Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Religiosity Waxes & Wanes with Economic Conditions

Ancient Korazin, in Israel

Anne Graham Lotz asks: "Could it be that one reason the church today has not had more of an impact on our culture is that disciples are not spending time with Jesus?" (In What Classic Spiritual Discipline Needs the Most Renewal Among American Christians?)

This is a rhetorical question. The answer, Lotz suspects, is "Yes." Yes, the reason the church in America is largely ineffective today (= makes little cultural impact) is because: 1) their leaders take little or no time to spend with Jesus, and therefore 2) their people follow their non-example.

As long as America stays affluent this condition will not change. On this the sociological observation of atheist Phil Zuckerman seems correct. (See Zuckerman, "Atheism: Contemporary Rates and Patterns," in The Cambridge Companion to Atheism) Zuckerman writes:

"In societies characterized by plentiful food distribution, excellent public healthcare, and widely accessible housing, religiosity wanes. Conversely, in societies where food and shelter are scarce and life is generally less secure, religious belief is strong." 

The fatter we are, the less we feel we need God. The less we feel we need God, the less we spend time with God. Spending time with Jesus is in inverse proportion to our economic circumstances. Of course there are exceptions to this. A economically robust culture might give birth to a Thomas Merton. But in a wealth-accruing climate this is as rare as a desert flower. The situation with pastors and Christian leaders reflects the same.

Think of this cultural reality. Think next about Jesus's warnings about money. The Money-God is a far larger, far more insidious and pervasive force than it might seem on the surface of Jesus's words.