Several weeks ago, I shared what had recently alarmed me.  A few days before, I had encountered data compiled from a survey of four schools–namely, our local high school district’s outgoing four senior classes.  The survey revealed that of 40 qualities which represent basic overall personal health, only one finished in a distant dead last. 22% said they possessed this quality: only 22% of our seniors claimed to invest a minimum one hour of time in organized religious activity each week.

When I shared this data a few weeks ago, a buzz arose from those who had read the article or who saw my blog posting.  “22%?!!!” many responded. “That’s tragic!”  “That’s terrible!”  “What kind of parents do we have raising kids these days?” Most of the responses to the raw facts of church attendance came from churchy folks who were bummed, incredulous, or who offered some prophetic discourse on how America is going down the tubes, etc., etc., etc.

Now, if you knew me well, you’d know that I wouldn’t share results like that to act like “a voice crying in the wilderness” decrying the end of the world…the end of America…or the moral decline of our beloved Lincoln-Way community.  Lots of times, religious folk can work one another into a frenzy about how bad things in America have become or are becoming.  Stats like 22% get them even more frazzled.  But, truthfully, the article about the 22% wasn’t a message for the hand-wringers among the 22% who go to church.  It was for the 78% who don’t.

So, here’s my second attempt.

“Ah-hem.” [Tap the mike to see if it’s on.]

“Hello, 78%.   Ummmmm, hi.  Yes, the church-goers have left the building, so we can speak honestly without feeling judged or worrying that we’re going to get somebody upset.  So…let’s just say it.  You’re the ones who don’t ever go to church.  Yes, there are a bunch of church jokes with you all as punchlines.  And, no, I’m not worried that the roof will cave in or that hell will freeze over because you’re here.

“Actually, though I’m a pastor, you might expect me to judge you or get down on you because you’re a ‘Creaster,’ a serial ‘skipper’, unchurched, de-churched, or a skeptic.  But that’s not the way I tick or the way I believe.  First thing: I love you.  Yes, I love you.  If I weren’t so into what I believe, trust me, I’d be where you are each Sunday…some place else.  I get that you see church as boring, obsolete, judgmental (yes, ironically filled with hypocrites), dusty, or annoying.  I know, I know.  Me, too.  It’s why I got out.  I stopped being religious and started a church.

“78%, even though we’re on opposite sides of this number, I’m on your side.  So much so, I’ve got to let you know something.  You’re missing something important.  Like veggies and oxygen important…but more even.  There’s something here that’s good for your soul that you can’t find anywhere else.  No, we don’t think we own God or that we have Him caged in our building.  Quite the opposite:  He is unleashed here.  You need to be around people who are experiencing this.  I dare you to come.  Four Sundays in a row so you get a good, fair taste.  I dare you to talk to somebody or sing a song or listen to the words or follow through on what the pastor suggested.  And see what happens.   I bet you won’t be in the 78% anymore.

“Ahem.”  [Long pause.] “And thus concludes the beginning…”

10 thoughts on “78%

  1. Before I answer your question, I want to point out that I never said certain, and second, you use the word truth. I never claimed to know the”truth” at 14, nor do I claim to know it now. I never had to realize my “truth” was way off. I progressed with education, experience and wisdom.

    My progression began as a child. I was taught to believe in god and was told I was a christian. I enjoyed reading the bible, but quickly doubted the historical nature of the book. My religious questions definitely outweighed my faith but I still had no reason to doubt my parents, and other teachings in my community.

    But after a while, I could not stop asking, where is god? Why does the bible speak for god. Why are people willing to spend so much time worshiping a being that has does not have a personal relationship with them? At this point, I’m thinking like an agnostic.

    The questions would continue and the next step, the progression, is that I changed the question. Instead of trying to find god, I asked myself why I need to believe in him?
    God, if he exists, can make himself known to me. He should not need another to speak for him.

    So, I don’t need proof that god does not exist. He needs to prove his existence! The burden of proof is on him/her/them.

    As an atheist, I do not claim to know, I just say I have no reason to think otherwise.

  2. Because I am a question-asking, truth-seeker, first…and a pastor, second, I’ve got to ask this question: What makes you so certain? What criteria got filled in for you so quickly. (In other words, what did you hold as “true” at 14 that you now look back and realize your “truth” was way off?

    It’s an honest question. Not one to bait. What makes you certain God doesn’t exist? What’s the proof that locks it down for you?

  3. I began by calling myself agnostic at an age when I began to define my own religious belief. By my 14th or 15th year, I stared using the atheist description after I was confident that my religious experiences were clearly defined and considered.

  4. My view is that I am responsible for the life I lead. I accept the responsibility of living a good life and it carries a motivation to have a positive impact in the lives of others. I have the responsibility of working hard to improve all aspects of my life without unfairly interfering with others pursuing the same. I have the responsibility to reach out to others in need.

    While living my own life, in a manner of my own choosing, I try to remember that others are doing the same. I consider that my own perception of right and good and my own perception of aid can be viewed differently by others and efforts of good intention can sometimes carry negative consequences.

    I do this without the guidance of religious beliefs or religious organizations, as I see them as living relics of ancient fears and limited understanding.

    And when I’m old, I hope to reflect upon my life with a feeling of content, if not joy, that I lead a balanced life, enjoying the pleasures that life has to offer and having procured for others the opportunity to do the same.

