Monday, February 14, 2011

Religion? All or none...

Near the end, Woody Guthrie checked himself into a hospital, suffering from the Huntington Disease that would soon take his life. The admissions nurse asked his religious affiliation as she filled out the forms. He replied, “All.” She said that would not do. He had to make a choice. Guthrie said, “It’s either all or none!”
For a growing number of Americans, the contemporary choice is “none.”  The Barna Group, a leading research organization focused on the intersection of faith and culture, reports 28% of the adult population has not attended any church activities in the past six months. When their children are added to the picture, the data translates into 100 million empty seats in the pews. 
I know a lot of folks who fall into this category. They are good people who feel strongly about family and community values. They devote time and money to good causes and charitable endeavors. They are spiritual folks and it’s hard to imagine a heaven without them being there. But they don’t attend church.
If churches want to understand why, they will need to look into a mirror rather than through a window. One church historian and theologian, Diana Butler Bass, wrote a book after one of her close friends said to her, “I don’t understand how you can still be a Christian.” Church-going Christians might ask themselves the same question. Rather than wringing our hands about why “they” don’t attend our churches, we might reflect on why we still do.
Dr. Butler not only reflected. She wrote a book about it. A People’s History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story. Butler’s conclusion is that contemporary churches have failed to provide people with a “meaningful narrative” of their faith. Too many churches have failed to connect what it was about the 1st century church that started the movement with our modern lives. The story of Christianity and how it changed the world is far more complex and interesting than one might hear from too many pulpits. What is now largely a doctrinal system was once a way of life.
The church I pastor, Highlands Presbyterian, is exploring these issues, reflecting theologically. Whether you would answer like Woody Guthrie or those 100 million un-churched Americans, you are welcome to join us for a three week study of Diana Bass’ book.

We will gather informally on Tuesday evenings at 6-8 PM at Highlands (2390 Pattison Avenue, Cheyenne) starting March 1st concluding March 15th. Pick up her book. Even if you can’t join us for the book study, it is a read well worth your time.

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