My Advice To Priests And Preachers.

It’s not that any priest/preacher cares what I think. Nevertheless, I’m going to pass along what they should say to their flocks and why.  The reason for my advice is the dropping numbers of young people in the various branches of the faith.  There is a large exodus of Hispanic young people from Catholicism, the Southern Baptist Convention drops by ten percent each year and so on.

My advice is counterintuitive to most priests and preachers.  They attend seminaries where they learn about their faith’s dogma.  People ask them about issues of theology all the time and they are considered experts.  Clergy are prewired to state the truth as seen by their branch.

Contrast the approach of espousing “the truth” to what I hear the United Church of Christ (UCC) I attend a few times a year.  Preachers there often say, “That’s the way it seems to me,” or “That’s the interpretation that works for me.”

That qualification or disclaimer fits our current culture to a tee.  Dogmatic, “I know the truth,” has been replaced today with, “New ideas are still coming in.”

The fundamental problem is the economics of religion.  Clergy have been taught to think of themselves as “producers” of theology and those in the pews “consumers”.  In reality, those is the pews feel confident to decide theology for themselves–they are producers.

My advice to preachers/priests is to convey the truth.  That is you are not certain what the truth is.

72 Responses

  1. Adam Heckathorn

    This post reminds Me of a book by Barbara Tuchman The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam (1984) It’s all about People working against their own best interest. The lesson I got from it is don’t hold Your breath if Your waiting for People to do what’s in Their own best interest.

  2. Matt Noah

    The United Church of Christ is (1) not united to anything, (2) not a church and (3) has little of nothing to do with Christ. But to borrow from your essay, “that’s the way it seems to me.” And you failed to mention how few people are attracted to the UCC. That is much more revealing than any statistic about Catholics of Southern Baptists.

    China is about to become the national with the largest number of Christians according to

  3. jesse

    I would have to disagree and state that what you are spouting is nothing more than atheist propaganda designed to disinterest and disillusion young people by essentially sending them this message. “Don’t go to church, don’t have faith, because none of your peers are doing it and if you do they’ll think you’re crazy.” It’s typical of the attack upon people of faith by atheists these days. I don’t see christians going out of their way to attack atheists. Why is it that atheists feel the need to attack christians?

    1. H.P.D

      Boy are you wrong, you don’t have to be an Atheist to get attacked, just be a non believer. I have hard time keeping the wing nut Christians out of my computer, I am constantly cleaning out Christian garbage

      1. Fr. James

        How exactly do they get into your computer? Or do you mean you attack them and they respond? I suppose if you end freedom of speech your problem will be solved eh?

      2. entech

        I know what you mean Drifter, the internet has become so reliant on advertising, if you query a subject things vaguely related start creeping on to your screen, I have put the same query into another persons computer and got a whole different set of advertising. So if you make queries about religion and so on, just like anyone else with something to sell you start to get inundated with special offers for religious products and services. Just goes to show He really is omnipresent.

    1. entech

      Smithsonian Drops Plans for “Atheism America” Exhibits
      Posted about 7 days ago
      Washington, DC–After several weeks of preliminary preparation, the Smithsonian Institution has decided to scrap a series of exhibits that would have shown the history and culture of Atheism in the United States, after a number of organizations lashed out against their plans… and a few had even vowed violent retribution.

      This is the beginning of the piece, later quoting some politician
      Edison was asked if he felt the anonymous death threats sent to museum staff were going too far. “No, I don’t think so. Not really

      Apart from this read anything posted by one Fr.James and at least half of that posted by Henry.

      1. jesse

        So a few crazies constitute the entire religion? We could say that about the religion of atheism could we not?

        1. Wolfy32

          Exactly. What is athiesm vs. agnosticism, vs. ignosticism, vs. Christianity? I doubt we could even find an agreement on definition yet anyone not christian is grouped into if you’re not for us, you’re against us category.

          Many Christians do really have a self importance / narcisstic undertone to them. As if the whole world has nothing better to do than plot the demise of Christianity… I don’t understand why Christians think they’re so important that anyone not for them is obviously out to persecute and get them… Becuase what else do they have to do? They couldn’t possibly have jobs, families of their own, or worry about the chaotic future like anyone else. No, they spend their time in some evil science lab underground plotting maniacly how to rid the world of Christians.

