Thursday, February 28, 2008
Losing Our Religion
Recently the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released a study regarding the changing landscape of American religion. I heard a radio program that discussed these changes and heard the stories of several callers who related their experiences. While I can’t sum it all up for you here are some of my thoughts.
Many of those who called to tell their story regarding why they switched religions noted how personally unfulfilling their parents’ faith had been to them. They went searching for a faith that had particular meaning to them. That last point is significant in that no one who called spoke of looking for a faith that brought meaning to the world and human existence, rather they sought a system of belief that held specific meaning for their particular life context (gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity etc).
As you might have guessed no one seemed too concerned with whether or not their belief was true, just that it worked in bringing them fulfillment.
In general people aren’t feeling authority at all, but are drawn to ritual. Those who were put on the air made it clear that while they didn’t mind talking about their religion they didn’t see the necessity of wearing it on their sleeve.
A number of folks are still hedging their bets just in case there’s something out there and even a couple of self-described atheists and agnostics were hopeful that there was more to us than just a seventy or eighty year natural existence.
Christians coming to faith from agnostic backgrounds face the same kind of ridicule and intolerance that believers are usually charged with giving. No one who actually remained with a faith they were reared in got on the air.
Evangelical Christianity might be in big, big trouble. Say what? I know you’ve heard this before but history demonstrates and I think this survey bears out that a faith grounded in a belief in faith is as stable as the San Andreas Fault. The report noted how many mainline denominations continue to lose those brought up under their charge. At some point if you keep telling people that God is basically just like you only older they get smart and wonder ’why in the world am I wasting these beautiful Sunday mornings in church’. At some point if you persist in drilling the notion that God exists to serve, obey, listen to and do their will they figure out that all the things they want in life can be theirs with a lot of hard work and a little luck. Eventually when you tell people that it really is just about their own private fulfillment through a personal, private relationship with ‘Jesus’ they decide that they can discover that same kind of fulfillment through the rules of Islam, the ritual of Anglicanism or the mysticism of new age spirituality.
Eventually if you keep preaching that theology and doctrine i.e. truth doesn’t matter then they’ll feel quite free to change what they ‘believe’ whenever their tastes suit them. Eventually if we keep teaching those who fill our pews today that what scripture says about God’s word, His Person, mankind, sin, salvation, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit and His church is barely relevant to who they are, their walk with the Lord and the ‘real’ world they just might believe us and become the next statistics in the changing face of religion tomorrow.
To Him Who Loves Us…