The Disappearing PCUSA, 2016 Data

I finally got around to tracking down the PC(USA) 2016 membership data, and the results are as I recently predictedcontinued precipitous decline.

I’ve updated my Excel file with the 2016 data and generated the associated graphs.  Following are a few low-lights.

  • Total 2016 membership is 1,482,767, which is now less than half of the 1984 founding value
  • 89,893 members were lost in 2016
    • This is the fourth-worst total membership loss in PC(USA) history
    • The past five consecutive years have the five worst membership losses for all of PC(USA) history, for a total of almost 470,000 lost
  • In terms of percent loss for a given year, 2016 was the worst ever, at 5.72% of the 2015 membership
  • The PC(USA) extended its consecutive streak (18 years and counting) of bringing in fewer new members each year.  Thus, 2016 was, again, the worst ever in this category.
  • In terms of ratio between lost to gained members, 2016 was the worst year ever, at 2.63 members lost for every 1 member gained
  • in 2016 we have only 57% of the candidates for ministry that we had in 2011
  • We gained 17 and lost 196 churches, for a net loss of 179
    • Since 2011 the PC(USA) net loss of churches stands at 1015
    • For the last five consecutive years the net loss of churches has exceeded 175
  • Our Christian education population continues its steep decline
    • Approximately 508,000 in 2016
    • Approximately 802,000 in 2011
    • This is almost a 37% decline between 2011 and 2016

If someone after reviewing this data remains untroubled, then they likely either are in general agreement with the leadership’s destructive direction or are in an impregnable state of denial.

Our leadership will certainly continue down this path of catastrophic decline without the slightest accountability for their utter failure.

The following charts present a representative sample of the above discussed data.

2016-PCUSA-Membership

2016-PCUSA-Churches

2016-PCUSA-Ministry

2016-PCUSA-Ed

 

 

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King David: Warrior and Poet After God’s Own Heart (15)

knowledge-my-religion

Because I’m the most moral and brilliant person ever!

King Saul and David (1 Samuel 18)

Recall that we’re exploring the issue of narcissism as it relates to outrage over this passage.

27 David took his men with him and went out and killed two hundred Philistines and brought back their foreskins. They counted out the full number to the king

The Delusion Behind Narcissism

I’d like to ask those who believe that they live at (or even near) the pinnacle of human morality to take a leap of imagination.  Imagine if you dare, that it is 50, 100, 200 years from now.  Over this time events have occurred that were unforeseeable from today’s available information.  New generations of humanity have experienced economic challenge, social change, armed conflict, religious transformations and personal trauma.

Pajamaboy_2

Wow, I’m so awesome!  Everyone else will have to agree when I’m deciding who lives and dies under single payer health insurance!

Thus, these future people, who have no connection with or allegiance to you, occupy the social commanding heights.  They therefore may well independently assess the policies that you pursued, the opinions that you voiced, the ways that you lived and the real world consequences that flowed from them all.  Do you really believe that they will certainly conclude that yes, your generation did indeed occupy the pinnacle of human morality!

SWW-Look

You dare to disagree with ME!

Or, might these future generations look upon you like you look upon David or our founding fathers, or any of the other past and present humans that you so contemptuously judge as evil and moronic?  Let me explain why you might be wise to learn a little humility.

Abortion

There is already a very large number of people (women and men, including me) who consider abortion to be the outright killing of another human being.  If you test the DNA of a brand new fetus it won’t come back as a salamander or tomato, but as human.  With the advancement of ultrasound technology parents are seeing at an early stage of development that the fetus is a tiny human being.  And, since Roe v. Wade, approximately 59 million of these human beings have been killed in the United States.

There’s also, for Christians, the unavoidable fact that God sees the fetus as a valued, beloved human of His creation (Psalm 139).

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.

And yet today’s Progressive elite considers abortion to be their ideology’s “holy of holies.”  Thus, all aspects of abortion on demand are enabled, supported and protected with unmitigated fierceness.

Therefore the powers that be ensured that the sickening, murderous (of grown women and their babies) activities of a psychopath like Dr. Kermit Gosnell were allowed to go on for years, and then be utterly ignored when they finally come to light.  Although the 200 foreskins acquired by David in open warfare is roundly condemned, Gosnell’s collection of jared baby feet is demurely uncommented upon.

GOSNELL

Look away, look away…nothing to see here!

PlannedParenthood

She didn’t really say this…disjointed words were just spliced together to make it appear so!

