PAYAP UNIVERSITY HOLDS A COMMENCEMENT AGAIN
After the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted gatherings of all sorts, with the relaxation of regulations in Thailand in effect, Payap University conducted a full-fledged commencement event on the days surrounding November 27, 2022 for both the 44th and 45th graduating classes.
The university and several individuals posted pictures on social media which give us a view of commencement traditions here in Thailand. Some of these are not found in Europe or North America.
THE MAIN EVENT
The commencement service is all about presentation of diplomas. The service began at 6 p.m. after the daily playing of the Thai National Anthem and lowering of the flag. Then the procession began.
At Payap University, owned and operated by the Protestant CHURCH OF CHRIST IN THAILAND FOUNDATION, the commencement service was conducted as a Christian worship service. So, the cross and candle carried by chaplains were at the head of the procession across campus into the Saisantham Arena. The out-going Vice Moderator of the CCT was the first official in the procession, followed by the President of the university and the president of the Board of Trustees and the president of the Support Committee.
Banners for the university and for each of the schools and colleges were carried into the arena and formed a colorful backdrop behind the faculty.
It is customary for the governing boards of universities in Thailand to wear university robes in commencement ceremonies, with 4 arm-bands. The President’s robe has gold embellishments and he is wearing a chain of office. The President of the Board has a white bow on the shoulders. The Chiang Mai Governor or his representative offered congratulations.
Graduate students are seated in front, with undergraduates seated behind precisely in the order in which their names will be called. The service begins with a prayer and then the senior Vice President reads a report on the university’s accomplishments, ending with the number of graduates and this cohort. Deans from each college read the names of the graduates.
At Payap the number of graduates is not massive so there is no sense of urgency. In larger universities the march across the platform is rapid and continuous.
It is essential that the moment the diploma is received be captured on film. Graduation photos are the most important reason for the commencement ceremony, in the minds of most. That is many times more important when a member of royalty is presenting the diplomas. At Payap that role is done by the university president.
Following the presentation of diplomas, the President of the University Board of Trustees gave a charge to the graduates, the Moderator of the CCT gives a blessing, and the head of the student body leads the students in a pledge to uphold the values of their education and of the institution which is not their alma mater.
The orchestra of the Payap University College of Music provided the processional and recessional marches. Because of our excellent college, music is featured during commencement.
Throughout the awarding of diplomas, Thai music provided accompaniment.
The choir of the College of Music sang an anthem, and the Royal Anthem.
Some family members were seated on bleachers in the stadium, but most were outside watching the ceremony on large monitors.
The Department of Communication Arts provided television coverage throughout the evening.
Editing and direction was from a room above the stadium. The commencement ceremony was available online to those who wanted it, anywhere in the world!
Each faculty and college provided a form of “closing” sometime during the last few days leading up to the commencement on Saturday night. Those gatherings of graduating students usually included talks by faculty members and a student, as well as a video review of campus life and memories.
Friday was the final dress rehearsal, followed by group pictures, including photos of each graduating group together with faculty and university administrators.
The university conducted a Baccalaureate Service prior to the Commencement. Graduate students received their hoods in the Henry Luce Chapel. The seminary held a commissioning service for graduates entering or continuing in Christian service vocations.
It would be difficult to over-emphasize the importance of pictures. Most students want their graduation to be memorable. Pictures are counted on to do that.
Students want pictures of themselves in robes with as many friends, teachers, and relatives in as many locations on campus and around town as possible. These photo-opportunities are also times for giving gifts. Flowers, stuffed animals, and garlands of cash are customary.
Each college and faculty set up a backdrop for these congratulatory pictures.
Here a student is surrounded by a circle of colleagues who chant and posture in a way that is difficult to interpret except to say that it signifies the end of this relationship and the promise of a relationship going on, as a new class becomes seniors.
As the USA celebrates Thanksgiving, I want to reflect on gratitude. It is a vast subject, so I will limit my comments to four matters which stimulate my thankfulness this year.
LOVE I am thankful for love. Not only the love I have received but the love I see so many others extending to ones they love. It is, as the song of my youth declared, a many-splendored thing. It overcomes almost every adversary.
The opposite of love is not hate. It is indifference.
So my prayer of gratitude this Thanksgiving is that we stay in love with each other no matter the obstacles.
