Monday, 25 June 2007

Spit or Whistle?

Yes, if those thinning pates and grey hairs of wisdom are any indication, the COG demographic is sliding inexorably toward elder-status, and in this case elder comes without ordination credentials. In a generation the numbers will be heading on the downhill slide past the point of no return. Indeed, I think I saw the milestone a few kilometres back... but maybe it was a millstone instead. The brash, vital, growing Worldwide Church of God of yester-year only lives on in our memories and nightmares.

But wait, misery loves company, and its comforting to know that COGism is far from alone. Across The Ditch in the fabled land of Oz, the mainline Australian denominations (Catholic, Anglican and Protestant) have been involved in something called the 2006 National Church Life Survey (NCLS). It's full of the usual pacifying pabulum, such as:

There has been a dramatic increase in the proportion of attenders who are aware of their church's vision, goals and directions.

Uh huh... very inspiring if fuzzy around the edges. But before breaking out the grape juice and marinated tofu, consider this Ocker shocker:

A matter of concern is that the average age of church members is going up. It is now...

Take a guess. The average Aussie church goer is, what, in their late forties maybe?

... 53 years.

I nearly let out a whoop. I'm still a youngster! Well, only barely, but I'll take whatever slack I can get!

Mind you, that's Australia, and my guess is that the Kiwi average age is higher. The USA seems, as always, a little different, but in the rest of the English speaking world Christianity is in deep trouble, and it's probably the author of its own misfortunes. I'm mean, take the Anglicans ... please, someone, anyone!

Religions pass their use-by date, and WCG's was probably 1975. On the macro scale Christianity itself has a problem, and circling the wagons fundamentalist-style is a bit like spitting in the wind.

Meanwhile, the mainline churches are - if not spitting - bravely whistling in the dark.

National director of NCLS Research Keith Castle writes, 'Perhaps the church in Australia is moving beyond the sense of despair that has permeated its life (particularly in the mainstream churches) for possibly two decades. I see glimpses of a new determination to present the gospel of Jesus Christ in creative and relevant ways in this complex society in which we live.'

Translation: I'm fresh out of ideas; is it time to panic?

NCLS Research: weblink
Quotes from Brian Schwarz, "Vital Signs", The Lutheran, June 2007.


Lussenheide said...

The facts as were laid out in the article are true.

Well... sort of.

They are true if your perspective is a "White English Speaking" or at least a "Euro Descent" church. Indeed, the COGs are in the same boat as the Protestant/Catholics.

It appears that the higher the standard of living, the less need that people have for the idea of a God.

These numbers are not holding true in the the Third World. Here Christianity is finding its new 21st Century home. Africa, Russia, India, South America is where Christianity is finding its new potential.

A black or hispanic Pope is not too far off. Care to imagine the leadership of the COG being black and/or majority hispanic?

I do not believe that the COG gets all that excited about converts from Thailand or Rwanda or from people who are Asian, Hispanic or Black. Much of this is because the "white church" has been bigoted, perhaps because of the archaic US/BC doctrine. Another reason is because the churches are so money and asset orieted, that conversisons of poor people are not viewed as organizational assets, but rather as liabilities.

COG7's Whaid Rose, a black, gets much suspicion from the Armstrongite churches because of its inherent racism.

I believe that God likes to "go outside the box" and keep it loose. He is also a supporter of the humble and poor. I hope to live long enough to witness the COG dominated and controlled by its third world brethren.

I am amused that the UCG, which apparently is supposed to have 3 council members be "international" ends up with guys like Meeker, or a Canadian or at times Leon Walker, but never seem to get a real African, Asian or South American on the coucil. Way way too white for the 21st century and the direction that the Christian future inevitably is going.


DennisDiehl said...

Gavin noted: "Religions pass their use-by date, and WCG's was probably 1975. On the macro scale Christianity itself has a problem, and circling the wagons fundamentalist-style is a bit like spitting in the wind."