Or take the case of Planned Parenthood’s practice of selling aborted baby parts.  Yes, the legions of like-minded reporters, editors, celebrities and politicians will keep alive the fairy tale that these admissions from the mouths of Planned Parenthood executives were the product of falsification through editing.  However, anyone who has the interest to check will find clearly uncut videos covering tens of minutes in which these Planned Parenthood leaders speak without the slightest shame about doing these horrors.

But that’s not the end of it by a long shot.  Perhaps our elites should consider the implications of their beloved “disparate effect” theory of racial discrimination.  By this theory, if any statistical deviation between a race’s proportion of the population and any measure of social benefit can be found then the prima facie explanation is the existence of racial discrimination.

Screen Shot 2017-04-23 at 6.29.59 AM

No “disparate effect” to be seen here!

But what if we look at abortion rates through this lens?  The undisputed fact is that black babies are aborted at almost five-times the rate as are white babies.

Given all of the above, what if, say 50 years from now, an entirely new group controls our media who have no interest in protecting the institution of abortion on demand?  Perhaps there have been such massive civilizational changes that a completely new set of issues has top priority.  Might not these media gate-keepers take a critical view of those who so enthusiastically enabled and protected abortion on demand?  Might not black scholars and reporters begin to ask just why the elites of the early 2000’s made such stinks about university admission rates but covered up abortion rates?

Perhaps, in shock and disgust at this sordid behavior, portraits will be taken down, building names will be changed and past champions of virtue will be converted into current examples of the evil past.

Just some food for thought.

Genocidal Totalitarianism

communistevil

The top-two are just unsuccessful do-gooders while the third is utterly evil.  Let’s keep trying socialism until we finally get it right!  Go Venezuela!

I have already made a comprehensive case concerning the support of our elites for genocidal totalitarian ideologies (see here for a summary).  At some future time the flimsy excuse of “good intentions” may have been so throughly discredited that the general public takes notice of the enablers, supporters and “useful idiots” who ensured that these ideologies were free to wreck havoc on humanity for far longer than should have been the case.

They might point to the current economic and social collapse of socialist Venezuela into  wanton violence as a “red flag” that should have, finally, cured the Progressive elites of their fantasies.  But, the fact that they continued to soldier on in behalf of this murderous, failed ideology may someday count against them.  After all, covering up for tens of millions of corpses and hundreds of millions of ruined lives can be unsustainable in the long run.

The Welfare State

After abortion on demand, the current institution with the most support from our Progressive elite class is the welfare state.  It has, over the generations, grown into an interlocking complex of governmental programs (with the associated army of bureaucrats), non-profit organizations, political parties, religious denominations and community organizers that is all focused on one thing: continuance of the welfare state exactly as it is.

Screen Shot 2017-04-23 at 7.57.47 AMBut, future generations, after having possibly experienced a financial catastrophe brought on by unsustainable government spending (certainly not just on the welfare state) might look back on these programs with a more critical eye than is today allowed.  For example, they may look at the nearby graph, on which is plotted the national poverty rate and total anti-poverty spending, and be appalled.  Note also that the 1964 start of “the war on poverty” is shown.  There are three characteristics of this figure that is of primary relevance, those being:

  1. The poverty rate was already falling quickly for at least 15 years prior to the start of “the war on poverty”
  2. The slope of the decline of poverty was not increased by the “war” (i.e., the new anti-poverty spending didn’t significantly improve an already occurring process)
  3. Since 1970, there has been no appreciable change in the poverty rate despite trillions of dollars spent by the “best and brightest,” “morally superior” poverty industrial complex.

Pov-spendingThis discussion hasn’t yet included the human and social wreckage wrought by the Welfare State, where entire communities descended into generations of broken families, hopelessness, violence, addiction, and yes, poverty.

One would have thought that our moral betters would have been so appalled by this situation that a massive effort at reformation and renewal would have been pursued.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  Rather, the poverty industrial complex has been on a unending campaign to prevent any reform and to expand failed policies to new areas of our society.

What if, after a couple more generations of soul crushing hopelessness the supposed beneficiaries of the Welfare State reject both the policies and motivations of the Progressive Left (or perhaps it’s already beginning)?  Or, what if the response is massive civil unrest and violence?  Might not those who today appear to be unassailably moral tomorrow be seen as incompetent fools or heartless hypocrites, or worse?