ART I am thankful for art. I am grateful for those who transform daily endeavors into expressions of such kindness, joy, and hope that the beauty of everything that surrounds them blooms. I am thankful as well for the creativity of children, which is universal until it is stifled. And for the prodigious talent of those whose art is the epitome of cultural value at the moment.
The opposite of art is not ugliness. It is indifference.
So my prayer of gratitude this Thanksgiving is that music, color, and sensations of profundity infuse us.
FAITH I am thankful for faith. I am grateful for the way faith serves as a center-pole upon which to attach and criticize our understandings and aspirations. I am particularly thankful for diversity of faith as expressed in religions and ecstacy.
The opposite of faith is not heresy. It is indifference.
So my prayer of gratitude this Thanksgiving is that optimistic hope will prevail so that divinity may be recognized when it is encountered.
LIFE I am thankful for life. I am grateful for the opportunity to experience bonding and letting go, stability and change, past and future (without which the present is vapid). I am unspeakably grateful for others who share life in myriad ways. We exist as we coexist. Life is so powerful that our most common view of heaven or life beyond death is reunion with those we loved.
The opposite of life is not death. It is indifference.
So my prayer of gratitude this Thanksgiving is that we expand our concern for every human and sensient being and for the environment that supports us. And I am grateful for you of whom I am thinking and remembering this Thanksgiving.
[And for Elie Wiesel whose memorable quote on indifference appeared in US News and World Report, Oct 27, 1986.]
Image source: Forbes.com
Wizards have a stiff, stout, staff
which they use along the way.
Rarely do they mount a broom
'spite of what some people say.
Witches, mind, prefer a wand
which they wave at this or that
causing havoc magickly,
riding brooms behind their cat.
Dragons lurk where wizards are.
It's no wonder that we found
magick populations shrink
when there's dragon herds around.
HAVE A HAPPY HALLOWEEN
[This concludes the 10th year of posting blog essays and sundry ruminations. Thanks to my webmaster for managing this blog over the past decade.]
October 11 was the 60th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. In his sermon on that occasion and elsewhere, Pope Francis has repeatedly called on the Church to recover “the spirit of the Second Vatican Council.” A month ago, the eleventh assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) was held in Karlsruhe, Germany, 11 August to 8 September. Pleas for peace and unity are prominent in both the Pope’s pronouncements and the WCC’s statements.
It is significant that so little of the agendas of either Vatican II or the WCC have been accomplished in the past 6 decades. That can be because these agendas were very optimistic and bold. But I have a darker suspicion that institutional change is essentially an oxymoron. Institutions exist to conserve. Even on the one item, church unity, no substantial progress has been made. In fact, the very first steps toward that were abandoned before they could be taken.
I had a little window onto what happened.
A close friend of mine, the Rev. Dr. Lewis A. Briner, a professor at McCormick Theological Seminary, was chosen to be one of the Protestant observers at Vatican II sessions. He came away very excited about the prospects for reconciliation and reunification. The initial project was to be a common lectionary, a 3-year cycle of scripture readings that all churches could use, and which would be the core for liturgy that both Protestants and Catholics would share.
There were progressive groups on both the Protestant and Catholic sides that were enthusiastic about this achievable project of a common lectionary.
It was a time of fervor for healing denominational divisions and finding inter-religious common ground. On December 4, 1960, Eugene Carson Blake, long-time Stated Clerk of the United Presbyterian Church (USA), preached a historic appeal for reunion at the Episcopal Cathedral in San Francisco. That led to the creation of a Consultation on Church Union (COCU). Meanwhile, mergers and reunions were taking place that led to the United Church of Christ, the United Methodist Church, the united Church of South India, the Uniting Church of Australia, and several others. COCU rode the wave toward a mass-reunion. The WCC actively encouraged this movement, which also embraced better relationships with Jewish and Orthodox groups and reached out to Muslims.
Vatican II seemed to open the door for Roman Catholics to join.
While Vatican II was still ongoing, Pope John XXIII died (in 1963). Pope Paul VI (1963-78) continued Vatican II to its conclusion in 1965. But he fought a backlash from those opposed to changes in the mass, in particular, and had to walk a thin line on many matters. He will be remembered for his passionate initiatives and travels to make connections and have religions work together for peace. But he had to compromise. That was ominous.
Despite the momentum toward unity, there was already, by 1970, just 5 years after the end of Vatican II, the first hesitation, barely noticed.