Had I had the internet as a kid, who was terribly interested in theology and the intent of the Bible, (Dutch Reformed Background) I would have had a whole other personal experience, I am sure, with some other church. I believe I would have better been able to drive the elders, deacons and Minister nuts with questions that they seemed oblivious to. So, no matter the denomination, I feel I would have evolved to this current perspective and had a similar mid life theological crisis. Mine just happen to be in WCG, which at one time I felt was the true church, which I wanted to be a part of. I don't believe in true churches at this stage anymore.

Fundamentalism will get worse as true believers almost strive to make prophecy and their part in it work out. It won't work out as they think but we may have a real mess to clean up and serve as another warning about religion gone nuts.

The nice generic Christian types today will drift and have access to all the information they need to move out of the box they got stuffed in religiously when kids. Many will regret they did not know then what they now know. Choices would have been different. This is the generation that lives duplistically, giving one appearance in church and doing what they want out of that context. The price of being oneself in personal belief is still too high for most in their tribal settings.

Young people today will generally either be the moldable-compliant types that end up being recruited to replace their fundamentalist parents and will do so because they don't know how to be themselves or well informed in science and religion and not care less.

The choice will be more for uncertainty with many facts of science over certainty with few facts of religion.

Maybe this change is a given and humans just don't know it. As the Age of the Fish (church) ends along with it's religious views of atonement by blood and execution, and the Age of Aquarius (Water) transitions, I think we'll see a change in paradigm. Water (I mean they already have convinced us to buy it by the bottle), will be more important and symbolic than blood. It took blood born diseases to dampen our belief that only "life was in the blood" after all. Blood went from that symbol in our time to a symbol of death. Perhaps fitting as the Church Age draws to a close.

We won't live to see much of it, but water, as the Age of the Waterman begins, will be our new religious symbol in some way. Like blood of the past, it will be cherished, fought over and controlled in ways that will make life back on the farm seem like the Wonderful World Yesterday.

Human religious paradigms have shifted in perceivable ways over the past 6000 years of Bull (Taurus 4000-2000 BC) to Lamb (Aries 2000-1BC) to Fish (1 AD to about now) and to Waterman (Aquarius,About soon for the next 2000 years or so.) in the procession of the spring equinox. The appropriate god/man (Osiris, Mithras, Jesus)...came along to be the one to end each age.

And yet over all ths time, the story is always the same. God born of a virgin, born on the winter solstice, tempted by evil not to go on, acquires 12 followers, brings salvation, persecuted and killed, only to rise again after three days and ascend to the heavens to be the basis for the next 2000 years of religious beliefs. Same story, different players. Fascinating.

Anyway, client coming in. At least I can rub one human being the right way today...:) I'll blather not. Good posting topic Gavin!

Douglas Becker said...

If we are speaking of old style moralism and philosophy, then the ageism is pandemic as old values die and are replaced by the "instantaneous" fulfillment of customer demands. All moralists abandon hope when ye enter into Corporate Consumerism.

The style of traditional church services has lost its appeal. The people still attending are dinosaurs of the past, curious relics left over from the time when society was agrarian based and The Empire stretched globally.

Only the youngsters are able to cope and grow in an environment with ever changing standards and mores -- changing in random directions. Instantaneous fulfillment of all one's dreams and desires at an early age is a global phenomenon. The promise of happiness through materialism with reduced effort has appeal. The old stuffy traditional tired religions of the past are irrelevant.

Amazingly, Islam is growing in leaps and bounds. It offers something different.

No one can blame the youngsters for leaving in droves or never participating in the first place: They see the abject lack of wisdom of those whose prime is long past and the foolishness of their ways. Who would want the same results in their lives? It is reasonable to flee and at least try something else because traditional religion simply isn't working. It is not perceived to provide the one thing that people need: Love.

As the church of gods has become [and probably always has been about] money, the people who see it no longer want to be nothing but a cash machine for ministerial retirement. The people have not reaped what they have sown -- not even close -- and the bread cast upon the water decades ago has come back soggy and moldy. People don't even get what they think they've paid for any more and the pretense has been given up. The only thing left is loyalty -- and the loyalty is based on exactly nothing but habit and moral stagnation.

[If they want to be truly successful, the church of gods need to pursue the tactic of L. Ron Hubbard to bring the rich and prosperous into the fold to get all that money. Get actors and sports heros to buy into the religion and people will come flocking.]

