The truth is that our faith and spirituality is often dependent on hundreds of different relationships, factors, institutions, and circumstances that we directly correlate with God.
When our Christian expectations are shattered, it’s easy to blame God. We mistakenly idolize the things that are associated with God, and assume that if one of these aspects failed then God failed.
“Christianity” will fail us. Our churches will attack, our pastors will lie, our mentors will manipulate, our friends will betray, and when this happens, our beliefs will be shaken to their core.
Is the Mainline Liberal Church in decline? Numerically, sure. Absolutely. But what this means, I cannot say. Many have tried to make sense of it. In the wake of recent editorials, some theologians and others have offered up their thoughts. I surmised it might be helpful to collect one or two of the links here on the outside chance that you missed them.
Can Liberal Christianity Be Saved - Ross Douthat offers some sharp critiques of the tradition. Once the bastion of the Social Gospel movement, the liberal mainline is not all "social" and very little "Gospel."
"But if conservative Christianity has often been compromised, liberal Christianity has simply collapsed. Practically every denomination — Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian — that has tried to adapt itself to contemporary liberal values has seen an Episcopal-style plunge in church attendance. Within the Catholic Church, too, the most progressive-minded religious orders have often failed to generate the vocations necessary to sustain themselves."
There have been a couple of good direct responses to Douthat's OpEd piece.
This is a response to some of the NPR coverage on pastors who are losing their religion. It's a heartbreaking series. I say that not because people are losing their faith, changing their minds about religion. I'm heartbroken because I'm not hearing about any Christian tradition other than American Fundamentalism. That's Christianity according to mass media and, apparently, according to the men and women who have stepped away from the Church. They believe so strongly in the arguments of Fundamentalism that they cannot imagine another form of Christianity. They cannot imagine another God. They believe that Fundamentalism is the only theology out there. They believe in One God, the Fundamentalist God. So, in breaking with that rhetoric, they have to break with the whole Church.
We who believe something other than American Fundamentalism have failed these people. We have failed again and again to successfully offer the alternatives to Fundamentalism. Instead, we sit in our beautiful neo-gothic buildings or in our hip-coffee shops or under the dome of the Pantokrator and wonder why people do not know us. It's simply crap. If all there were in Christianity was American Fundamentalism, I would be an atheist, too. Perhaps the Fundamentalists have won after all.