Martin E. Marty, Sightings, 1/21/2013
The Marquardt/Zietlow report begins with a question: "Does the Shape of Families Shape Faith? Challenging the Churches to Confront the Impact of Family Change." The language of the report is not whiny or scolding, but, armed with statistics and ethnographic scripts and personal testimonies the document is indeed a challenge, to be faced urgently by all kinds of churches. The authors argue that much of the often-noted decline in the mainline churches results from the changes in the family resulting from divorces. That is only one sign of what amounts to a crisis. The oral presentations included comment on "shame," which keeps divorced or divorcing church members from being ready to discuss the issue in congregations, or unawareness of the implications on the part of pastors, priests, and counselors in churches. When Sightings discusses the life of faith or drift or un-faith in intimate settings such as parishes or families, so often splitting or split, it may seem as if we are departing from our charter to deal with "public religion." Both the Wehner article and a report on which he relies and the "Shape Faith" documents demonstrate boldly just how public are the consequences of action or neglect in church and family and other institutions often shelved as "private."