Spiritual Apathy Torments Clergy
WHY are the clergy alarmed? It is not just because the specter of communism hovers over Christendom, threatening to claim professed Christians. No, there is something else. It is the colossus of spiritual apathy that stalks Christendom. The lukewarm, even icy indifference of the clergy’s flock is tormenting the shepherds. Really, the clergy’s complaints should prove to be not only electrifying but also enlightening to anyone who seeks to know the truth.
Just how much do people today believe their religion? Enough to preach their faith to others? Enough to “preach the word” as all true Christians are commanded to do? (2 Tim. 4:2) Recently, John O’Brien, priest and Notre Dame philosopher, conducted a poll among a representative cross section of the American church public. It revealed that the Catholics who had never made any kind of attempt to preach their faith to others were 72 per cent of the flock! (Catholic Digest, June, 1953) Not only that, but a different survey showed “that as much as one-half the Catholics in many places are non-practicing, if Easter duty and regular Sunday Mass attendance are taken as the norm.” (Catholic Information magazine, August, 1953) Since all true Christians must never forsake the assembling of themselves together and must be preachers of the word, how obvious that there is spiritual apathy and anemia afflicting the Catholic fold!—Heb. 10:25; 1 Cor. 9:16; 4:16.
What of the Protestants? Let the clergy make the sweeping complaint. Declared the pastor of New York’s Riverside Church, Robert J. McCracken, as reported in the New York Times of July 13, 1953: “[Christendom] must ‘face the fact’ that a large proportion of the 680,000,000 Christians in the world are little more than ‘nominal Christians, ignorant of what Christianity stands for in some cases, apathetic and indifferent in many more, their religion a second-hand affair.’”
It should not have to take a clergyman’s sermon to awaken any observing person to the fact that Christendom’s “Christians” are Christians in name only! Is it not obvious that most churchgoers devote more time to newspapers, amusements and other interests than they do to their faith? Preacher McCracken’s words, “It is extraordinary how little people know of what Christianity really is,” should torment the clergy! Are regular churchgoers any better off spiritually than the irregular? Admits preacher McCracken: “Even among church members essential Christian belief is widely unknown and in consequence feebly held.”—New York Times, October 5, 1953.
Intensely alarmed are the clergy in England. London’s News Chronicle (April 18, 1953) reported: “The Gallup Poll discovered some time ago that on two Sundays in August and September not more than 12 per cent of the men in Britain and not more than 18 per cent of the women had gone to church.” The News Chronicle also reported the words of two Catholic bishops: “England is not a Catholic country, said Bishop Heenan, yet on Sunday mornings more people attend Catholic services than those of all other denominations.” And the bishop of Leeds declared: “The overwhelming majority of Englishmen have no religion at all.”
That this spiritual apathy is tormenting the English clergy is manifest from The Christian Century for May 27, 1953: “Clergy of several denominations attest the almost pagan conditions of ‘spiritual vacuum’ under which they are compelled to labor. In February the Archbishop of York declared that missionary work was needed in England as much as overseas. . . . Anglican doctrines and creeds are becoming meaningless to the majority and unacceptable to the educated minority. Services of worship based on the Prayer Book, litany and creeds are couched in a language that seems archaic to many.”
In Europe the Roman Catholic clergy have long been tormented by the apathy of the workers toward the church. Now from South America bemoanings of spiritual apathy are heard. By whom? By a Catholic priest himself! In the book Chilean Catholicism, priest Humberto Muñoz writes of the Catholics “shameful ignorance” of the Bible. He explains: “I am convinced that the Latin language is a wall separating priest from people. If we Catholics were to promote a spiritual revival that led to Bible-reading and made our worship understandable, our people would not need to go to Protestants to beg for spiritual food.”
But can Protestantism spiritually nourish its own adherents? It is not doing it in England. Episcopalians in America were called on during 1953 to “stop pussyfooting and being timid.” A Brooklyn Baptist pastor called Protestantism a “weak and divided voice,” and “a middle class solarium where tired old spiritual limbs are warmed a bit from week to week.” The very magazine designed to defend Protestantism, The American Protest, October, 1953, said: “Unless the world finds it again, Protestantism will shrivel and die. . . . What reason can there be for the closing of so many Protestant churches? Whom can we blame it on? The blame rests squarely on Protestant Christians themselves.”
The clergy, tormented by spiritual apathy and looking for a scapegoat, now pin the blame on their flock. But think! Who really bears the blame for the fact that “Christians” succumb to godless communism, that vast numbers lack zeal to preach their belief, that they are “ignorant of what Christianity stands for,” that the “overwhelming majority” in England have no religion at all, that Christendom is a “spiritual vacuum,” that the clergy’s doctrines and creeds are “meaningless” to common people, “unacceptable” to the learned, that the rule is a “shameful ignorance” of the Bible, that Protestantism is shriveling and dying and that Catholics need “to beg for spiritual food”? Who is to blame? None other than the clergy themselves! The ones responsible for feeding the flock! “By your words you will be condemned.” (Matt. 12:37, NW) Self-condemned stand the clergy! Their own mouths admit their flock is apathetic, starved, hungry. The clergy’s cupboard is filled with stupefying traditions and creeds but empty of spiritual food. As foretold, a famine is here, “not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of Jehovah.”—Amos 8:11, AS.
Because the clergy have no spiritual food they have resorted to ritualism, processions, imposing cathedrals, choirs, archaic language and dead tongues. This hides their bare cupboard, but does not hide the effects of the famine—spiritual apathy! Jesus preached a clear, inspiring message, the Kingdom the hope of the world. Today Jehovah’s witnesses are bringing to the hungry people the good news of God’s kingdom. Soon Armageddon’s war will wipe out heathendom and Christendom. (Jer. 25:29, 33) God’s new world will be ushered in. So now is the time to stop ‘spending money for that which is not bread.’ Now is the time to flee from Christendom’s famine-stricken churches! Now is the time to feed upon solid spiritual food. Yes, now is the time to awake to the hope that never-ending life in Jehovah’s paradise new world can be yours.—Isa. 55:2; Rev. 18:4; 21:1, 4; 22:17.