This is an opinion column
Catholic cover-ups have made priests the butts of jokes and altar boys their unfunny punchlines.
My United Methodists sold their motto as “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors.” Yet the whole denomination is on the about to split big so some can just slam those wide doors shut.
The ancient prophets said turn swords into plowshares and many new evangelicals say nothing goes with the gospel like Glock.
Then I do not know.
But now a damning report tells how leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest group of Protestants in this still Christian country, have turned on victims of sexual abuse to protect themselves, slandered abused to save their own godly selves. , souls be damned.
Christianity, let us say, is not on the right track. And it can’t really be blamed on the godless, or the video games, or the political party you hate, or the things that any of us normally blame for anything. You cannot stand in pulpits and pews and point fingers at all the problems outside the stained glass windows. The church can’t blame somebody else.
Because the devil is no longer just in the details, it’s in the dresses, the clothes and the bonds of power. It’s among those who claim to represent this young man from Nazareth but too often use his name for wealth and power and – well, if you read this Southern Baptist report, it’s hard not to say it outright simply – evil.
Don’t cast your first stone yet. I’m certainly not talking about every believer or practitioner or church, just anyone who reads the Beatitudes and other teachings of Jesus and takes them to heart. Churches bring community and spiritual comfort and healing to millions.
These are the people who should be checked off the most.
Because those who exploit religion for personal gain, political power, or sexual gratification, God forbid, do more to alienate people from the church than any avowed atheist has ever done. The trends speak for themselves.
The number of Americans who consider themselves atheists or agnostics or who claim no religion – “Nones”, as they are called – increased dramatically in recent years, according to a December Pew Research Center survey. Those numbers don’t seem to be changing anytime soon, and news of sexual assaults and hypocritical cover-ups certainly won’t help.
The percentage of people who claim no religion has risen 10 points in the past decade, according to Pew, and six points in five years.
Not that Christians aren’t a dominant force yet. They still make up 63% of the country’s adult population, but that’s a sharp drop from 78% in 2007. The ‘no’s’ now make up 30% of the population, so Christians are still twice as numerous than non-believers.
But in 2007, when Pew started asking these questions, Christians outnumbered “nones” almost five times.
According to Pew, four in 10 American adults consider religion very important in their lives. This is 15 points less than ten years ago. For perspective, according to Gallup polls, four in 10 adults believe aliens have visited Earth.
More than half of Americans now say they rarely or never go to church.
It’s a remarkable shift, made possible by scandal, hypocrisy, and the politicization of religion, among other things.
I am the son of a preacher, grandson and great-grandson of preachers, part of a line of clergy that stretches farther than the country itself, and I am saddened to see this change. But I think I can understand it.
Being a Christian is more than carrying a cross.
But I’m pretty sure these tendencies won’t stop by casting demons out of these sanctuaries.
The real evil is done by the demons within. And by those who look away.
John Archibald is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for AL.com.