I have developed a habit of posting verbose, rambling comments on stories that inspire me to want to respond. Fortunately for the sake of today’s On Point listeners, the line was busy when I tried to call in and share my comment today (I’ve been told by my dad that I don’t talk in complete sentences, and he has a point…:)).
Roger Finke and Rodney Stark wrote a book called The Churching of America 1776-1990: Winners and Losers in Our Religious Economy. The thesis of their research is that churches are more successful if their membership requirements/demands are more stringent. In other words, the more that you have to do to be a member of a church and to sustain your membership, the “more committed” you become to the institution. When membership requirements are relaxed, such as those that came about with the Vatican II, what they saw was a decline in membership.
It seemed that a lot of the discussion on this show was centered around a decline in faith in America as it pertains to people’s commitment or attachment to institutions of faith. If you assume that people today, especially the younger generations, are turned away from faith because they associate it with strict, uncompromising institutional dogma, then Finke and Stark’s thesis becomes relevant to this discussion.
The shame of it all is that I think that the discussion really needs to be centered around faith as it pertains the human consciousness and spirit, and that this understanding of faith applies to every single one of us and simply cannot be ignored. I believe that in order for us to address the problems that we are facing today, a transformation of the human consciousness and spirit is required, and faith, therefore, becomes necessary. However, the transformation of our consciousness begins within ourselves. Religious institutions CAN be a pathway that aids in the transformation of the human consciousness, but this transformation MUST begin within and does not require membership or participation in a religious institution (and religious institutions that focus on external claims of salvation actually are destructive and prevent people from finding the salvation that comes with transformation in their consciousness in the here, now, and present day).