          Hmm.. I’m wondering, do I make leftovers for supper tonight or do I make something new? Thoughts?

  4. jesse

    You also didn’t answer my question. “Why is it that atheists feel the need to attack christians?”

    1. entech

      More to the point why do Christians feel that any disagreement is an attack, nothing but total surrender to your ideas and subservience to your God is acceptable anything else is an attack.

      To the vast majority of Christians that do not actually think like this I apologise for the broad brush. Just a little childlike retaliation on my part, an over reaction to stupidity.

  5. jesse

    I would say that your definition of disagreement is extremely biased. Blatant harassment and draconian demonizing on the part of atheists would be more accurate.

    1. entech

      I don’t agree, I think you are exaggerating. But, on the hand I could be wrong just as you could.

    2. Jesse 1:49 “Blatant harassment and draconian demonizing on the part of atheists would be more accurate.”

      Debate is an art form, and different people see different things in it. I myself do not see “blatant harassment and draconian demonizing” when what we point to is “truth” without verification or evidence. In addition, we freely admit the is the possibility, while very unlikely, we could be wrong. There has yet to be a Christian on this site open to the possibility he/she might be wrong. Others, such as yourself, may see harassment when such questions are asked.

      Anyway, under the category of Faith on the AreaVoices Directory there are about 15 sites that talk up religion and but one, this one, that talks about Freethinking.

      Glad to have you posting here.

      1. jesse

        To believe that one may be wrong and be a christian would be a denial of you’re faith. Then one might as well not believe at all. It’s pretty black and white.

        1. jesse 5:05 “To believe that one may be wrong and be a Christian would be a denial of your faith. Then one might as well not believe at all. It’s pretty black and white.”

          I understand some Christians think in that way. That’s why I pointed out the UCC approach is counterintuitive to the majority of clergy. Yet, expressing some reluctance to proclaiming there is but one truth is a way to turn off young people. Proclaiming there is but one truth is hard to swallow when there are variety of Christian views and the thousands of other gods that are now and have been worshipped.

          1. Wanna B Sure

            Re. …”variety of Christian views…” Actually as mentioned several times in the past, the “variety” is quite limited in the essentials of Christianity. Almost al the “variety” comes in the areas of ecclesiastics, (rites, rituals, governance, and practices.) Also, as mentioned earlier, another area of freedom, ( variety), of Christian conscience, is “adiaphora”, Indifferent things, neither forbidden or commanded. Strong Congregational polity church groups such as the UCC allow for much freedom in these areas. You may notice that the “What We Believe” section of the UCC declares the doctrine of the Trinity, Baptism, and the sacrament of Communion. These are “essentials” in any church that declares itself to be Christian.

          2. Wanna 6:00 “..UCC declares the doctrine of the Trinity, Baptism and the sacrament of Communion.”

            That is correct. Unlike Matt, you have read about UCC.

            A devout Catholic who would have attended the communion ritual I did two weeks ago would have been appaulled. Twelve year olds serving communion to guitar folk music might not pass muster.

          3. Wanna B Sure

            Jon; Actually, if you were more familiar with the RCC, you would have known that the guitar has been used in Catholic liturgy for many years, especially since Vatican 2. Some more, some less. They would however questioned 12 yr. olds in the actual serving. Alter boys and laymen sometimes assist the priest or Deacon in the distribution, not the consecration.

          4. Wanna B Sure

            Jon; !!!!! You are free to disagree , but do you have to be so disrespectful with the “blood and guts”?

          5. Wanna 7:12 Jon!! You are free to disagree, but do you have to be so disrespectful with the “blood and guts?”

            I won’t use blood and guts again. Honestly, I thought communion was a symbolic sharing of the blood and flesh of Jesus. I never heard what part of his body we were sharing. Maybe it’s understood to be muscle tissue and not guts.

          6. Wanna B Sure

            Is it such a slow news day you feel the need to provoke? If you want respect for atheism, man up, and be a better example.

