When the internal report on the NYTs came out the other day one of the suggestions was to increase its religion coverage to reach out. You just know these attempts at reaching out will be as laughable as the mini-series Revelations reaching out to red state viewers. I just know the type of articles that will result will be very similar to the following one in Slate.
The Power of the Mustard Seed, Why strict churches are strong.
It isn’t easy to explain why some people submit enthusiastically to religious law, especially when you’re talking to people who have never had the slightest desire to do so. Why limit yourself to a "theology of the body," as the late Pope John Paul II called it, when birth control and stem-cell research promise relief from two of the most painful vicissitudes of bodily existence, unwanted pregnancy and degenerative disease? Why restrict yourself to kosher food, when kashrut relies on zoological classifications that went out of date thousands of years ago?
‘Are you pregnant? No I am having a painful vicissitudes of bodily existence’
…The example Iannacone gives for a church whose strictness may have backfired is the Catholic Church, which has been having a hard time holding on to followers in Europe and attracting men to the priesthood in America. Traditionalists blame the church’s difficulties on the reforms of Vatican II, when the Mass began to be said in the vernacular and priests and nuns shed their otherworldly clothes. Would-be reformers blame church officials’ refusal to yield to popular opinion on contraception, homosexuality, and priestly celibacy. Iannacone says both are right. "The Catholic church may have managed to arrive at a remarkable, ‘worst-of-both-worlds’ position," he writes, "discarding cherished distinctiveness in the areas of liturgy, theology, and lifestyle, while at the same time maintaining the very demands that its members and clergy are least willing to accept."
The article is mainly trying to advance the thesis that strictness and rigidity in itself is the reason for the continued growth of some churches compared to others. As if just being strict is sufficient. This really worked in the case of the Manicheas and I have not noticed any neighborhood Albigensian churches either. There is some truth in the claim though. People are more drawn to a church that believes the same thing from week to week. What they miss is that more liberal churches are just as dogmatic and rigid as those that teach a more traditional moral ethic. A very rigid set of beliefs regarding sexual morality and abortion is preached. Go into some mainline Protestant congregations believing that fornication and homosexuality are sinful and you will soon find out how welcoming they are (as long as you consider being called a Neanderthal welcoming). A more rigid lifestyle is demanded in regards to environmental concerns. SUVs and logging are the modern version of the anti-Christ. Non-free range chickens are to be abstained from everyday and not just Fridays in Lent. Miracles are to be accepted since you must believe that embryonic stem-cell research will result in curing everything. Constant acts of faith are required in that you must believe that socialism as a system can work despite the history of the world. The fact is that there is strictness in all churches it is just that what they are strict on is different. The writer just don’t understand that what is strict upon is important. Moral relativism has caused a similar blindness in many.
The article suggests that "liberal churches" must build their own rituals to use as theater to send the message they want. What is considered most important is presentation. In previous elections when Democrat lost they normally blame it that there message did not get out. Again the same excuse is basically being made here that some churches are not growing because they don’t have attractive rituals and a form of piety that makes them feel invested. Externals are seen as the problem and not that the message is what is wrong.