Dr. Briner returned from Rome full of energy for liturgical reform built on the common lectionary. But by 1969 he was disappointed and bitter. The meetings to forge a common lectionary were hindered by Rome from making any changes to the readings prescribed for Roman Catholic churches. Pope Paul had to juggle his priorities and it seems that he opted to fight for modernizing the Mass. The common lectionary became essentially a matter of accepting the Catholic version. So, work on a common lectionary continued without Catholic participation. To insiders like Dr. Briner, the prospects for a fully-united church were dim if there couldn’t even be agreement about a list of scripture readings.
Pope Paul VI was replaced by Pope John Paul I who hoped to reinvigorate the goals of Vatican II, but he died after only 34 days on the throne of St. Peter. His successors steadfastly worked to restrict the changes inspired by Vatican II.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, COCU’s goals were abbreviated as the tide shifted away from merger and unity. By the beginning of the 21st century COCU ceased to function and was replaced in 2002 with Churches Uniting in Christ (CUIC). Its focus was on reconciliation between predominately white and predominately Black denominations in the USA, aimed at recognizing and overcoming racism in American churches. Institutional mergers were no longer on the table.
The WCC has followed this same arc. Work toward unity is now about united efforts toward environmental welfare, justice, and peace. The WCC’s most recent assembly denounced the Russian invasion of Ukraine and apartheid in Israel, for example, without giving consideration as to how to work toward institutional mergers or even how to strengthen associations. Our Christian Council of Asia appears to be losing financial support and cutting back on its activities, year after year.
However, on October 11, this year, after the celebratory Mass commemorating the opening of Vatican II 60 years ago, the general secretary of the Synod of Bishops commented that “the spirit of the Second Vatican Council” continues to guide the church. This has caused theologians to ask, “How does Vatican II guide the Church?” Is it through its written pronouncements (called “magisterial documents”) ALONE as Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict insisted? Indeed, the phrase “the spirit of Vatican II” was deplored by both popes. They insisted there was no basis for the church to pay attention to anything not written and proclaimed formally, and those magisteria were restricted in their language. Now, it appears Francis is interpreting the Council differently, challenging conservatives, saying that the significance of Vatican II is the impulse to change and reform.
Perhaps this is another window open to let in fresh air.
If the spirit of Vatican II is a spirit of change, could the spirit of ecumenism which burned so brightly after World War I and II also blaze again? Colleagues of mine have chided me for pronouncing ecumenism dead, killed by rampant nationalism and tribalism. The ecumenical movement is alive, they tell me, moving forward with more important objectives than institutional mergers. Everywhere that the church is valid and vital, the work of Christ is healing wounds, supporting victims, mitigating hatred, reducing injustice, and promoting peace. When institutionalism gets in the way, it is bypassed. We should rejoice that the current generation of Christians no longer shares our octogenarian fascination with obsolete structures.
Now begins a festival season for Buddhists of North Thailand.
Today, the 15th day of the waxing moon, the full moon of Uposatha Day, is the end of the rainy season confinement when monks are restricted from normal travels and stay in their monasteries.
There are two narratives related to this day. The first describes how the season of confinement, called "phansaa" referring to the rainy season, came to be. As the number of monks attending the Lord Buddha began to increase, their traveling about sometimes trampled on the rice planted during the rainy season, so villagers appealed to the Lord Buddha to help them. He responded by instructing his disciples to remain in the monasteries for the season which lasts for about 90 days.
The second narrative is that during the 7th of these seasons after his enlightenment the Lord Buddha traveled to heaven to interpret the Dharma (the Word of release from bondage to error, and thereby release from the endless cycle of birth-death-reincarnation-suffering and death). He preached to his mother and the other divine beings throughout this season. Then, having brought his mother and myriads of these beings to enlightenment, he descended from Indra's heaven.
The rainy season is subdued, but as it ends festivals begin.
On this very day, people go to the temples early in the morning to make merit and to provide offerings of food in behalf of their deceased parents and ancestors.