There isn't really any reason to worry. As world conditions get worse and the world gets more dangerous, all it will take is an economic collapse and so-called natural disasters to gather nervous sheep into the fold. All it will take is people to have a reason to be frightened to seek a god. Then the masses will return as despotism and absolute autocratic control again become the order of the day and all people everywhere lose their freedoms to live the life they choose to seek a dominating savior who promises them that they will at least be able to eat, if only they submit to religious "authority".

The religions are growing in poor countries because the people are hungry, looking for the promise of a better future. They are ignorant and easily fooled. [Some of them use religion to cash in, such as groups associated with the church of gods who double dip to get two or more xCoGs to contribute to them so they can [pretend to] keep the Feast Days.] Beside that, it is sociological: Entire tribes and families engage with the religion. It will work because an entire group has adopted the religion and the group is stable -- not like the tumbling chaos in Western Corporate Civilization.

Beyond that, the poor in third world nations will sap everything they can get out of religious missionaries, particularly those who bring them doctors and hospitals and feed them. "Conversion" may not be based on anything spiritual at all. But then, who cares? Once you have them in your congregation, you've reached your goal.

They have not had the opportunity to be prosperous and realize that they do not need to pay for what tired religions cannot offer them.

DennisDiehl said...

Good overview Douglas. People will always seek comfort and security during difficult times in religion. There will always be those willing to take advantage of that as well, as we know.

I didn't personally find the ministers or faculty types nearly as diabolical as hindsite might temp us to think, but that is just my personal experience. The vast majority of those I knew up and down the ladder, so to speak, were totally sincere right until the great disillusioment set in. But hey, who wants illusions?

I find WCG's current practice of "The Fall Cruise for Jesus" to be particularly annoying with Ron Kelly, who told me the reason there would be no retirement was because they had no money after Jesus had worked his great enlightening miracle in the Church. Of course, he would not share the money made in the sale of the entire campus in the middle of "you can't afford it" Pasadena.
Now that he is retired, ok Jesus miracle did not affect him that much, he's in charge of the Jesus Cruises. Nice gig!

Anyway, good comment and so true.

DennisDiehl said...

Hey, how about the whole AW gang of us, along with XCG crowd and have a Fall Cruise for Jesus, Just not That One." Wow, would we ever have a time! Or maybe just meet at Denny's somewhere..hehe.

Corky said...

It's funny how Jesus is always broke. I think maybe he needs some new accountants in his employ.

More and more, people are turning away from Christendom. The literalist fundamentalists are becoming an embarrassment to the mainstream.

A lot of people don't say so but they are unbelievers just the same. Even more are becoming skeptical about their religion, their God and miracles.

There is a certain stigma attached to being "atheist" in America. Just the word itself brings out the hate in believers. I can say that I'm a "freethinker" all day long and no one will even raise an eyebrow and it really means the same thing by implication.

Agnostic, well that's okay too, but "atheist"? Ewwwww bad! Everyone knows that atheists worship the devil, eat little children and are always persecuting "christians".

What? You haven't seen all those atheists picketing churches, putting up atheist billboards, demonstrating with hate signs at soldier's funerals, trying to take freedom of religion away from christians by insisting on their rights not to be preached to and prayed over in schools etc. etc.?

Yes, I will be glad when church buildings are turned into help centers, youth centers, senior centers etc. Hell, I'd be satisfied for right now if they had to pay taxes like the rest of us do.

Charlie said...

I think we are missing a few key points here:

- The Protestant churches and to a lesser extent Catholic churches in predominantly white middle class areas are dying in America (Just the the XCG's)for a couple of glaring reasons:

1) Middle to upper class suburbia are having fewer children and having them later in life

2) 18-30 year olds typically attend little more than Easter and Christmas services until they marry and begin to have children...and not all come back.

3)The larger protestant denominations are imploding from within due to leadership. Scripture is being cast aside in favor of what is politically correct / popular. I believe this is being done in part to try and fill the pews...It isn't working...and it is chasing the long time members away little by little.