Isn’t it also possible that the consequences of these decisions will be reappraised in a negative light by the general population?  After all, the money borrowed by the government to fund these and many other ineffective, unsustainable programs are nothing other than promises that future generations will pay for our present excesses.  Regardless of if you are upper middle class or poor in the future, the weight of that massive debt will constrain (or destroy) economic opportunity.

The only hope may be for the Progressive Left to continue blocking education reform to the point that no-one in the future knows how to count.



Berkeley-Then-and-Now

The progressive advance of our moral and intellectual “betters!”

I know that you too can play this game against me (actually, you have been all my life).  The difference is that I already know that, as a sinner, my thoughts and actions, despite my best attempts, will fall tragically short of moral perfection.  And, since I know this about myself I understand that it’s essential that my ideas be subjected to critical appraisal for anything approaching “the good” to emerge.

Without the constitutional right of free speech there’s no hope that all ideas will be subjected to this essential process.  I guess that’s the reason that it so terrifies our supposed moral and intellectual “betters.”

For there is nothing so frightening to a narcissist than the possibility that their presumed perfection will be exposed as a folly and fraud.  There is simply no length to which they will go, including shameless physical violence, to repulse that threat.  Yes, narcissism permeates every crevice of our society.  But its demons have found a particularly hospitable home in the radical Progressive Left.  Most people today are too intimidated to say this out loud, but in the future that protective cloak may have dissipated to the point that the full force of judgement may be applied.

Perhaps you condemners of David, our Founding Fathers and all the rest of us “deplorables” should begin the painful process of climbing down from your false presumptions of superiority.  Then we can once again begin to address together those intractable issues that so bedevil this fallen world.

King David: Warrior and Poet After God’s Own Heart (14)

King Saul and David (1 Samuel 18)

In the previous post I introduced the concept of narcissism.  Perhaps a working definition is needed prior to  proceeding:

extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration, as characterizing a personality type.

John_W._Waterhouse_-_Echo_and_Narcissus(1903)

Echo and Narcissus* – John W. Waterhouse (1903)

The Narcissism of our Present Age

The core conceit of current narcissism is this:

The evidence-less presumption that I and my like-minded comrades stand at the absolute pinnacle of human virtue.  Therefore, anyone who deviates from my worldview, regardless of if they are my contemporaries or lived centuries earlier, can be motivated only by a combination of inexcusable stupidity and evil.

man-selfieAlthough the above description is useful in a general sense, there remains a significant gap between it and a compelling explanation of its application to our particular time and place.  I finally ran across a passage, from a piece discussing the current situation in France (by Christopher Caldwell) that excellently fills this need (emphasis added):

Upwardly mobile urbanites, observes Guilluy, call Paris “the land of possibilities,” the “ideapolis.” One is reminded of Richard Florida and other extollers of the “Creative Class.” The good fortune of Creative Class members appears (to them) to have nothing to do with any kind of capitalist struggle. Never have conditions been more favorable for deluding a class of fortunate people into thinking that they owe their privilege to being nicer, or smarter, or more honest, than everyone else. Why would they think otherwise? They never meet anyone who disagrees with them. The immigrants with whom the creatives share the city are dazzlingly different, exotic, even frightening, but on the central question of our time—whether the global economic system is working or failing—they see eye to eye. “Our Immigrants, Our Strength,” was the title of a New York Times op-ed signed by London mayor Sadiq Khan, New York mayor Bill de Blasio, and Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo after September’s terrorist bomb blasts in New York. This estrangement is why electoral results around the world last year—from Brexit to the election of Donald Trump—proved so difficult to anticipate. Those outside the city gates in la France périphérique are invisible, their wishes incomprehensible. It’s as if they don’t exist. But they do.

Yes, there is no doubt in my mind that these “fortunate people” are deluded to a degree that is nothing short of scandalous.  That they occupy the pinnacle of power in our nations can only be explained by a monumental failure of the temporal Christian church, parenthood, government, education and media, among others.  This is what civilizational failure looks like.  In the following post I will address the central delusion that has resulted in this sorry situation.



*Echo and Narcissus is a myth from Ovid‘s Metamorphoses, a Latin mythological epic from the Augustan Age.

Mother’s Day, 2017

Mother's-Love

I believe that motherhood at its most noble state creates a uniquely humane connection between living souls.  This link is a shadow of that eternal connection made through Christ between God the Father and His children.

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. (John 15:9)

Through this special bond, a mother can see beyond the flaws and frailty of her children into the wondrous value of their lives.

