NPR ended its weeklong series on the topic ‘Losing Our Religion’ on a weak note. (You can also see/hear part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4.) In its last part, they interviewed a Methodist minister and a Catholic priest on what they thought of the increasing numbers of people leaving the church especially among the young and what might be done to get them back. (Note that the transcript is not complete and the audio has more.)
At least the Methodist minister said that he felt that the fault lay with the direction that the church had taken on important social issues and that as a result those who are leaving are doing so because “they see that the God we present is bankrupt, and that we’re theologically thin in our ability to even speak our own story.” The Catholic priest was an outright apologist and basically said that it was not his or the church’s responsibility to change their views but for people to come to terms with what the church says. All he was willing to do was to talk to them and help them be more accepting of the church’s doctrines. To be fair, he belongs to one of the most rigid, doctrinaire, and authoritarian institutions and speaking frankly would likely result in him being whisked away to Rome and personally tortured by papa Ratzi in the Vatican dungeons.
Both of them said that they were optimistic that there would be a revival of the church and the return of the lost sheep but given that they did not provide any evidence to back up that claim, one got the sense that it was just whistling in the dark to keep up their spirits.
I suspect that NPR wanted to end on what it thought would be a hopeful note for religion but it failed. They might have been better served by also interviewing some of the clergy who have left their churches and their beliefs entirely, because that is a big part of this phenomenon. The series producers hints that there will me more shows on this topic, showing once again that the decline of religion is being seen as a big story.