        2. Adam Heckathorn

          Jesse I don’t know Your denomination but I’ve noticed most People get their Religion from Their Parents Have You? Wouldn’t it be reasonable to assume if You were born in some place like Saudi Arabia You would think Mohamed taught the truth?

      2. entech

        Jon, this post of yours seems to have gone wrong from the start.
        Jesse To believe that one may be wrong and be a christian would be a denial of you’re faith
        In response to your
        … a Christian on this site open to the possibility he/she might be wrong
        Jesse of course is correct to deny your faith would automatically exclude you, Christianity has faith as one of its mainstays.
        People like Jesse and Matt often deride freethinkers for not being as open minded as they claim to be, yet we come across expressions like “denial of faith”. It is the very concept of faith which is the antithesis of freethought.

        Jon, you were a bit naughty talking of blood and guts, the correct ‘interpretation’ is The manner in which the change occurs, the Catholic Church teaches, is a mystery: “The signs of bread and wine become, in a way surpassing understanding, the Body and Blood of Christ”.. The naughty bit was saying this to Wanna, save it for Fr, J. I don’t think Wanna would accept the idea of a literal and actual transubstantiation. Besides the ‘guts’ are only part of the whole, you are selling the miracle short. After all it is a “mystery which surpasses all understanding”, especially yours and mine and Fr.J. would will say.

        1. entech 2:05

          You are right about my being naughty using the term “blood and guts”. I should have said, “blood and guts, magically changed to bread and grape juice or wine by raising the container to the full length of the preacher/priest’s arm.” Come to think of it, I don’t think the youth pastor held up the wine/bread at the UCC church. I don’t know how the UCC gets away with this.

          Good point about Matt and the troll, “Jesse”. Freethinking does not include allowing someone not to believe.

          1. entech

            Jon, you have been reading and trying to understand the likes of Fr.J too much, you are taking on their habits and getting things about face.
            blood and guts, magically changed to bread and grape juice or wine it is the bread and juice that undergoes transubstantiation.

  6. Fr. James

    Interesting coming from someone who is convinced he knows the truth and is not shy in sharing it, even when it is evident he doesn’t know what he is talking about. Sure, all we need is to take advice from someone who hopes that we all die out.

    The UCC is declining far more rapidly then almost any other denomination. It is dying like most liberal churches. More conservative churches are actually growing. See the real scholarship, not just news headlines, of Stark in his Rise of Christendom. Oh that’s right, Jon won’t read anything he doesn’t already agree with, forgot about that.

    You’re right Jon. When it comes to religion most of us really don’t care what you think. Shared ignorance isn’t helpful.

  7. Fr. James

    My advice to atheists, because I know you care about what I think.

    Learn about religion and theology. Become knowledgeable about about the subject. Not just from atheist websites, blogs, and books. But also from actual orthodox religious scholars. Don’t use throwaway lines or straw man arguments that we have already dealt with in past centuries. Don’t dress up old canards in new clothes and pretend they have never been heard before. Drop the arrogance that you think you are better and smarter then religious people. Be willing to learn. Don’t pretend to be open minded when you aren’t. Be aware of your limitations and honest about them. Don’t be disrespectful or dishonest by using scandals or Hitler arguments or other such kinds of garbage. Don’t lump all religions together as if they are all the same.

    1. Wanna B Sure

      Priest; “Don’t lump all religions together as if they are all the same”. That’s rich. That is exactly what you do with anyone who isn’t Roman Catholic, (past and present).

      1. Wanna B Sure

        Need evidence? See your St. Margaret Clitherow, @8:13 and 8:27.
        Are you familiar of the old miner with a glass eye who’s mule was backing up to the edge of a cliff?

        1. Fr. James

          So I guess you have no problem with what was done to St. Margaret. It doesn’t seem to shock you. You seem to defend it.

          1. Wanna B Sure

            Not going to apologize for false accusation. By the way, your “lumping” is bearing false witness. I think we brushed on that before too.

          2. Fr. James

            You bore false witness against us. The story of St. Margaret is absolutely true. So you don’t think it was wrong and won’t apologize.