4) Religious idiocy and bigotry - Since most of us were members of the WCG at one time or another we have heard more than our fair share of, to be nice, "Stupid" things said by the local pastors and members. It is no different in parts of the USA where some preacher or deacon with more wind than sail, espouses things that defy logic, reason, and sensibility which result in the hemorrhaging of additional members.

Conversely - lower income families of all colors are still having large families with or without benefit of steady income, opportunity, or a more or less steady father. Muslims are reproducing at an only marginally slower rate than rabbits.

Charlie said...


If the state and federal governments made churches even just pay property taxes, most would fold as soon as the endowments were used up...Not that I want to see it happen, but that is the truth, many churches are survivng on endowments as weekly / monthly / annual giving is on the decline.

You bring up up the reactions of believers to atheists. I'll plead guiltly to this one myself. IMO many, if not most atheists are simply good folk that have left one ditch for another. Let me explain: (Using Christians as an example)

Step 1 - You grew up listening to preachers rail on and on about how this, that, and the other thing happened, only to realize at one point later in life, that they offered little or no proof and a whole lot of opinion, hypothesis, and theories.

Step 2 - Abandon previous belief in a higher being based on rejecting what you were taught without doing any real in depth research of your own.

Step 3 - Take up a new philosophy / belief system (Atheism / Evolutionism) based on little or no proof and a whole lot of opinion, hypothesis, speculation, and theories based on what you were taught in your biology classes in high school and college, without doing any real in depth research of your own...only now you are smug about it.

The bible contains a lot of errors is is a deeply flawed text. Not a solid foundation for a belief system

Evolution / Abiogenesis is a deeply flawed theory. Not a solid foundation for a belief system.

(Before everyone starts firing back, let me just say this and you can all have the last word: First of all I am referring to Macro evolution, not micro. Secondly, anyone with a modest knowledge of thermodynamics, genetics, reproduction, and geology is aware of the problems in evolutionary theory. However, when confronted by the evidence or lack thereof, they just come up with a new theory to fill in the gaps...That isn't science.)

Fire away.

DennisDiehl said...

Charlie said: "Not a solid foundation for a belief system... Fire away."

You crazy hairless ape! What is a solid foundation? The all keep moving! :)

Charlie said...

Dennis: On second thought, given some of the people running this world, perhaps we do have a simian ancestry! :)

You can transpose an image of that moron from Iran and the other one @ 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and get a near perfect match...minus the beard.

Corky said...

You can disprove evolution easily. Just find a fossil of a human during the Jurassic age rock strata. Or find any modern animal or plant fossil in the rock strata during the pre-cambrian period.

Good luck, you'll be famous if you do . . . remember us poor folks when you get rich.

DennisDiehl said...

Charlie said: "You can transpose an image of that moron from Iran and the other one @ 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and get a near perfect match...minus the beard."

That thought crossed my mind as well back when. It's spit and whistle until this dangerous administration is gone. Not that that will change much since a CIA guy told me once you won't be a mature American until you realize Presidents are not elected, they are selected. Feels a bit like 1930's these days except GWB can't even get the planes to be on time. Worst President and man in the history of America to be one.

Probably just me but as NostraDennis, it will be interesting to see what he plans for his third term.

Douglas Becker said...

it will be interesting to see what he plans for his third term

Not gonna happen.

We will have to wait and see whether the Illuminati has picked someone who will bake cookies in a frilly apron while her husband goes off and takes care of foreign affairs or if we get Law and Order reruns on a different channel.

Or is there another member of the Yale Skulls available we don't know about. After all, they are a secret organization and we know less about them than the Illuminati.

Or should we believe one ruddy thing we see on the History Channel?

Watch to see what comes next.

I'd say the United States will get a woman in as president around the same time the WCG has a woman Pastor General. Equal 50/50 chances. The WCG has always seemed to match the United States. For example, the Nixon debacle broke around the time of revelations about GTA. Other eerie coincidences have also occurred, but we're not sure episodes of Babylon 5 count.

It's probably even more amusing if your half a word away watching from down under across the really big pond -- that classic peaceful ocean.

Douglas Becker said...

is it time to panic?

If there ever was a time, this is it.

