Forgetting Why

Joel Kotkin has an essay posted at Tablet titled Why Social Justice Is Killing Synagogues and Churches. He begins by noting that as religious organizations become more focused on “social justice” their membership invariably declines.

However satisfying to its practitioners, the emphasis on social justice is clearly not attracting more worshippers. Almost all the religious institutions most committed to this course are also in the most serious decline, most notably mainstream Protestants but also, Catholics and Reform and Conservative Jews. The rapidly declining Church of England, which is down to 2 percent share among British youth, is burnishing its progressive image by adding the use of plastics to its list of Lenten sacrifices, but seems unable to serve the basic spiritual and family needs of their congregants.

Judaism and Christianity both teach that we should treat one another fairly and with compassion, but that is not the central point of either religion. Both rest on the first principle of their shared scriptures—

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

All their other teachings are commentary on that fact, explaining how to go about living in a proper relationship to the Creator. We are called to good works as part of a loving relationship with God and, by extension, our fellow creatures. When people neglect that vertical relationship with God and focus only on the horizontal relationship with each other, they ignore the reason that were called by God. They have wandered away from what should be their real common purpose.

Ultimately, … religions … can only hope to thrive if they serve a purpose that is not met elsewhere in society.

Just so. Society cannot do for us what God can.