Now I am beginning to wonder if people act on the basis of what they know at all. Certainly our behavior does not reflect what we know to be true. We do not eat what we know are good foods and we do not avoid the foods we know are not good and we are wrestling as a nation with the consequences (obesity, diabetes, and such). Could it be true that there is this disconnect in faith as well? How else do you explain people who believe rightly and then choose as their favorite hymn "In the Garden" or some other little ditty at odds with orthodox faith. Could it be that people's behavior and choices are driven not exclusively or even primarily by what they know and believe but by what they love or want or imagine to be good? I am not saying doctrine does not matter or that beliefs are unimportant but only that they may take a back seat to what what they love, desire, and imagine as good. If this is true, then catechesis are not the only thing that is needed but we also need to affect and transform the worldview of people. Do we need to engage our people more or do we need to transform what they love, desire, and imagine?
It is possible for Christians to give consent to all the orthodox doctrines but to live as practical atheists in terms of what they desire, want, and love? I fear it is. I fear that people can believe somewhat orthodox doctrines of God and live in conflict with what they believe. Their faith is not rooted in them and they are not anchored to that faith so that their worldview and lives are shaped by these beliefs. We are constantly told that parents—not catechists, parishes, or schools—are the most important factor for passing on the faith and they do this not simply by instruction but by developing the habitas of the faith in the lives of their children. It is for this reason that instruction may take place and the faith may be formed in words in the home but without the requisite regular and enduring attendance in worship, faith is detached from how one lives and what one does. It cannot therefore be merely a matter of teaching the faith but forming the Christian.
Our young people and even our adults are not leaving the Church in droves because they have first been swayed by bad arguments or changed their beliefs or reject the doctrines of the faith, they are leaving because the truth, beauty, and goodness of the faith were never really imprinted on their imagination in the first place. They mouthed the right words but their hearts did not find source and summit in the Word of God and the absolution and the Sacrament of Christ's body and blood and in the liturgy that is home to this preaching, reconciliation, and communion. It is not the mind which altered the faith once taught to them but the imagination which remained aloof from and unaffected by the faith -- insisting that they believe as they always have but finding themselves more at home in the world than in the House of God.
Culture and community are as essential to the endurance of the Christian in the faith and in their practice of the faith in daily life as faithful catechesis is. Modern religion rejects the doctrine in favor of the practice and the old religion presumes the primacy of doctrine over piety but both liberal and progressive religion and conservative doctrine lose for the failure to connect both catechesis and culture/community. We dare not stop teaching doctrine but neither can we presume that the classroom forms the faith. We dare not defer to the liturgy alone to form piety but neither can we presume that liturgy is not an effective part of the whole.
This is part of what I mean when I say restoring a weekly celebration of Holy Communion to Lutheranism is not the same as nurturing a Eucharistic piety. Having a weekly general confession and absolution does not itself nourish a life in which mercy is the center. Hearing a sermon and attending a Bible study every week do not equate to the profound and lively understanding of the Word as an efficacious voice that actually does what it says and delivers what it promises. We must do more to connect what is believed with how it is lived and we must do more to connect how we live to how and what we believe. All of this happens less within the isolation of a me and Jesus framework to faith an more in the community of the saints gathered at God's bidding in His name.