Religion & Spirituality:Christianity
Decline as the Hope of the Church with Dr. Andrew Root
In the United States and elsewhere, including Canada, large numbers of people are leaving church. A recent book, The Great Dechurching, points out that the movement is the largest religious cultural shift in American history. Many writers, professors, and observers have often used the word “decline” to talk about such a phenomenon. The truth is more nuanced. The church is not in decline in much of the world and where it is declining in numbers, North America, etc. there is perhaps much more to the story.
What if the decline of the church is a good thing for faith and the church?
We talk to Dr. Andrew Root about his recent book, Churches and the Crisis of Decline, and how recent and ongoing decline in church attendance might point to something positive. As Root says, the church is more properly the narrator not the star. He argues for a better view of faith in which faith is lived in the world, rather than in opposition to the world. Root mentions that, so often, God is caged into religion and that the changes in the church, that so many see as threatening, are an opportunity to embrace a healthier view of faith.
We found, in reading Andrew’s books and in speaking with him, an enlivening way of seeing and living faith that many people who have pushed away from church will likely experience as hopeful and engaging.
One term to mention; a good portion of Andrew Root’s writing touches on the work of Charles Taylor and his book, A Secular Age. That book asks one question, Why was it virtually impossible to not believe in God 500 years ago and yet in contemporary western culture it has turned the other way around, to where it is much more difficult for people to believe in God? One of the central terms in Taylor’s book is “The Immanent Frame.” The idea here is that the frame of a person’s worldview, the way they saw the world and their place in it, used to be defined by a sense of the transcendent, by a belief in God. Now, even for most people who count themselves as religious, the frame has become immanent, that is, bounded mostly by the scientifically observable and material.
For more of Andrew Root’s work you can check out his website and his work with Homebrewed Christianity.
Books and Articles Referenced:
The Weariness of the Self - Alain Ehrenberg
Bittersweet - Susan Cain
“The Largest and Fastest Religious Shift in America Is Well Underway” - New York Times, June 21, 2023
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