We Don¬â„t Make Records Anymore

In today’s reading, three seemingly unconnected issues coalesced in a way that hints at a partial explanation for diminishing Christian influence here and abroad.

1) Ancient Empty Churches

In France, the separation of church and state is being hotly debated because of an increase in the devout Muslim population with too few mosques in which to worship. The issue has reached a boiling point because “A chronic point of contention among Muslims, meanwhile, has been the shortage of mosques in a country overrun with ancient, empty churches. Muslim leaders argue that the 1905 law that defines France’s separation of church and state benefits Catholics because there is a large stock of pre-existing churches maintained as historical monuments by the state.” Not the haunting phrase “ancient, empty churches,” an apt description of most European nations, once actively Christian, now generally averaging under 2% of the population in the typical Western European nation.

2) Elevation of alternatives, devaluation of failed Christian churches.

The NYT reviews a new play, “Sin (A Cardinal Deposed) and the opening line is as follows, “Sins come in assorted sizes, according to the Catholic Church, but it’s hard to take the full measure of the misdeeds exposed in this sober play about the sexual-abuse scandal that unfolded in New England over the past decades. The scope of the wrongdoing is clearly too vast to fit comfortably on the shoulders of the elderly man sitting at the conference table before us. And yet Michael Murphy’s quietly disturbing play, drawn from documentary evidence, reveals with devastating clarity the dubious role that Cardinal Bernard F. Law, the Archbishop of Boston, played in a tragedy that irreparably damaged hundreds of families, and destroyed more than a few lives.”

European churches are empty, in part, due to the historical imperfections of the institutional church coupled with a contextual irrelevance and the disillusioned will inevitably explore alternatives. So today’s NYT reviews a dance performed at Symphony Space and titled, , “Gods, Goddesses and Ancestors: Ritual Theyyams of Kerala,” headlined as a story of humanity and divinity united through traditional rites that “try to blur the line separating god from man.”

3) “We don’t make records anymore.”

Then came the third comment and on the surface most unrelated to religion in culture. It is a reference Bono made to U2’s association with Apple and their iPod technology, “Apple got a strong endorsement from Bono, who said the band would cooperate with Apple on a variety of future projects. “It’s kind of extraordinary that it wasn’t a music company that cracked the problem of piracy,” he said, referring to Apple. He noted that music industry executives still refer to themselves as record industry executives when “we don’t even make records anymore.”

This one struck me because when I think of failed Christianity I think of American Christianity, which “makes a lot of Christians, but doesn’t make disciples anymore.”

Shallow faith, failing to produce deep disciples of Jesus, then institutionalized and combined with our universal human fallenness, buries Jesus ideals. Such a submerged faith can only be brought back to life by the power of the resurrection, which resides in Christ, the true head of the church; it will not be found in the new, more clever, energetic efforts of American, entrepreneurial genius championed by so many evangelicals today.

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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