A well known columnist who writes on contemporary life in these United States has identified our culture as postmodern and as being an America that is post-Christian. That may be so. We are postmodern, certainly. Modernism did not save us, our technology has made our world more comfortable, but it has not made human nature any better. We still fight and struggle with ourselves and one another as much or more as any time in human history.
Post-Christian America? Perhaps. I am confident that church and the Christian faith are not as central to our society than they were 50 or 100 years ago. On the whole, we are more inclusive and accepting of other religious expressions, cultures and worldviews. The percentage of Americans who attend church services on a regular basis is far less than it was even 20 years ago. The trends of morality (ooh, controversy!) are drifting further from a biblical picture, and more to a humanistic expression.
But does church still matter in America? Does the Church as an establishment of culture still have something to say? I believe it does. And I am optimistic enough to believe that the best days of Christian faith and church in America are ahead of us, rather than behind us.
Church still matters because we need some balance to the violence and animosity that pervades our society. As if there is not enough violence in the streets and homes of our nation, we make up more violence and call it entertainment. In a world where people pay money to watch dramatized hatred and murder, someone needs to talk about peace and forgiveness. The world needs to be reminded on a regular basis that love is a better option than bitterness, and that talking about our differences is better than throwing stones. Or fists, or bullets.
Church still matters because we are made for community. Humans are social creatures, and as easy as it is to connect though Facebook, Twitter, email and the rest, there is no substitute for personal contact, face to face, in which we build healthy and abiding relationships. Church provides a ready-made setting for honest and constructive social interaction that adds value to our lives. And, no church people are not perfect either. But most of us are well-intentioned, decent people doing the best we can to deal with our own dysfunctions.
Church still matters because there really is more going on here than meets the eye. While science and technology refuses to acknowledge anything beyond the empirically measurable, most of us have an innate knowledge that we humans are more than a collection of molecules or a system of biology. We are made with a soul and despite the science, we all experience love, fear, compassion, anxiety and desire. We long to know the bigger questions of meaning and purpose and what really happens when we die. Church exists to help us find some answers to the really big mysteries of life.
When I look around this world and I see the beauty and wonder of it, and at the same time see the tragedy and pain, I am reminded that we are in fact the product of a wonderful Creator who cares for us deeply, but something has gone terribly wrong. The train has jumped the track and we are need of restoration. Church helps me understand how and why these things work. Church helps me reconcile my own brokenness, find some bits of peace to cultivate in my own dark heart and be a better person than I would be otherwise.
Churches come in all different kinds and shapes and styles. Find one that you can live with and be a part of something good. Find a minister that has something to say worth hearing. You don’t have to agree with everything. Neither do you have to leave your sanity at the door and be a fanatic. But if you walk in the door with an open mind and a smile, I am confident that you will be welcome, you will find a friend or two and you might even enjoy yourself.
Church matters still, because people matter most.
— The Rev. Brian Hotaling is the pastor of Charles Town Baptist Church, 203 East Congress St, Charles Town. Sunday worship is at 8:15, 9:45, and 11:15 a.m.