Under typical circumstances that insight is created because at the beginning a mother and child experience the utmost intimacy of a shared body.  There is simply nothing in life equivalent to the sight of a mother, who has lived for months in bodily communion with her child, holding her birthed baby for the first time.  The joy is beyond description.

However, in the case of adoption a mother can still establish that same wondrous bond with her child.

So, on this Mother’s Day, let’s acknowledge and honor that special part of God’s love that shines through our lives, as thankful and blessed children.

King David: Warrior and Poet After God’s Own Heart (13)

David-to-SaulKing Saul and David (1 Samuel 18)

The Thoughtless Outrage

When some contemporary Christians read this passage the reaction is one of visceral outrage.

27 David took his men with him and went out and killed two hundred Philistines and brought back their foreskins. They counted out the full number to the king

These Christians read this troubling description of massacre and mutilation from a presumed position of moral superiority that allows unmitigated disgust at the savagery of this primitive culture.  They also sometimes respond by openly questioning the legitimacy of the Old Testament’s witness.

While I don’t in the slightest argue that this passage isn’t troubling to virtually everyone, Christian or not (including me), I do believe that there is an equally troubling lack of historical context and self-awareness in play.  For, King Saul, David and the entire nation of Israel found themselves enmeshed in a system of zero-sum conflict that existed throughout the ancient world.  To them (and their enemies) this situation of open-ended warfare was just “how this world operates.”  Thus, concepts such as “peaceful coexistence” and “a rising tide lifts all ships” would have been incomprehensible to these ancient peoples.  We have had the benefit of 3,000 years of human experience that they simply did not.

We need not go back 3,000 years to find a similar lack of historical understanding in play.  Consider the currently popular Progressive Leftist drive to discredit and erase the names of our nation’s founding fathers.  Besides the unconscionable fact that they were generally male, the fact that many of them either owned slaves or appeared to be accepting of this horrific institution’s existence is enough to convict them of utter evil.

However, while I totally agree that slavery was (and is) a morally monstrous, reprehensible institution that needed to be eradicated, I can yet understand how our founding fathers could have, within the context of their time, managed to live oblivious to this reality.  For, in their time, slavery was an institution that had existed in human civilization since literally the beginning of known history.  Thus, a person living then could easily have just accepted this moral outrage as something of a given.

I realize that this discussion is very dangerous, given that the cloud of faux moral superiors, disregarding any nuance of thought that doesn’t advance their  ideology, is always poised to attack.   However, someone needs to explain these things or the mad rush to obliterate our entire civilizational heritage will certainly succeed.

Is it possible to, while fully acknowledging that our founding fathers accepted what future generations correctly recognize to be an utterly evil system, yet give great credit to them for founding a nation that aspired to the propositionthat all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness“?  Did not this aspiration, though unrealized at the time (some likely did realize it), not a mere eight decades later fuel the eradication of slavery from the United States through a great and terrible Civil War?

Returning to David, aside from their purposeful disinterest in historical perspective, I think that these outraged Christians are driven by anger that God would have used a flawed man, molded by his own particular environment, as a means for advancing His purposes.  How dare God not miraculously create a person who, 3,000 years ago, lived up to the presumed moral perfection of, who, why themselves!

tornadoThis is the crux of their fury.  As I intend to demonstrate, there is a failure of self-awareness and self-righteousness at work here that literally deforms the human soul.  As a result, all sympathy, curiosity, context and humaneness is crushed down into a hard, cruel core of narcissistic judgmentalism.

 

 

King David: Warrior and Poet After God’s Own Heart (12)

5-saul-attacking-david-guercino

King Saul Attacking David – Guercino (1646)

King Saul and David (1 Samuel 18)

Passifistic Perfectionism Collides with the Scriptural Text

In this chapter the existential threat posed by David to Saul’s kingship becomes absolutely clear.  King Saul now finds himself within yet another impossible situation.  For David, against all reasonable expectations, has become the conquering hero who not only defeated the giant Goliath, but who also led the subsequent defeat of the Philistine army.  King Saul has been reduced to the position of a hapless bystander, thus profoundly undercutting his prestige and authority.  Yet Saul doesn’t dare act to remove David for that same reason.  The nation’s response to this situation encapsulates the entire situation with in two pithy lines (verse 7b).

“Saul has slain his thousands,
    and David his tens of thousands.”

Has ever a reigning king been so utterly humiliated?  I expect that scholars can propose other examples, though the ensuing debate would be fascinating.