  5. ChristopherTK, since you have clearly pointed out that christianity (nor any other religion, it sounds based on your words) meets your level of reasonability, how would you describe the worldview you have adopted?

  6. Face,

    I appreciate you response and your effort but I can’t agree with you. I don’t think you are honestly considering my comments from a viewpoint different than your own.

    First and most obviously, I would like to point out that only christians need to work on improving their ideal christian lifestyle. Everyone-else will hopefully work to improve whatever lifestyle they deem appropriate for themselves.

    Next you state that “I think most people would/do benefit from giving church a real shot, not just going through the motions, or showing up because they think they have to, or even doing it because it’s what has been ingrained into most of us to do.”

    It is presumptuous to assume that someone that does not participate in the christian experience has not given it a real shot. Speaking for myself, I can tell you that I have given christianity my full consideration. I have studied other religions as well, visiting religious institutions and meeting with and spending time with various leaders and those in their community. I can tell you that I’m fully confident in my conclusions.

    You also added, “It leads to something that I cant really put into words other than to say… it leads to really strengthening your relationship with God.” Admittedly, I have never experienced a relationship I can’t explain. I have made good relationship choices and bad, but I could always explain them.

    Finally, you are correct in that I don’t speak for the 78%. I do not keep my thoughts hidden and I often share my beliefs with family and friends, many who think similarly. Many of them are in agreement with my previous comments. Still, I will not claim to represent them.

    My point is to engage you to truly consider our point of view without a christian bias. If you do so, you will realize that it is possible for one to to reasonably conclude that the christian faith has nothing to offer many people, even though you personally would not agree, based upon your own experience.

  7. @ChristopherTK…

    Hello TK, I read your write up and actually flashed back a few years…I thought of myself for a second while reading it and wanted to comment on your take.

    I would have been one of those Seniors that had Church last on my list (when I was a senior). I was one of the 78% in the community that had absolutely zero interest in really ever going to Church, simply because I never got anything out of it or understood it to be honest. It was always the same… sit, stand, sit, stand, sing, knee, communion, leave. Being in that 78% though, I felt somthing was missing in my life. I decided to give church one last shot after I started a family, to try something different, to attend Church with my wife and child, and to decide if it was worth the measly hour of time on Sunday…

    I started going to this Church consistently a little over a year ago…Wow, it has been worth every second. Not only do I now go to church, I also participate in a few Church functions and actually try to live a Christian lifestyle (something we all probably need to work on). With all that said, I don’t agree with your thoughts that “participating in positive social events that strive to improve a community with vocal and physical acts of support add greatly to both the community and the individuals within it. This would benefit one’s overall health but it does not have to be performed by or within a church. Any positive group will do”

    Well TK, I participate in many positive groups settings on weekly basis (outside of church), one of them measure up to the experience of Church on Sunday. I would agree with Morlan here, I think most people would/do benefit from giving Church a real shot, not just going through the motions, or showing up because they think they have to, or even doing it because it’s what has been ingrained into most of us to do. I agree that ”You need to be around people who are experiencing God, that you must give Church a real chance to get a good, fair taste (at least for me it did). I agree that when you to talk to somebody or sing a song or listen to the words or follow through on what the pastor suggested it leads you to something more than just a positive or negative experience. It leads to somthing that I cant really put into words other than to say… it leads to really streagnthening your relationship with God.

    You see I was once in that 78%, so for you to say that Morlan should not worry about the “78% missing the message” is wrong, and its wrong for the simple fact that you are only one in that large group… you simply shouldn’t speak for the rest of that other % of people (which I was one in). I can respect your thoughts but, I am betting you have never attended this Church? Don’t knock it until you try it…

    I’m not part of the 78% anymore!

    God Bless:)

  8. Hello reallifewithgod, this is ChristopherTK, a local resident in our shared community and one in a household of several included in the 78%. Now unlike some in the 78%, I’m not shy and do not worry about feeling judged. Not now and certainly not after my death by a supernatural being but this is getting ahead of myself.

    Many included in the 78% have considered and weighed the opinions and options available in life, including those meaningful to this conversation, such as – their own personal moral philosophy, a scientific bias and an unwillingness to force a leap of faith.

    Given that a strong percentage of those included in the 78% have come to the reasonable conclusion that church attendance would be a waste of time, as church is intended to unite one with a god, then we can dismiss the idea that at least one hour of organized religious activity is required as a quality which represents overall health. So your concern is irrational – except if your concern is future limited job security.

    You may reasonably argue that regardless of one’s belief or lack of belief, participating in positive social events that strive to improve a community with vocal and physical acts of support add greatly to both the community and the individuals within it. This would benefit one’s overall health but it does not have to be performed by or within a church. Any positive group will do.

    It is concerning that you would suggest that the entirety of the 78%, by the nature of your bet, would benefit from a trial period at your church as if your brand of religious teaching would shape and affect the 78% better than any experience the 78% may have previously encountered. This is not a slant against your abilities, just your premise. Most have already had a good fair taste of religious experiences and after careful consideration concluded that talking to someone else about religion, singing songs or listening to another pastor will do nothing to change what one’s own life has taught them.

    So do not worry. You can love your god and your church. You can love your neighbors and your community, you can even love those of us in the 78% but do not worry that the 78% is missing the message. We have all heard it numerous times and we have chosen to act accordingly.

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