When that is over, the monks of the sub-district gather in a temple to renew their vows. This is regularly done, but especially on this day. A protege describes it this way: 'Another name for today, "Awk Phansaa" is "Wan Maha Bowanna". Monks of every status "bowanna" (invite one another to give advice about unbecoming behavior) but it must be mutually compassionate based on equality because the word "bowanna" is translated as "permission" or "allowance".' The implication is that the "bowanna" is not forced but is requested. I am pretty sure layers of meaning indicate that through this event monks are released from confinement, released from guilt, and released from complicated suspicions that disrupt monastic life. Dr. Kenneth Wells reports that once a year the bowanna ritual is substituted for the usual recital of the monastic rules which is done fortnightly. At this time the monks are given opportunity to mention faults, rumors of faults, and to admonish one another. In order of seniority, they say "I make bowanna before the Sangha regarding anything they have seen, heard, or suspected (concerning me). May you be merciful and tell me. When I have seen the fault I will correct it." If the group is large, they may agree to make this as a group. In this way the monks make themselves ready to resume their normal duties of disseminating Buddhism.
For the next few days some monks go visiting colleagues, often accompanied by laity.
One more festival is worth mention, as it is related to the Lord Buddha's descent from heaven. In some temples this will be reiterated with a Dhevo-hanna ceremony. The most impressive of these that I have ever seen was quite near our village. On the crest of a ridge of hills stands Wat Doi Sapan-U with gigantic standing images of the Buddha facing the 4 cardinal directions. At an early hour, a line of monks and novices descend a long stairway to meet laity at the base. The festival was suspended because of COVID, but we think it might be coming again soon. For a description of the Dhevo-hanna or "Thay-wo" please refer to my blog of October 8, 2017: http://www.kendobson.asia/blog/beyond-spectacle
In my 60 years as a Presbyterian pastor I have heard a lot of reasons given for people wanting to retain membership in a particular church. These are in addition to the assumed question, "Why are you a Christian?" The answer to that is usually "Because I believe in God," or "Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior."
The top-ten reasons are (in no particular order):
1. To uphold a family tradition. "Our family has been in this church for generations."
2. The church performs valuable community services. "We feed the hungry."
3. Children need a religious dimension in their lives. "We are here for the kids."
4.To make a contribution for a better world. "This is a Peace Church."
5. The worship services are inspiring and stimulating. "The sermons are great. The music is uplifting. The liturgy is inspirational."
6. The church building is important. "Our grandfather helped build this church. Everywhere I look there are memories. Mom is interred in the columbarium downstairs."
7. The church is an ethnic center. "This is the most important Taiwanese gathering place." "This is almost like going back to Seoul." "I want the kids to speak some Urdu."
8. The church has civic importance. "This is where the leaders are."
9. A funeral is coming. "Grandmother is comforted, knowing that the pastor knows her and we will take care of everything."
10. "I am valuable here. These are MY people." "That singles group is the only safe place for someone like me." "I am needed and I am committed to my ordination as a deacon / choir member / etc."
Image credit: Oblate School of Theology website.
Pen was born on July 19, 2013 at 4 am. From the beginning it was obvious that Pen was physically handicapped. She had a hair-lip and cleft palate. These were surgically correctable. But after 2 months the pediatricians became concerned about her development. DNA tests showed that she had a rare genetic abnormality: autosomal recessive spinal muscular atrophy (level 2), "floppy baby syndrome." Pen has never been able to sit, move her arms or legs, speak, or swollow, or even cough or sneeze.
Within her first year she required hospitalization 3 times. She was given a tracheotomy and she was attached to oxygen enhancement equipment from then on. She was fed liquid formula through a tube. Close members of the family took training to care for Pen and her like-support equipment.
Pen nearly died 3 times. On August 12, 2022 her equipment failed for a few minutes, long enough "to kill half her brain," the cognitive half. She was in the provincial Pediatric Intensive Care Unit until September 2 when we brought her home. On September 12 at 4 pm Pen's heart stopped and she died peacefully. Pen lived among us for 9 years, 24 days, and 12 hours.
The family and community are busy with funeral arrangements with a final service on September 15.
There is another, and more significant, part to Pen's legacy.
1. No one in the extended family has provided us as much chance to make merit through selfless caring for others. Folklore in North Thailand tells us that she was sent among us to do this, as no one else in the family has ever done in equal measure.
2. Pen was a teacher of patience by her example of dealing with fate serenely. Compared to her our troubles are puny and temporary. We had Pen right here in our midst all the time showing us that we are grasping at trivialities. This lesson she provided throughout her sustained lifetime. (She lived 3 times longer than impressed doctors had predicted, thanks, they said, to the family's dedicated focus on her. I want to give credit also to medical staff, and prayer groups, and to donors of help over the years.)