As a consequence of the nation’s love for David, King Saul was forced to bestow honor and power upon him.  David was given a high rank in Israel’s army, leading his troops to victory after victory.  King Saul’s own son, Jonathan, “made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself” (verse 3), in effect, renouncing his (i.e., Jonathan’s) claim to the throne.

All of this eventually led King Saul to near insanity, where he twice attempted to kill David (who remained always in Saul’s court) with a spear.  He was left with the devastating realization that “the Lord was with David but had departed from Saul” (verse 12).  What follows throughout the book of 1 Samuel is an incoherent bimodal strategy of control through appeasement and murderous assault.

King Saul begins with appeasement by offering his daughter Merab as a wife to David.  Were David to accept he would be absorbed into Saul’s family.  However, David declines the offer, thus once again thwarting the king’s plans.

However, some time later it is learned that Saul’s daughter Michal has fallen in love with David.  Saul once again offers a daughter to David, and once again he is rebuffed.  However, this time Saul is determined to prevail.  David’s excuse is that  “I’m only a poor man and little known” (verse 23).  So, King Saul moves to remove this stated excuse.

25 Saul replied, “Say to David, ‘The king wants no other price for the bride than a hundred Philistine foreskins, to take revenge on his enemies.’” Saul’s plan was to have David fall by the hands of the Philistines.

Once again Saul believes that David’s implicit challenge to his throne will be dealt with through his cleaver scheme.  Unfortunately for the king:

David-to-Saul27 David took his men with him and went out and killed two hundred Philistines and brought back their foreskins. They counted out the full number to the king so that David might become the king’s son-in-law. Then Saul gave him his daughter Michal in marriage.

28 When Saul realized that the Lord was with David and that his daughter Michal loved David, 29 Saul became still more afraid of him, and he remained his enemy the rest of his days.

The departure for commentary relating to our contemporary situation will be from verse twenty-seven.  For in this incident the presumed perfectionist pacifism of our age collides head-on with the supposed ignorance and savagery of the past.

King David: Warrior and Poet After God’s Own Heart (11)

SaulAndDavidDavid and Goliath (1 Samuel 17)

Conclusion

Note that Saul’s inquiry does not concern David, who he knew from his court, but rather David’s family.  Saul’s likely initial interest was with which family he would be contending after sending their child to certain death.

55 As Saul watched David going out to meet the Philistine, he said to Abner, commander of the army, “Abner, whose son is that young man?” Abner replied, “As surely as you live, Your Majesty, I don’t know.”  56 The king said, “Find out whose son this young man is.”  

57 As soon as David returned from killing the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul, with David still holding the Philistine’s head.  58 “Whose son are you, young man?” Saul asked him.  David said, “I am the son of your servant Jesse of Bethlehem.”

One can only imagine the shock with which King Saul received this most unlikely conquering hero.  Now his interest in David’s family would have turned to with whom was he contending for the fate of his throne.

Discussion

David’s victory confounded every calculation made by every player in this sordid game.  The Philistine’s “win-win” scenario had been transformed into a crushing humiliation that glorified the God Whom they had intended to discredit.  David’s three spiteful older brothers had been shown up to be cowards.  And, King Saul’s supposed “way out” of the trap had turned into a path of destruction for his reign.

The only person whose spirit remained untainted was David.  Note that he does not address the king with pride, but rather in humble submission, “the son of your servant Jesse of Bethlehem.”  It is easy to imagine David giving God all the glory for this victory, just as he had while going into single combat against the giant Goliath.

David, though, must also have recalled Samuel’s anointing.  Perhaps he saw opening up before him the path to kingship that just a few moments ago had seemed to be an impossibility.  Yet that path clearly contained many thickets with deadly thorns.  For the Lord God had chosen to leave King Saul in place as a powerful and deadly foe.

And so David started down that path opened up before him by the Lord God.  Along the way there would be love, terror, immorality, friendship, death, glory, humiliation and an eternal covenant of blessing.  Again and again David would have to count on his own God given wits and prowess to survive.  Even so, he would always give the glory to God, by the Spirit’s intervention knowing that “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty.”

Our path forward is no less full of challenge and moral ambiguity than that which faced David.  Too many of us Christians choose to be passive in the face of these challenges in order to protect our own idolatrous sense of moral purity.  In so doing we become one with the character Captain Vere from Herman Melville’s novella Billy Budd, Sailor, who when faced with a fraught moral decision:

“Very far was he from embracing opportunities for monopolizing to himself the perils of moral responsibility.”