Storefront Churches

Our local dead tree newspaper had a story on storefront Churches today. The pastors seemed quite pleased to be doing something so edgy. “It helps us connect with people who are uncomfortable with traditional church experiences,” said Jeff Mikels, pastor of Lafayette Community Church. “Our space looks like a coffee shop and it’s right next to a fitness center.”

Trouble is, edgy is so passé now. Storefronts and praise bands are the new “traditional.”

You can ask Rachel Held Evans, the ne plus ultra of subversive commercialized submission and quotable pablum about Evangelical Millennials:

Time and again, the assumption among Christian leaders, and evangelical leaders in particular, is that the key to drawing twenty-somethings back to church is simply to make a few style updates  edgier music, more casual services, a coffee shop in the fellowship hall, a pastor who wears skinny jeans, an updated Web site that includes online giving.
But here’s the thing: Having been advertised to our whole lives, we millennials have highly sensitive BS meters, and we’re not easily impressed with consumerism or performances.
In fact, I would argue that church-as-performance is just one more thing driving us away from the church, and evangelicalism in particular.
Many of us, myself included, are finding ourselves increasingly drawn to high church traditions Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, the Episcopal Church, etc. precisely because the ancient forms of liturgy seem so unpretentious, so unconcerned with being “cool,” and we find that refreshingly authentic.
What millennials really want from the church is not a change in style but a change in substance.

There. She said it. I believe it. That settles it.

You can take that to the bank. Or she can take it to the bank.

Whatever. She probably doesn’t mean it anyway.

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“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Mind-bender

Oh, no! Just when I thought I had the cosmos all figured out, it throws me a curveball!

It now is considered an assault on the freedom of Christians if secularists remove pagan symbols from government schools.

If you’re shaking your head in confusion, you may need to call Gov. Rick Perry.

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“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

“Everything is going to be much harder”

Pope Francis gave a very long interview and then vetted it before publication, giving it his nihil obstat before publication. The response has been varied.

Class smart-ass (now a paid position at the New Yorker) Breibart fancied Supreme Court Justices Scalia and Thomas, both thought to be rigorist Catholics, forming a Search Committee for a new Pope. The New York Times and Wall Street Journal both over-emphasized Francis’ comments about abortion (Pope Says Church Is ‘Obsessed’ With Gays, Abortion and Birth Control and Pope Warns Church Focusing Too Much on Gays, Abortion, respectively).

I’ve read those juicy spots in context, though I haven’t read the whole, very long interview yet. And once again, I think Rod Dreher has the best early summary I’ve seen thus far.

After recounting his emotional roller coaster (exploding at the New York Times account, then reading the full, nuanced interview and finding it hard to disagree with), he concludes:

A conservative Catholic priest friend wrote to me after reading this:

Words fail.  If this keeps up, everything is going to be much harder. I can’t say it surprises me; the man gave an eighty minute press conference to the assembled press corps on an airplane. But it’s terribly naive, in a time when people graduate from Catholic elementary and high schools, college, and don’t know the most fundamental things about the Faith, not to realize how selectively people will pounce on this kind of thing. I feel sorry for the people in the Church who are working hard on Christian education and formation, trying to repair the damage of forty-five years. The legs are being chopped out from under them.

I think this is exactly right. I love his style — seriously, I do — but I am sure the liberal Pope has been very, very naive in his words here. Look at the weight the media, who amplify his words, put on the homosexuality, contraception, and abortion parts of a very long interview. The world wants to be told, “It’s okay, do what you like.” He no doubt doesn’t mean at all for that to be the lesson of his words, but that’s how they will be received. For liberals and Moralistic Therapeutic Deists within Catholicism, it’s springtime. For traditionalists and conservatives in the Catholic Church, it’s going to be a long winter. It was easy for conservative Catholics to be strong papalists under John Paul II and Benedict. This papacy is going to be a time of trial for them.

People forget, but John Paul II, for much of his papacy, was strong and extremely charismatic. He was adored by millions. But far fewer actually listened to him, and obeyed. Francis will learn.

(Pope Francis: The Era Of JP2 & Benedict Is Over; emphasis added)

As if on cue, Chris Cuoumo on CNN hectored Bill Donohue of the Catholic League, suggesting that the Pope had told him (Donohue) to shut up and he was being a bad Catholic for saying things like “If 81 percent of the victims are male and 100 percent of the victimizers are male, and if 78 percent of the victims are post- pubescent. The word in the English language is not pedophilia, it’s called homosexuality.” Donohue, who’s no shrinking violet, gave as good as he got, but lesser men will buckle under Cuomo’s bullshit line of attack – pretty much Dreher’s exact point.

Then Dreher comes under attack, called (at least by gist) demonic:

But to treat an interview where the Pope urges us to treat sinners with love first with alarm is, for a Christian, demonic. It is a perversion of the good in the name of the good. It is yielding to temptation.

Dreher replies:

The Pope said the Church had become “obsessed” with abortion, gay marriage, and contraception. This makes no sense to me at all. I think the world has become obsessed with these things, and the fact that the Church stands against them at all enrages the world. In my 13 years as a Catholic, I can tell you that if it weren’t for Pope John Paul II speaking on these things, and the Catholic magazines and books I read speaking about them, I barely would have heard the Church’s teaching. I think the world rejoices to hear the Pope agree with them that the Church is “obsessed” with these topics, and should be quiet about them.

(Emphasis added because it seems so true)

I started and titled this item 48 hours or so before publication, and I’ve watched it fulfilling the title in real time. Things are becoming much harder, at least for now.

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“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.