with morning prayers and science lessons from the book of Genesis? Then subtract selflessness, service, sacrifice, holiness and hope.
Do the math, and I bet you'll draw the same conclusion the researchers did.
The views posted for public commentary by various Black Progressive opinion columnists have become quite predictable.
Upon hearing the news that people are tuning out religion Mr Pitts and other progressives went on the attack against organized religion and the CONSERVATIVES in particular.
I will not attempt to do a point by point refutation of Mr. Pitts. Instead I will work to put forth a parallel analysis but first I want to notate the present set of circumstances that we face today.
Recently we learned that Washington DC was but one of the large American cities that are being hammered by the AIDS epidemic. Last years the news was that neighboring Baltimore MD was the fastest growing city for HIV infections. When I read the logic of AJC's Cynthia Tucker - yet another Black Progressive opinion writer - it is the BLACK CHURCH which is attacked for failing to step into the breach and address the problem.
Much like the debate over "Abstinence Only Education" the progressives blame the "judgmental establishment" when a certain phenomenon that harms the populace takes root. Thus in their minds - it was not the CULTURE of "Do it if it feels good" that is responsible for the AIDS and STDs that has broken out upon the masses that follow it like a religion. Instead it is the failure of organized religion to provide a compelling framework for engagement of these people and thus win their hearts over from the course that they are taking.
This is the biggest "heads I win, tails - you lose" frame up that I have ever witness.
Let's imagine if we consider a school in a given area and then match it up against the level of literacy that is present within the community.
If a community that was facing a low rate of school attendance and thus a high rate of illiteracy and resulting consequences there in - these progressive commentators would be notating the critical importance of the educational establishment in laying a framework for consciousness and development among the people. Instead of placing scorn upon this establishment for failing to get the masses to enter into the front doors of the school on a daily basis - they would focus upon society's culpability in creating the conditions by which the schools are ignored.
Why is it then that Pitts and Tucker and Jackson and so many other Black Progressive opinion writers use the current crisis in religious faith as a time to take the conservative orthodoxy of this institution?
It is quite ironic to me that Mr. Pitts does not list the sins of the PROGRESSIVE Black church in his list of offenses. Rev Jamal Bryant in Baltimore fathered a child outside of marriage with a teen aged parishioner. Yet Rev Bryant dutifully attacks conservatives and promotes Barack Obama - so he is worthy. Rev Calvin Butts in NYC at Abyssinian makes no bones about his church being a political activist church. Yet again these progressive politics are music to the ears of the progressive analyst. Despite this fact the general area around this church is in need of an injection of a spirit of salvation to redirect it toward a greater mission.
As I have noted a short while ago - the key to progressive political discourse is to keep the CONSERVATIVE ON TRIAL. The expansion of secular progressivism is the focus of few of these commentaries. For them the question is "Why did the conservative church establishment lose the mindshare to secular progressivism?"
What does the church need to do to change?
I ask the question - How much damage must be had by the Black community prior to us notating that the rejection of certain structures has eroded our interests?