Yes, yes you should. We all should.

Charlie said...


I said you could have the last word and you can. I'm just hoping people will do more research than their high school or college biology texts.

Charlie said...


I give in, I need to add a couple of points of clarification:

You are mixing mixing or mistaking evolution with geology. Simply because a human or other type of living being had the misfortune of getting caught up (or not caught up) in a landslide, flashflood, or other type of natural occurance which makes up rock layers does not prove or disprove evolution. They are apples and oranges.

Rock layers are made up all at once by some type of event. For example; If a cow dies in the middle of a field, the flesh and bone decompose and wither away long before a layer of dust and dirt can cover it, preserve it, and fossilize it. Now if a cow is caught in mudslide or flashflood of enough size that the cow is covered in mud and other conditions are met, then the preservation and mineralization process can take place and voila, fossil.

Depending on geographic location even today, the types of flora and fauna available vary, as do the layers (numbers of and depth of)of rock beneath the surface or currently eroding on the surface. Since the geologic column contains very few earth-wide events, it is obvious that the lack of one species in one place does not preclude its existence in another.

People should be willing to deal with good *solid* science wherever the evidence eventually leads. Anything else is philosophizing. I'm not more willing to take that as fact than I would be the crazy speculations of a COG leader.

I hope to live to long enough to see fact based conclusions.

Corky said...

Charlie said...

I said you could have the last word and you can. I'm just hoping people will do more research than their high school or college biology texts.

Some people do! That's why there is more and more evidence of the theory all the time.

bear_track said...

It is amazing to me how that some people can convert every topic into a rant against the God of the Bible. It becomes cloying after a while. Perhaps another blog is in order, where this tedium can be pursued without interruption and with plenty of mutual congratulations.

One of the reasons why church attendance is in decline, I believe, is due to the politicization of the evangelical pulpit. Not only has this pulpit been co-opted by neoconservatives, it is also under the sway of the politics of evangelical congregations.

For example, I listen to a few evangelical preachers in he media. I have noticed that they are very selective about what sins they attack. A favorite is pornography. If a preacher's principal constituency consists of overweight middle aged and elderly women, railing against pornography addiction is a safe thing to do.

But that same preacher would probably never mention the problem of being addicted to eBay as some women are. He would never mention overeating as a serious issue. Because this would alienate his supporters.

The fact that these preachers know which side their bread is buttered on, is something that people detect. The attendant loss of credibility is one of the reasons why being a church attender is not appealing to many.

XCGMouse said...

That's right! No one is ever disatisfied or alienated by the modern secular state, nor does anyone consider the modern economic order oppressive; it's like Gibbon's said - the fault of the christians and barbarians.

Douglas Becker said...

Gambling. It would be unsafe to preach against gambling in an older conservative congregation.

Charlie said...

Some in any given congregation will be put off by the sermon / homily every week. It is simply the way of things...This isn't new. It is the same in politics and the boardroom.

Corky said...

bear_track said...
"It is amazing to me how that some people can convert every topic into a rant against the God of the Bible."

What is more amazing to me is talking about the God of the Bible as if it existed beyond belief.

"For example, I listen to a few evangelical preachers in he media. I have noticed that they are very selective about what sins they attack."

They are not all that selective about what sins they attack. They are all SEX sins. Pornography, homosexuals, abortion, feminism and are against the rights of everyone but themselves.

Let's have prayer in schools (they already do, that right was never taken away from them) but they mean public prayer led by a "christian" only.

Let's be honest and admit that "they" would not like prayer in schools led by Mrs. Teacher if Mrs. Teacher was a Hindu or Muslim or a Wiccan priestess.

Let's be honest and admit that they wouldn't like it if our currency said "In Hashem We Trust" or in "Allah" or "Vishnu" for that matter. Hey, but there are Americans that do and Jews living here write G-d instead of God and are offended, what about them?

This all happened in the 1950s the "in god we trust" and the "under god" and the placing of the ten commandments in public places. Every one of those things is unconstitutional. Why? Because not every damn body in America are christians.

camfinch said...

Slight amendment to Corky: the phrase "In God We Trust" originally was put on coinage in 1864; in the 1950's, it got extended to paper currency.

