Except for weddings, funerals, and a few other life-marking events, I haven't been to church in over a decade. Once I was on the board of deacons of a Lutheran church, taught at a Lutheran college, and studied theology in college. Although I am still a nominal church member, I have joined that growing throng of people who profess no religious affiliation.
Two of my children were confirmed in church, but after their confirmations had no interest in churchly doings. My youngest did not finish confirmation. Getting her to church became an impossibility. Eventually, we learned that problems she was having socially and in school involved kids she went to church with. In the case of my children, their disaffection with the church stemmed from the conflict with what the church seemed to preach and what was practiced under its auspices. The problem was not with church doctrine, but with some members of the congregation.
That conflict became apparent to us when my spouse's boss lost an election and, therefore, my spouse lost her job. My wife worked for Tom Daschle, a liberal Democrat. There were people in the congregation who were strong conservatives. At times they could not restrain their political fervor, but we did not engage them in any political discussion. After Tom Daschle was defeated, some of them took on a smirking, gloating attitude. We thought that this was not what we came to church for; in fact, it was the kind of attitude for which we came to church for relief. Tom Daschle had begun to work on healthcare, concerned with the fact that 40 percent of Americans did not have affordable healthcare. We heard the usual conservative cant at the time about that 40 percent being the lazy, irresponsible louts who wanted to leech off the industrious, responsible people. Some good church members attributed Daschle's defeat as a matter of good people not wanting to support bad people. Although the pastors were disturbed by the ill will expressed by some parishioners, sermons on good will and Christian love had little influence on the attitudes that were in disharmony with Christian doctrine. Church became a cloud of mean spirit not a beacon of good.
This episode also made apparent why our children regarded church as an irrelevant affectation that they did not want or need in their lives. Children in their late teens are sensitive to hypocrisy and posturing by their elders. Some students accept this as a condition that should be accommodated if they want to succeed in the adult world. Other students reject systematic hypocrisy and regard church as a social affectation, not a place for reflection and examination.
However, the turning away from religion also has impetus from 9/11 and the radical Islam jihadists. The idea of mass murder and atrocity as serving the purpose and command of god is so grotesquely and absurdly demented that it calls into question some of the acts committed in the name of our own religions. When young people fall into the lure of Isis, we are forced to examine the kinds of calling under the names of our own religions.. President Obama received a lot of criticism for comments he made about how religion can devolve into a justification for oppression and crimes against humanity. Christianity has a history of invocation in the genocide against Indians and the horrors of slavery in our country. At the same time, it was Christians who led the abolition movement and, when they could not stop the extermination of Indians, went to the reservations in attempts to offer support and help. But then again, it was some of those who in the name of Christ ran schools where Indian kids were punished for speaking their native language and where they got screwed by those who purported to care for them. In Jesus' name. Amen.
In our household there has been a few moments when someone of the conservative persuasion has said something in the news truly mean and stupid, and someone commented, what can you expect of those Christian types? The comment was made a professing Christian, but made as an attempt to gain distance from that segment of Christianity who thinks any mention of the shameless atrocities committed in the name of Christianity is a declaration of war on Christianity. People who take the New Law seriously do, indeed, try to put distance between themselves and those who cite Christianity as calling for the oppression, exclusion, and denigration of other human beings.
Today, I was parked behind a van at the nursery. It had two bumper stickers in its back window.
- I am Catholic, and I vote.
- No Obamacare.
Numerous commentators have blamed the decline in religious interest on many factors and people within the culture. However, the Pew Study which measures that decline gives people of faiths of good will and good purpose cause for hope. People are looking at religion with more critical intelligence. The factors that make them skeptical about religion are not popular music or charismatic public figures; the factors are the kind of people who profess religion while defaming diverse people and endorsing oppression and atrocities against them.
I cite a blues hymn.
Don't lay none of your Christianity on me.Professing a religion today can be taken as insidious identification.
Don't tell me 'bout your Christianity.
What it did to you is plain to see.
Ain't nobody goin' to fool that way with me.