According to recent figures published this week in the Copenhagen Post, the Church of Denmark (folkekirken) has seen a “historic” loss of members in 2012 – expected to be around 20,000 by the end of the year. I find it ironic that this should be the case only days before the world is “about to end.” Surely now is a great time to get down on your knees and beg forgiveness. As you’d expect with these kind of figures, it has left people scratching their heads and trying to figure out the reasons behind such a mass exodus. I believe there are two possible reasons.
In the past six months, two different churches from two different countries have made polar decisions when it comes to the rights of its members. In Denmark this summer, gay couples were given the thumbs up to get married in state churches, whereas the Church of England recently voted against allowing women to become bishops – two debates that still rage on today. As an atheist I struggle to understand how it is possible to vote and decide what it is God wants his followers to do. Surely it’s called The Word of God for a reason; otherwise maybe it should be rebranded as The Options presented by God – Please Cast your Votes. I for one applaud the Danes for making such a progressive step forward and feel ashamed by the behaviour of my former church. (I went to a Church of England school, with a headmaster who “wasn’t sure whether he was a teacher or a priest,” according to one of his former members of staff.) After all, these are modern times we are living in and one has to keep up with them. But with so many different branches of the same religion changing and deciding the fundamental rules as they see fit, who can blame church members for feeling confused or disillusioned?
Which leads me nicely on to my second reason: technology. Has anyone else noticed how fast time seems to be going by lately? Yes I know it’s a phrase people have been saying for ages, but I’ve noticed that more and more people around me are tweeting, facebooking and emailing the very words, “God, I can’t believe it’s Thursday already,” or “God, where does the time go?” And as God doesn’t have access to the Internet (spelt with a capital I, apparently) then He won’t be getting these messages, will He?
But I feel that it’s this very technology that is speeding up our lives and not giving us any time for doing much else – including visiting church.
For example, I spend a large amount of time hunkered over my computer designing websites, editing images, and marketing myself via all sorts of Internet mediums. The day soon disappears, and this is coming from someone who still only uses his phone for making calls and sending texts. The next time you’re sitting on a bus, in the cinema, a restaurant, or at last night’s photography exhibition full of hip, sexy, young professionals, take a look around and see how many people are immersed in their new favourite hobby called Ignoring You. It usually consists of staring at their Apple iPhone (it’s never any other phone in CPH, is it) and running their fingers over it repeatedly until there is something else to catch their attention. Sadly the presence of others doesn’t do the trick, nor does a room full of DJs, free beer, and talented artists. How is God meant to compete with that?
I may joke about it, but in a way I find it a little sad. But only because I have an artistic and historic interest in church buildings and a vested interest as a wedding photographer. I love the finely carved gargoyles; the craftsmanship of the wooden pews (complete with that musty smell) and the haunting sound of an organ or church choir getting lost in the eaves. It is a little funny, though; watching young men and women mumbling the words to The Lord is my Shepherd because none of them know how it goes. Come on everybody, I’ll teach it to you… After three, then: 1-2-3 “Umbrella, ella, ella, hey, hey, hey”