Either way: an abrogation of the paramount issue of separation of church and state.

Charlie said...

The separation of church and state had everything to do with the state not *establishing* a state religion. In other words there would not be a Church of America, like the Church of England, or the Catholic Church in Italy or Argentina. Americans would be free to join the denomination of their choice or not join any. The establishment clause did not intend that there would be no mention of God on public documents, currency, or in our institutions. Like it or not and for better or for worse, the majority of Americans still believe in God so you will need to learn to accept that...Trust me there are many things the atheists do that drive me up a wall too :)

camfinch said...

James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and others probably saw things rather more radically than you, Charlie. James Madison, for instance, refused, as president, to resopnd to calls to declare a national day of prayer, saying that religion is private and that government has no business entering the religious spectrum.

It's not a matter of belief in God (Yahweh, Jesus, Allah, Vishnu, Amitabha, whoever), it's a matter of belief being for individuals , not a part of the state. (By the way, I do not consider myself an atheist.) Would you be comfortable if our coinage had the phrase "Allahu Akbar" (Allah is greater)? How about on our currency, "Hare Krishna, hare rama"? Or maybe the nature-relgion principle, "Blessed be"? We are a diverse society, with a wide panoply of beliefs. It's a lot less messy to keep religion out of the public sphere.

Why is there no mention of God (or even the Deist notion of Providence) in the Constitution? At the time of the creation of the Constitution, a number of Christian clergymen and laity loudly complained about that omission, feeling that the United States should have been officially declared a Christian nation. The founders saw things differently.

You can find plenty of information on this subject on, the website of Americans United For Separation of Church and State. And no, members of Americans United are not all "atheists".

Charlie said...


I wouldn't like that at all. However, you are missing the point. I wouldn't support a 'National Prayer' either and also believe that religion is and should be a private thing. If our nation was founded by a majority of dirt worshipers, hindis, or even muslims things might be reflected differently...but they aren't and the nation's institutions should have the marks of the founders and they remain (for the time being) the majority. I am all for inclusiveness and assimilation. I am not for the politically correct "Celebrate Diversity" which I think is causing great problems in our society. We should be celebrating what we have in common and moving toward a common goal(s) no matter what race, color, or creed.

I wish religions and other groups would stay away from political endorsements...or lose their tax exempt status.

Charlie said...


One other thing. I agree that the less religion is in the public (read:Government) sphere the better.

camfinch said...

Charlie, fair enough. I would ask that you explore the belief backgrounds of the founders, a number of whom were "radical" for their time. Deism was perhaps the primary "religious" underlay for the founding principles, although interestingly, the effect of Calvinism probably had some influence, in the sense of projecting the idea that no human is "righteous" and therefore should have too much power entrusted to him/her; maybe this idea had input to the valuable principle of separation of powers (a principle that our current executive branch seems to have problems with).

And the Enlightenment philosophers contributed the major portion of the ideology which created the republic. I think that the notion of freedom of worship (and freedom not to worship) also plays a great role, as so many had come here from the earliest colonial times to escape religious persecution in Europe. Many times, these groups, such as Massachusetts Puritans, didn't wish to grant that liberty to others, but over the course of 150 years, the colonies were moving more toward a rejection of enforced religion. Certainly, James Madison was instrumental in throwing off the attempt by the Anglican (Episcopalian) church to be declared the official state church of Virginia.

bear_track said...

I am a mainstream Christian and I strongly believe in the separation of Church and State. An example of all the evil that can come from not having this separation is painfully visible in our current national misery.

We have evangelical leaders visiting President Bush weekly and advising him that our policy is Iraq is the right one based on promises made to Abraham in the Old Testament. They seem to neglect to tell him that the Middle East has been a "burdensome stone" to whomever has involved themselves there. And will be such throughout the future.

So we have a case of the evangelicals helping the neoconservatives who are helping the evangelicals who are helping the neoconservatives, ad nauseum.
But this mutual admiration society's activities translate into the waste of 3,500 men and women in a war based on a fallacious pretext and an inability to revise any decision.

camfinch said...


Beautifully expressed.