          3. entech

            As the fourth crowned monarch of the Tudor dynasty, Mary is remembered for her restoration of Roman Catholicism after the short-lived Protestant reign of her half-brother. During her five-year reign, she had over 280 religious dissenters burned at the stake in the Marian persecutions. Her re-establishment of Roman Catholicism was reversed after her death in 1558 by her younger half-sister and successor, Elizabeth I.

            So we have an attempt by Mary to overturn the Church of England and re-establish the Church of Rome, the Wikipedia extract is a bit polite, most talk about the Marian Inquisitions.
            The backlash was severe as you might expect, bit like mechanics equal and opposite, when Elizabeth restored the Church of England as the official state religion of the state of England.

            It is said that Following her execution, Elizabeth I wrote to the citizens of York expressing her horror at the treatment of a woman. Because of her sex, she argued, Clitherow should not have been executed.

          4. Fr. James

            Actually if you read Duffy’s book on the Marian restoration it shows the “bloody Mary” myth was simply untrue. Her sister did plenty of killing. Atheists have done even more.

          5. entech

            Duffy does not deny that as many as 300 were burnt by ‘Bloody Mary’ and/or her advisers Pole especially.
            What he does bring out is that both sides of the Christan divide employed similar tactics, killing and burning in the name of the prince of peace.

          6. Fr. James

            entech, okay let’s play this again, sigh.

            Mao was an atheist. He killed over 50 million people. Ergo atheism is evil and leads to mass murder.

    2. Adam Heckathorn

      Jesse, I feel the need to confess. I had an evil devious thought to instigate a discussion such as the one here. but I didn’t need too They did it Themselves. I think it would be appropriate to post once again what has been voted The greatest religious joke of all time. I think regardless of Your belief/disbelief You’ll enjoy this.

    3. entech

      Don’t be disrespectful or dishonest by using scandals or Hitler arguments or other such kinds of garbage.
      You are showing disrespect for your self and your religion by trying to hide these things, to pretend they never happened, by trying to give the impression that you are always perfect and everyone is evil or wrong.
      Admit to your faults and failings and try to correct them, move forward not continually looking back, looking back with extremely constricted tunnel vision.
      Tu quoque.

  8. Fr. James

    Wanna, I believe you began the lumping. I responded by point out that was incorrect. You took violent exception to hearing something you didn’t agree with and are still upset. The truth can have that effect I suppose. I would be happy to concentrate solely upon your beliefs if you would mention what they are. I do wonder why you refuse. It must be shame.

    1. Wanna B Sure

      Actually, you started the lumping with the accusations of one group of non- Catholics for another one a few days ago. In your mind, it’s you against everyone, and you group everyone together, as in the case of Maggie Clitherow. This makes an excuse for you to go on a pitty party believing everyone is against you, and for you it’s personal. It leads /lead to a pathology. It becomes / became a self fulfilled prophesy.

      1. Fr. James

        On this site it is pretty much me against everyone. I seem to have no allies, except maybe Henry. You however have joined the atheists in bashing Catholics. You blathered the usual line about the Church and Hitler, oddly very much like how the atheists do. Hatred of Catholics is one thing you have in common.

        Please let me know when someone shows up on the blog who is not against me.

        1. Wanna B Sure

          See?- – – Pitty Party. How many times have I said it’s not the church per se. It’s you. It’s your arrogance. It’s your inability to follow a thread. It’s your inability to read what has actually been said. I am concerned that your position of authority combined with your inability to comprehend the written word can cause some real damage to your members. I’m beginning to doubt you have done much in the area of pastoral theology. All talk, no listening.

          1. Fr. James

            No, you did not say I supported Hitler. You said it was the Church. I objected and pointed out that was incorrect. You resisted. I then pointed out our martyrs and how your fellow Protestants could be accused of the same thing. You went ballistic. Then you posted and posted and posted and posted…until I began to question your sanity. You simply could not take contradiction. That was combined with an apparent dislike of Catholics. You then refuse to even say what you believe or what denomination you claim. So given that you are a Protestant I attribute these things to your side. That sums it up.

            And here we are. You still obsessing and attacking. Then arguing that my responses are not pastoral, meaning I disagree with you. If you can’t take this then you need to reconsider posting on the internet. You will be contradicted and not everyone will be cowed by a rather insane number of posts. Deal with it.

