I am unapologetically patriotic by temperament and upbringing. I sing the national anthem at Wrigley Field, get chills when the navy’s Blue Angels roar overhead at the Chicago Air Show, and fly the flag on the Fourth of July. I spent some time in the air force ROTC, and some of my classmates flew missions in Vietnam. I supported the U.S.
In the days before Easter, preachers find themselves ricocheting back and forth between anticipation of full-to-overflowing sanctuaries and anxiety about being up to the task. In the case of the people who make it to church only on Easter, the preacher has only one shot; we want to make it count.
I like the title of Jon Sweeney’s book Born Again and Again, reviewed in this issue along with three other memoirs dealing with fundamentalism. My own religious experience includes several trips to the altar as a youngster, one in a Baptist church, another in a revival tent.
From Britain to Denmark, Europe has hundreds of empty churches. The closing of a church is painful—especially in villages where the church for centuries served as a community anchor, even for unbelievers. Efforts are often made to adapt the buildings for a community service, such as a library. Because they are very expensive to maintain, empty churches are more frequently turned into some kind of commercial endeavor. The Church of St. Joseph in Arnhem, Netherlands, still owned by the Catholic Church, has been turned into a skate park. The Netherlands has the largest number of idle church buildings. Roman Catholic leaders in Holland estimate that within a decade two-thirds of their 1,600 churches will be closed, and 700 of the country’s Protestant churches will likely close over the next four years (Wall Street Journal, January 2).