Why are Christians in the West fleeing church?

By Hanne Nabintu Herland

Something has gone seriously wrong with Christianity in the West. Research shows that church attendance is dropping dramatically, the strongest Christians leave the churches as institutionalized religion seems selfishly most preoccupied with “God bless me and make me rich.” People in general rightfully complain about Christian hypocrisy and lack of empathy and action as solidarity crumbles in society right outside the church’s doorstep.

Let’s look at the depressing statistics from Europe and question whether Christians can thank themselves for the horrifying development. According to the 2008 ISSP study addressing patterns of religion in Europe, only 2 percent attend church service regularly. This is quite a number, especially considering that according to Pew Research Forum, 75 percent in Europe state that they believe in God, Jesus and the metaphysical dimension. In the ultra-liberal Netherlands, only 1.2 percent attend church regularly. A 2007 report indicated, even there, that as high as 43 percent of the Dutch population consider themselves to be Christians. These numbers would be much higher if not for the approximately 1 million Muslims who live in the Netherlands, as well as Hindus, Buddhists and others. Considering the extensive cultural and religious antagonism that has characterized the public sphere since the 1970s, it is amazing that so many Dutch still describe themselves as believers.

In the U.K., only 800,000 attend church services on a typical Sunday, according to the Daily Mail. ISSP 2008 showed that regular church attendance was as low as 1.4 percent in the United Kingdom. Still, the number of Christians is as high as 60 percent in the U.K. – again, this is without considering the massively growing numbers of Muslims. Despite the fact that the percentage of people with some form of belief in God has declined 10 percent since 1991, statistics show that faith in the spiritual world remains remarkably static. In other words, people believe in God, but simply cannot stand the church. Why?

The slowing down of church attendance in Europe may very well be happening simply because people feel that they do not find spiritual food there anymore. For how long do you keep going to the bakery if they don’t have bread to offer?

Authors George Barna and David Kinnaman have pointed out that churchless people are growing in numbers also in the U.S. In “Churchless: Understanding Today’s Unchurched and How to Connect with Them,” they reveal the results of a five-year study based on interviews with thousands of previous churchgoers, many saying that they find the church to be a place where one is not able to connect to God.

Another explanation is, of course, the cunning and subtle persecution against the Christian faith, performed by the increasingly authoritarian politically correct mainstream who, quite frankly, hate religion. In the Northern European context, churches have for long been state-run, salaries paid by the state. In Norway, the Lutheran Church was state-run until recently. As bishops are expected to be politically correct –their payroll and further election to important clerical positions depend on them being so – they have proven to be easily politically swayed away from teaching the traditional, Christian message, readily changing its theological content to better fit the agenda of the anti-religious elites.

The current cowards who call themselves bishops end up rendering the Christian followers spiritually homeless, many a priest horrified at the constant extreme liberal changes, chronic secular reforms steadily removing the Christian content from the churches and leaving the flock without proper shepherds, without spiritual substance. It has been an anti-Christian strategy that has worked quite well and silenced much of the opposition against, for example, the promiscuity of a heathen lifestyle, which is hailed as the epitome of secular, modern living in Europe.

Many seem to feel that modern Christianity is turning away from its traditional roots and becoming some sort of a humanist, post-Christian, New Age type of selfish cult. Josh Packard and Asleigh Hope assert in “Church Refugees: Sociologists Reveal Why People are DONE with Church but Not Their Faith” that the main reason for the exit from American churches is not that the churchgoers have become unbelievers. On the contrary, it is often the most believing who get up and leave.

These studies conclude that even in America the churches are losing their most fervent supporters and their strongest members. It seems to be a trend all over the West: the rapid growth of Christians that are “de-churched” and “done with organized, politicized religion.”

One thing is certain, something is seriously wrong with Christianity in the West.

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