Any church whose worship experience can be replicated with poppers is in trouble.
Some have confidently predicted the demise of Christianity and of religion in general. I think some Christian traditions will shrink or disappear while others grow.
I’ll not opine much on religion in general. Predictions of its demise seem provincially western and intellectual. The rest of the world does not appear on a particularly secular course.
Moreover, the engine of secularism — east, west and third world — seems to be consumerism more than education. That ought to give pause to secularism’s academic enthusiasts.
As for Christianity in the West, my intuition — informed by facts I’ve fulminated about frequently — that the great consumerist binge is being rapidly (if involuntarily) replaced by austerity gives me hope for a rediscovery of historic Christianity.
As Hillaire Belloc wrote, the Reformation was a much messier and more political phenomenon than the victors have allowed when they exercised their famous privilege of writing its history. Rome has long since acknowledged the abuses that were the Reformation’s formal cause, and the Reformation gained traction, it seems, from forces much different than pious revulsion about insouciant sale of indulgences, or even about Simony and bastardy in high places.
It was essentially an overthrow of the power of the Church (as manifested in the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Rome) by emerging nation states and nobility that were disinclined, having tasted the booty of pillaged monasteries, to give it back. The religious rationales were a convenient pretext.
Having cut themselves off from history and sacraments, the churches of the Reformation have been looking ever since for a firm foundation. What they have instead, for the most part, is a Bible that can be manipulated by anyone who’s kissed the Blarney Stone plus, especially in the Evangelical and Charismatic churches, novelty and an emotional rush. “Orthodpathos,” or “right feeling,” one of their own called it.
I think people will become disenthralled, perhaps quite quickly, from that kind of novelty and emotional rush as consumerism fades. Consumerism is the plausibility structure of church-hopping to maintain the emotional high that euphemistically (maybe blasphemously is more apt) is called the “Holy Spirit.”
“Future history” no doubt will be as messy as (past) history. But I’m inclined to think that any church whose “worship experience” can be replicated with poppers will wane, while more historic and sober traditions will wax, as we return to earth from our giddy successes of most of my lifetime. For that matter, any church whose raison d’etre was an available religious market niche will fade in parallel with consumerism as well.
I consider that a very hopeful prospect. Authentic human flourishing is not found at the Mall.