Other than constantly feeling like I am going to get in trouble, the only thing Catholic school ever gave me is the ability to tell people I used to be Catholic. There are a lot of former Catholics out there. Granted, increasingly unpopular stances on issues like homosexuality and birth control, paired with the exposure of a massive sex-abuse scandal, hasn’t won the Church much support in recent years. But disappearing churches and churchgoers aren’t unique to Catholicism—most Christian denominations are suffering from a loss of faith. Yet, despite cries that “Religion Is Dying in America!,” I argue otherwise. In the natural world, a species must adapt to changing conditions if it wants to survive. And churches across America are adapting—surrendering traditional values in the hopes of reaching modern audiences. Here are some of the new (and bizarre) effects this evolution is having on religion.
What do you get when a Houston pastor with a dream meets a religious publisher from Tennessee? A new version of the Bible—this time à la screenplay. Move over Mel Gibson. While not adapted to an actual movie yet, “The Voice,” promises to “engage your imagination in a different way,” says Houston pastor Chris Seay. A team of translators worked alongside poets, writers and musicians to make “The Voice.” In the new version, verses have been rearranged and italics were added to clarify actions, so folks could “read it like a novel.” Take this scene from the Last Supper according to John:
Jesus was becoming visibly distressed.
Jesus: I tell you the truth: one of you will betray me.
The disciples began to stare at one another, wondering who was the unfaithful disciple.
One disciple in particular, who was loved by Jesus, reclined next to Him at the table.
Peter motioned to the disciple at Jesus’ side.
Peter (to the beloved disciple): Find out who the betrayer is.
Beloved Disciple (leaning in to Jesus): Lord, who is it?
Jesus: I will dip a piece of bread in My cup and give it to the one who will betray me.
Gripping stuff. Better add it to the book club or you’re going to hell.
“The Voice” isn’t the only new Bible helping struggling Christians out there. Click2Save: The Digital Ministry Bible is helping Episcopal Church officials step up to the “social media challenge.” Recently, the Episcopal Church challenged each congregation to use social media to reach new and current members. Thanks to Click2Save, Church officials can now learn how to choose and use social media tools more effectively.
One of the co-authors, Elizabeth Drescher, also responsible for this classic, Tweet If You ♥ Jesus: Practicing Church in the Digital Reformation, wrote that, “Social networking platforms enable us to extend the love of God to others in ways that make our mainline Christian traditions more authentically present in the world.” Boiled down to two words, this phenomenon has been dubbed “digital ministry.” Because listening to your pastor preach on Sunday wasn’t enough, so now you can follow him on Twitter … Thanks @digitalministry!
What if I told you that you didn’t even have to go to church to listen to the pastor preach on Sunday? Thanks to Liquid Church and other online churches like it, you don’t. All you need to do is log on through the website and wait for the service to begin.
Personally, I find the thought of online church almost as compelling as those Education Connection commercials with the girl who says, “I may be in my pajamas, but I’m not going to bed. I’m going to college online to get a degree.” So, not really compelling at all.
But who knows? Liquid Church could probably hire that girl for its commercials, change the backdrop on the website, and change the last words to “I’m going to church to get into heaven.” There you have it: cost efficient and creative—almost as creative as Liquid Church’s Virtual Choir. See what the marketing team is doing for this one.
The American Bible Challenge
Question: What is worse than a Bible-based game show? Answer: A Bible-based game show hosted by Jeff Foxworthy. For one hour each week, you will have to endure Foxworthy quizzing Americans on the Bible’s narrative. Contestants work in teams and play for a charitable organization. The show is set to premiere August 23rd on the Game Show Network.
Priests Take to Billboards
Much like America, Europe is also noticing dwindling mass sizes and a growing disdain for religion, particularly Catholicism. To make matters worse, the majority of priests are over the age of 60, meaning churches must also cope with thinning clerical ranks. So a Lower Austrian diocese bishop did what any bishop would do: He ran a billboard campaign to recruit priests. Eighty large billboards and 300 smaller electric placards were mounted in the province of 1.6 million people. The advertising company that launched the campaign said, “We developed the concept to simply stage people of the church—priests and laymen—like in a blockbuster in a movie theater.”
Coming soon to a roadside near you?
Atheists Get the Spotlight
On Friday, Minnesota minor league baseball team St. Paul Saints (the team is partly owned by comedian Bill Murray and has a history of unusual promotions) put atheists in the spotlight. Saints GM Derek Sharrer told the Associated Press that since the Saints had hosted several religiously themed events before, including Christian concerts and a Jewish Heritage Night, it would be hypocritical to tell the atheists no. The team became the “Mr. Paul Aints” for the night.