In the 1960s, organized religion and regular church attendance were something most families shared, regardless of race, social class, or geographic location. It was the glue that held us together as a community and a nation and provided the moral compass in our lives. Unfortunately, Americans’ participation in organized church services has declined dramatically in recent years.

Some observers point to the rise of social media and our fast-paced society as being responsible for the precipitous decline in those embracing organized religion. I think that is a cop-out, and the fault is not with the faithful, but with churches that have embraced the worldly over the spiritual. There is a large and growing trend for many in positions of church leadership to serve their personal political agendas from the pulpit. I take strong exception to being told that selected political opinions come with an endorsement from God.

Up until recently, I was an active Episcopalian as a member of the Virginia diocese. The church’s mission, as stated in the Book of Common Prayer’s catechism, is "to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.” However, the leadership of the Episcopal Church recently changed its focus from serving the spiritual needs of its members and the community to pushing a progressive political agenda. What does the Episcopal church’s recent support of organizations such as Black Lives Matter and passing detailed resolutions regarding policing reform have to do with serving God?

Our Constitution states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or preventing the free exercise thereof,” which meant that there would be no official, politically correct “Church of America.” I always thought the “separation of church and state” safeguarded the church from political interference. But what options are left for the faithful when the church itself decides to reinvent itself as a statist entity with a political “litmus test” for its flock?

I served 34 years in uniform in two major conflicts defending what I hold dear – God, country, and family. But because my church now supports political organizations and goals that are the very antithesis of my core beliefs and values, and embracing a political – rather than Godly – agenda, it was with great sadness that in good conscience sadly I could no longer serve the church I once loved.

I hope my experience will encourage others to take a stand. It is indeed sad that, in these times, many people must renounce their “faith organizations” in order to continue honoring and practicing their faith. From what I have seen, the faithful are far ahead of the church leadership in this regard, because when a church loses the confidence of its flock, they often “vote with their feet,” as I have done. Still, I pray one day that reason will return, and church leadership will once again put the Godly needs of their members and community ahead of a secular political agenda.

James R. Poplar III, of Quicksburg, proudly served with the U.S. government for over 40 years. He specialized in national security affairs at both Vanderbilt and the National Defense University.