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If the Internet Isn't Killing Religion, What Is?

New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 15. RNS photo by Kevin Eckstrom.

A smart professor in Massachusetts noticed recently that religion’s decline in America coincided with the rise of the Internet.

He theorized that the two may be connected. Headline: “Is the Internet bad for religion?”

It’s utter nonsense, of course. The decline of mainline churches began in 1965, not in the 1990s when the Internet became commercially available. It would be more accurate, from a timing standpoint, to say that the American League’s designated hitter rule (1973) caused religion’s decline. Or maybe the “British invasion” in rock ‘n’ roll (1964).

COMMENTARY: Deliberate Distortion of Reality Won’t Work for Long

Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. Photo courtesy of Tom Ehrich

I was dismayed when I learned that Mozilla Foundation, maker of the Firefox Web browser, had named an anti-gay activist as its new chief executive officer.

Brendan Eich wasn’t a hard-core activist. He had donated $1,000 in 2008 to a California campaign to ban same-sex marriage.

Even so, his ethical stance struck me as unfortunate. Mozilla’s naming him CEO struck me as tone-deaf. And his refusal to discuss his views seemed too aloof for a high-visibility enterprise like Mozilla.

I didn’t join the crowd demanding his resignation. I did the one thing I could do: I stopped using the Firefox browser.

Living with 'An Illegal:' How a Friendship Changed My Perspective on Immigration

Stacey Schwenker/Sojourners

The Immigration Reform Now rally. Stacey Schwenker/Sojourners

I don’t know what came over me. Was it what Noel Castellanos (CEO of CCDA) had said? What Jim Wallis (President of Sojourners) had said? Perhaps. I couldn’t keep the tears from coming. Walking up Broadway Street in Los Angeles in the middle of a Saturday afternoon as a crowd of people blew horns, held signs, and chanted, “Immigration reform now,” I wept. It was because of Ivone. I was even wearing my Faith is Greater Than Fear shirt but lurking along the sidewalk, not intending to get involved. But it's too late for that. I love Ivone like a sister, I’m already knee deep in it.

Jim, Noel, and Jenny Yang (World Relief) had just been speaking on a panel at the Justice Conference about immigration reform. Jim said that we had to pass comprehensive immigration reform now, before the summer recess. And I knew in my heart that he was right. Because if we don’t, then Ivone will continue to lie in limbo along with 11 million other aspiring Americans, perhaps being deported in a couple of years. We will both continue to live in uncertainty and fear.

The Engine of Change Is on Full Throttle

Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. Photo courtesy Tom Ehrich

My first career: print journalism. Current status of that field: on life support.

My second career: pastoring neighborhood churches. Current status of that field: on life support.

My third career: writing and publishing books. Current status of that field: on life support.

My fourth career: implementing client-server data management systems. Current status of that field: on life support.

Do you see a trend here? I did. So now I try to stay nimble and to keep moving. My publishing business is entirely electronic. I have cycled through three websites and three subscription systems in 10 months. I do more of my church consulting online.

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