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Is Christianity declining? Pick a god, any god.


Church in Yosemite Valley, United States
Credit: Jeremy Bishop/unsplash.com

I remember a story from a time before I was born. The church that my family went to when I was a boy had something called a “revival.” I’m suspicious about the name, but something happened, something spiritual.

For reasons that are lost to us now, people got concerned and focused on God. The church had extra services and people came, in large numbers. I think this was in the 1920s, and the city had a strange problem, for that time; traffic jams. Apparently, streetcars were filled, and traffic management became an issue on Sunday evenings, in a small city.

Where else did a church cause traffic jams?

That might have happened somewhere else, but it is kind of weird. God is just not that popular.

If we accept that spiritual revivals can happen, I remember something about that church in my childhood. There was a confidence and sense of purpose that I have not seen in many other groups. When I was a boy, I thought those older people were bossy, and they had strong ideas about how my friends and I were supposed to live. We didn’t always agree, but it is clear something happened, many years ago, and the echoes continued, for us.

Here is one strange reverberation: We had a Hollywood movie star in our neighborhood, and possibly he still visits. In the Bible, the sequence of good things, like a line of dominoes, has the name “blessings.”

Good things today are the result of energy from something historical:

  1. A small church had a spiritual revival, and the community increased in numbers and in energy.
  2. Those people got organized and erected a large building, very nice for its time. I spent many hours there, as a boy.
  3. The community decided to move and build a new church in the suburbs. This happened when I was a young adult.
  4. The first building was just perfect for the Greek community, and they bought it, and now they have a very charming Greek Orthodox church, that might stand for generations.
  5. The movie actor Zach Galifianakis has one or more friends, in our city, and he attended that church, when he visited.

I respect Zach Galifianakis’ privacy, but it is interesting that he has walked the streets of our neighborhood. Also, many other good things have reverberated from that spiritual revival, generations ago. Imagine a row of dominoes, where you can tap the first one, and each domino knocks over the next until the last one falls. It is easy to prevent the fall of the dominoes, just remove one.

The succession or the reverberations of the blessings can be stopped, or they can continue for generations. Good things, that we never expected, have ancient roots and a line of continuing faithfulness.

Blessings don’t usually just appear from nothing.

There is a dark side to this. We have a decline of Christianity and other religions, in modern times:

So, is the faith of Jesus dying? Some people think so, or hope so:

If we follow the news, in the absence of God, people get religious about many things these days; politics, social justice, or the most recent pandemic, and we can add to the list. If we have no God, we can easily make a new one and pour our religious devotion into our favourite cause.

We can pick a god, any god, and see where that leads us, over generations.

Do you know the last words of the Old Testament?

Some spiritual person will speak for God, and blessings or curses will follow for generations: “And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.” (Malachi 4: 6)

I did not live through that spiritual revival that filled up the streetcars, but I heard the echo. I lived with the reverberation of something real, and very good; ancient blessings. My life today is better because of that influence.

Whatever happens to the cycles of religion, God is not declining.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. (Psalm 100)

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