          2. Fr. James

            Wanna, in other words I summed it up accurately and now you, the near stalker, don’t have much to say.

          3. Wanna B Sure

            Priest @ 9:01; Just in case you forgot–again–and again–and again; review my Apr. 8 2014 @ 1:05. Follow through,- – – Then get counseling . Seriously ! !

          4. Fr. James

            Just a fascinating little experiment. I just posted a dot to see if you would respond. I didn’t post a single word and you just couldn’t help yourself. You simply had to post something even if it was nonsense and had nothing to do with anything. Very interesting and illuminating.

            “Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by uncontrollable, unwanted thoughts and repetitive, ritualized behaviors you feel compelled to perform. If you have OCD, you probably recognize that your obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors are irrational – but even so, you feel unable to resist them and break free.”

          5. Wanna B Sure

            Priest; I saw your dot. Don’t flatter yourself so much to think I responded to it. Re. OCD; Look to your mirror, but look farther. Your symptom are of a much deeper nature. Scary, when one considers your position of authority, and the grandiosity you present. Do you put toothpicks in doors to see if anyone has come and gone without you knowing? I’ve seen them do this on TV.
            You now present elements of great concern, such as paranoia and suspicion. You mention being stalked. What’s next? Visions? Voices? Call your Bishop. He will direct you where to go for help.

          6. Wanna B Sure

            Priest; I never paid any attention to your dot, but I do see the connection of your dot to a toothpick in the door.

          7. Fr. James

            Wanna, so contradicting you is a sign of paranoia? Never heard of the toothpick thing, but you have and it stuck in your mind. Interesting.

            You simply HAD to post even in response to a dot. Face it, that is not normal behavior. That is scarey and strange. Then you post again and in a rather shrill frantic way. Most would have wanted to prove me wrong and would have posted nothing to show they were not suffering from some kind of mental problem. But again you simply could not let it go.

            Let’s try another little experiment. Don’t post anything else in response to this post. Just drop it. See if you can do it.

          8. entech

            Wanna, I knew you were knowledgeable but not that you were clairvoyant. If we look at the time stamps of FJs @ 9:27 and your 9:27 and amazing thing can be seen, you must both have pressed the enter button at near enough the same time, a matter of chance which one appeared rifts on the list. Your own 9:27 did seem to be responding to a post a bit earlier, it actually states re your @ 9:20.

            This is, of course, proof positive that I am anti Catholic, I usually am in opposition to you but where this is concerned I mostly (almost completely) agree. But, there again, it is not exactly another Erasmus that you are trying to debate.

        2. entech

          @ 8:42 On this site it is pretty much me against everyone. I seem to have no allies, except maybe Henry.
          You have a couple of things wrong, two sentences two wrongs. It is certainly not everyone against you had josh for a while and now you seem to have a couple of acolytes, it looks as if you write the scripts for Matt, Jesse I am not sure but uses a lot of the same arguments that you do, and others pop up now and then. I don’t Henry would be even a maybe, but as I always say I could be wrong. Henry is very strong in his beliefs and faith, he takes every opportunity to point out the errors of ‘the atheist’ and the hypocrisies that do creep in now and then (I admit even that). I do not think you would be able to claim him as an ally though.

          Please let me know when someone shows up on the blog who is not against me.
          Well there is Matt, but what amuses me is that if anyone does pop up that is not against you it is guaranteed that you will change that pretty quick.

          1. entech

            I think it is more that you would drive any one inclined to your side to avoid you like the plague. A good metaphor , they would be worried that like the plague your way of thinking and writing could be contagious.

            Almost from your first post you started in with, you all hate me because I am right and you are all wrong. Hate is your favourite word.
            Many religious people that cannot understand that it is possible to not believe as they do say things like, “what awful thing happened to you that you have become some bitter and hate God”, even extending it to say “you hate God for not existing”; in your case I must ask why you are so bitter and attribute your own deep felt hate to everyone around you.

          2. Fr. James

            entech, I am simply mirroring what YOUR side does. Liberals love to use the word “hate” to mean disagree with them. I am just trying to say things in the way you folks understand them.

            But yes, you really do hate us. Just read your own posts and those of Jon without your blinders on. Just try it for one second.

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