Yesterday I gave what I thought was the most charitable interpretation of this fear for the end of the church in the west. Today, a less charitable interpretation. And, I think, a more realistic one.
The church in the west has inherited a legacy of incredible influence. Or to put it another way, power. From the Roman Catholic church’s political and military height, where it held an almost unimaginable amount of influence over European polities, to the empires, both Catholic and Protestant, that spanned the globe.
If you choose, you can get granular and break this down into the individual structures use to propagate and perpetuate this power (empire, state churches, colonization, whiteness, heteronormativity, patriarchy).
Or you can just acknowledge that there is a certain type of person who has inherited this legacy (white, male, Christian).
Now, the church as an institution has been forced to move from nakedly structuring power using force, at least for the most part. Since the rise of the enlightenment in the west, the church has gradually been forced to structure power more subtly by leaning on ideology.
In this case, I mean ideology as in the anointing of particular definitions as Biblical or Christian or what have you. When you adopt Biblical Womanhood or a Christian Worldview (for example) as defined by the institutional church, you are participating in that structuring. Whether that womanhood is actually biblical, or that worldview is actually Christian is largely beside the point.
The end result is the same. Militarily or ideologically, we see the same sorts of people ascendant at the top of this pyramid.
And the people who are invested in a doom-and-gloom outlook on the church in the west, at least in my experience, are exactly these people.
So I have to ask: Are you concerned with the wellbeing of the church of Jesus Christ? Or are you concerned with your cherished categories being disrupted at the cost of your own social standing and influence? Are you concerned about people? Or just people that look and act like you?
I think a lot of the paranoia and neurosis about persecution and tyranny in the church springs from exactly that (not to mention the extremely way Christians often demand to be taken seriously by the “educated elite”). It’s not a loss of life. It’s a loss of social standing.
I’d recommend reading Richard Beck’s The Slavery Of Death if you want to understand more why this sort of existential dread produces a death anxiety that inevitably leads to sin.