3. Pen was one of us. She was not an "other" or a strange character with whom we could choose to exist at a remote distance or to ignore. We learned not shudder as we tended to her every need. She could not provide for herself in any of the ways we take for granted. She demonstrated that we, too, are dependent on one another, and without all of us we are diminished.
4. Even her death has taught us something. We were surprised by grief. After the long hospitalization and the struggle we imagined Pen was enduring we thought her passing would be a relief to her and us. But the grief taught us that we will miss her, and that she was important. Life will be very different without her, especially for her mother and grandparents who were her primary caregivers.
Pen's legacy is the lesson that we leave the mark of our impact. We make a difference. We are not entirely gone when we die.
WHAT ARE THE BOUNDS OF FREE SPEECH?
The attempted assassination of Salman Rushdie on August 12 has reignited debate about freedom of speech. 33 years ago, he wrote a book entitled “The Satanic Verses” which included fictional mention of Mohammed. Three months later, on Valentine’s Day 1989 the Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran delivered a fatwa, a religious decree, calling on “all brave Muslims of the world [to] kill [the author] without delay.” Although, official denunciations of Salman Rushdie have diminished, the fatwa remains and finally someone tried to murder him and nearly succeeded.
Rushdie was attacked because of what he wrote and because of what the Ayatollah wrote.
Is that fatwa protected speech in the USA and elsewhere? It might be, because it is promulgated as a religious act. I remember a preacher recently proposed stoning gays to death; it was widely reported. Were I to try to post a suggestion that we do mortal damage to the ____ (fill in the blank with the name of a national leader) I would be banned from social media and arrested by the police. I am not an Ayatollah.
Can we have both unconditional respect for everyone’s dignity and also unlimited free speech?
The implied demands of the two are mutually exclusive. It is currently self-evident that respect for everyone includes respect for their feelings, so restraint is not only advocated but required. Subject matter and terminology that offends or consigns a recipient to any type of unhappiness or discomfort must be avoided, and the perpetrator must bear responsibility along with all those who supported the perpetrator into the position where such injurious expressions were possible. There are penalties for those who transgress. They include relegating the offender to shunning and rejection.
Teachers have been fired and schools have been attacked for such things as suggesting that students think again about a historical event or a literary classic. The State of Florida has now made it illegal to “say the word gay” in any school in the state. Ethnic references can be branded as slurs and academics must take care.
Reports about these incidents are so cautionary that anyone who will write or speak to an unrestricted audience tends to hesitate and self-censor. Nesrine Malik commented, “The enemies today aren’t Muslims or beardy clerics, but those described as social justice warriors, whose overzealousness in protecting marginalized identities wields what some equate to a fatwa: self-censoring, no-platforming, ‘cancellation’.” [“Admire Rushdie as a writer and a champion – but don’t forget he is a man of flesh and blood”, The Guardian, 15 Aug 2022]
Self-censorship, too, is a limitation of expression. It may not be an outright breach of freedom of speech as understood by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or the First Amendment to the US Constitution which guarantees freedom of religion and freedom of speech. But it is a principle in practice that has power. It is not entirely a voluntary observation of social boundaries since a significant motive is to avoid consequences that would otherwise, presumably, be forthcoming. This self-censoring feels compelled. Things are being withheld.
Encapsulated sounds do not reverberate. Censorship deprives society of unspecified contributions that come from robust debate and generation of alternative ideas neither debater anticipated. Most of the time this loss of potential contributions is too abstract and hypothetical to influence censors’ decisions. They are un-swayed by what might have been.
Yet it is also obvious that some expression is corrosive and inflammatory. These eruptions may be caused by hate or ignorance; the one is largely voluntary but the other is not. The results, once set in motion, are irretrievable and too often irremediable.
The antisemitic rants of a small clique in Germany in the 1920s led to the Holocaust. Very recent outbreaks of violence in the USA are too numerous to try to list. But it was rhetoric, first of all, that led to a mob invading the US Capitol on January 6, 2020. At the local level, a hateful remark, even if it is a lie, can destroy some part of a target’s life if not all of it.
In any case, context matters and context evolves. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, published in 1884 was a remarkable work that abolished racial prejudices by narrating them. Today, a lot of the language of that time is considered derogatory and forbidden. In the UK The Satanic Verses and its author are protected, but not in Iran. Context triumphs, almost always.
