Last week my son and I joined a couple of thousand other folks on a trek to the hill country of North Carolina for the Wild Goose Festival. It was a wonderful gathering where justice, music, spirituality and art collide in all sorts of interesting shapes and forms. Each day there were speakers, bands, and plenty of opportunities for ad hoc conversations under the beautiful oak trees.
One of the most powerful and relevant lectures regarding the state of the Church and the trajectory we are on was given by Phyllis Tickle. (I should point out that I really, really respect Mrs. Tickle and her scholarship, insight, wit and wisdom. In my book, Phyllis is fantastic!)
The crux of the talk was that because of Constantine, who made Christianity the state religion 1700 years ago AND the Birth Control Pill the way of life currently known of as the Church is dying, at alarming rates. She pointed out that unless we make some intentional adjustments, we will lose a great deal more than our brick and mortar buildings, we will lose (although perhaps for just a season) what it means to be a people who are shaped by the rhythm of the faith.
Let me explain - Phyllis is not a feminist, as she said right up front - anyone with 7 children can not call herself a feminist, but in her opinion (along with folks like Harvey Cox and Martin Marty) the Pill allowed women to not only control how many children they bore, it also played/s an important role in allowing women to break through the glass ceiling in the work place. Ever since World War II and the days of Rosie the Riveter, the number of women in the workforce has grown and two income families are for many reasons now the norm.
And yet, for the past 3000+ years of our Judeo-Christian heritage women were the main transmitters of the faith, through the sharing of the Biblical narrative, the stories of the Bible. Some of this was done overtly and some more covertly, but by and large the church grew and flourished because of what momma knew and shared with her offspring.
Phyllis used this analogy: the home - aka the tent - is the place where initial spiritual formation takes place, then there is the synagogue (or our modern day church) for community worship and the temple for the big annual celebrations. It's how its been done for thousands of years - until now.
With two income families, as well as the increased focus on the activities of the children in the families, time to just sit and talk after school let alone time for family prayers, devotions, and weekly worship has gone to the wayside. And frankly, I can understand how and why -who really has time to do any of this well, let alone regularly any more?