During the past 50 years, membership in nearly every American religious denomination has been in decline. Pundits argue many causes, but I see one primary reason from which all others derive – relevance.
Our military-industrial complex has kept America at war my entire life. Growing up on movies about World War II, these wars have lacked clear concepts outlining why we were at war, who the enemy actually was, and what would constitute victory. Generations of military men and women returned home with no clear sense of purpose, suffering horrific injuries and emotional trauma. Unlike WWII veterans, these men and women received no ticker tape parades, and none of the well-earned rewards of past patriots serving their country.
Our nation faced other problems – institutionalized racism, homophobia, and gender inequality; unchecked capitalism causing unstable markets and recessions; and the near complete erosion of any public confidence that their government works honestly and ethically in their best interest, among other things. And through it all, the church has stood largely mute.
Today, America remains embroiled in multiple senseless wars; the rights of our citizens face constant attack; and government officials seem to have lost any sense of right and wrong, or what constitutes moral leadership. Why, then, should we be surprised that today’s young adults stay away from churches, looking elsewhere for relevance in a country that has lost its moral bearings?
That is why a Justice Center at our church matters. As people of faith, we must reclaim the moral high ground on which the founders built this nation. They were imperfect, but their vision was bold and unique. And they recognized the value of a free church, independent of government control or influence, as a guardian of the spiritual values of the nation.
The time has come for us to show the people that we have not abandoned that responsibility. Our churches must once again become relevant institutions challenging oppression, bigotry, violence – any barrier to the supreme commandment of every faith tradition – love your neighbor.
I look forward to helping build that Justice Center here in Louisville and showing the people in our community that our church still stands for freedom and equality, democracy and compassion.