Religious context, unfortunately, evolves reactively. It is inevitably slower than culture at large. When a religion has become cultic (with authority to control social behavior and with actions that are not accountable to any higher power) the cult tends to imagine threats with supernatural origins now invading the human domain. They take it as a holy duty to combat threats with all the weapons at their disposal. It is well to include in this category even secular cults such as those which elevate a supreme leader or royalty to a level beyond criticism.
This is how blasphemy supersedes all lesser expressions. So it is, that written and spoken utterances come to be considered as pernicious as physical acts of violence, or more so. After all, a bomb decimates a target and is over and done with, but a work of art exerts influence who-knows-where.
As the culture war of the twenty-first century continues, the battles become personal. Rather than posing ideas and concepts for dialogue, the first thought is to ferret out illicit thinkers for castigation. A transgression, even if it is a blunder, potentially invalidates everything the person has done, unless that work has been simply massive and renders the person beyond cancellation. Circumstances matter, of course. Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s writings (and his associations) got him killed in a Nazi prison just days before the war ended that would have spared him, but he is considered a saint. Winston Churchill would be a villain if some people had their say, but that demotion is unlikely. Harry Potter (i.e. the importance of the books and films) still elevates J.K Rowling above most of the flood of disdain she let loose for her persistent rants against trans people, but she keeps undermining herself and reminding us how much she is endangering people who used to love her. Robert E Lee is not the hero he was a hundred years ago.
Unsurprisingly, Salman Rushdie has been a leader in the freedom of expression movement that proposes, somewhere, there is a clear difference between writing which peaceably challenges and that which violently devastates. Beyond that which is verifiably true, there is that which expands our experience. Writing which makes life safer and more understandable must be protected if society is to prosper. Fiction must not be taken as an assault on any non-fictional reality, although it may pry open new options for consideration. Academic writing is legitimate on any subject as long as the applicable rules of the discipline are carefully adhered to. Propaganda, even sheer opinion in behalf of a suspicious cause, must be allowed if it is understood to be the conjecture that it is and is not proposed as something else (which it often is).
Opposition to unfettered legitimate free expression is increasingly vigorous. I am persuaded it is time to defend the truth, the right to search for still more truth, and the right to say what we have found. The context for doing this must be mutual respect of everyone’s dignity. Survival is at stake.
I have written on related topics. Links to those blog-essays are as follows:
57 Years ago today, August 17, 1965, I arrived in Chiang Mai on a DC-12, one of Thai Air’s 3 flights a week from Bangkok. (There are 3 flights an hour, these days). I was met by Dr. E. John Hamlin, principal of the Thailand Theological Seminary and the entire student body. We stopped at Wat Suan Dawk for my first glimpse at the religious mystery I have now spent a lifetime investigating.
Arriving in Chiang Mai was like stepping into a totally different setting, with an almost completely different cast of characters and only a rudimentary script. I was told in a hundred ways to improvise. I turned out, to my great surprise, to be OK at improvisation.
The drama of my life has had a few radical twists. August 17 was when I first caught sight of the setting for several separate acts to follow. After life as an Illinois town and farm boy, I came to Chiang Mai, and then became an American pastor in Illinois, before returning to Chiang Mai, and again going back to Illinois. Now I am back in Chiang Mai, and this act may be the final one. It is lacking most of the dramatic challenges of previous acts, which is good.
I learned one thing in this extended sojourn: One cannot be sure of what is to follow.
THE TOP 9 REASONS THE CHURCH IS DECLINING
1. Gen X has withdrawn because church services are boring.
2. Churches are not valuable because they are not doing anything for the world and for people that can't be done better outside the church.
3. Conservative churches, especially nationalistic ones, have distorted Christianity.
4. Sexual malpractice and worse (as well as cover-ups) by clergy have driven people away.
5. The church's unrenounced history of suppression of minorities has exposed the church's hypocrisy.
6. The church continues to reject many spiritual practices that people have found valuable.
7. The church is no longer a social space where people expect to intersect with those who they think it might be important to know.
8. The central narratives, including those in the Bible, have lost relevance and no longer seem "all that important" to have children learn.
9. Being a church member is no longer central to one's identity.
THE CHURCH DOESN'T MATTER enough to retain as many people as it used to do.
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.