Monday, January 28, 2013

From Christian to "none"

Several articles are paying attention to the "nones", those who do not identify with any faith tradition.  And not surprisingly, they are finding that many of those "nones" are not naive,b ut have deliberately stepped away from the Christian tradition.  Here are two authors who are demanding that those who identify as "Christian" look within themselves for the cause:

Derek Penwell:
It strikes me that much of what drives this unenthusiastic response to religion, at least in the case of Christianity, centers on the apparent (at least to observers) unwillingness of Christians to live like Jesus. The "Nones" have heard endlessly about Christianity and how everybody would be better off if the world would just believe the stuff Christians believe: 
They've gotten the message, for instance, that being Christian means you believe being gay is a sin -- and not just any sin, but sin in a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad way. The express-lane-to-Hell kind of sin. Then they read the Gospels about a Jesus who reserves his most stinging indictments not for the folks everybody else has already given up on, but for the stalwarts at the top of the religious and political food chain, the ones who join Rotary, drive Buicks and wear sensible shoes...
Christians claim to believe in a Jesus, who spent a great deal of time reaching out to, speaking out for, advocating on behalf of "the least of these"; but then some segments of Christianity align themselves with a brand of politics that seems interested in advancing only the interests of the wealthiest among us -- at theexpense of the poor, the hungry, the naked, and the outcast -- which is to say, at the expense of the least of these. What are outsiders to think? 
And, Mark Osler:

I know quite a few Nones. Few of them were raised in the absence of any faith tradition. Instead, most were part of a Christian denomination at some point, but consciously made the decision to leave. What interests me about their stories is this common thread: The majority left Christianity because of the attitudes of a person, and that person was not Jesus. It was an overbearing parent, or a judgmental minister, or a congregant who told them they did not belong because they were gay or they were questioning or they had conflicted ideas. In many cases, it was a combination of these types of influences. 
Something is wrong when we drive so many people away. I think a big part of that something is arrogance.
I don't embody the ideal I'm about to describe in answer to that question, but I know some people who do. These are the people who made me want to be a Christian. What I see in them are three key attributes: They are authentic, unashamed and honest..... 
It might be that our first job in responding to the rise of the "Nones" is that we should stop creating so many of them through our own arrogance and our attempts to judge others (contrary to Christ's express instruction). People are drawn to those who are strong and humble; is there any more compelling combination of attributes? Perhaps it is now the time to be those things, as Christ was, rather than smug in the conviction that we are always correct, and always the best.


Counterlight said...

I wish I could remember who it was who distinguished between "typical" Christians and "exemplary" Christians.

"Typical" Christians are the insufferable majority satisfied to flash that membership card with the express pass to salvation on it.

"Exemplary" Christians are that very rare breed who actually try to live out what the Gospel describes, and sometimes die in the process. I'm thinking of people like St. Francis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Martin Luther King.

"Typical" Christians make all kinds of demands and preconditions on their hospitality.
"Exemplary" Christians live and let live, and leave everyone a little better for having known them.

Tom Sramek, Jr. said...

Well, if we're going to categorize Christians, then I would add a third category and rework the above, as follows:

1) "Nominal" Christians: Those who rarely think about the faith tradition in which they (likely) grew up. Being a Christian is like being an American--it just happened and there are no real responsibilities or consequences associated with it. (Replaces "Typical" Christians)

2) "Typical" Christians: Those who regularly think about their faith and struggle to follow Jesus. I suspect most of us end up in this space.

3) "Exemplary" Christians: Those who, generally successfully, live out what the Gospel describes and sometimes die in the process.

I'm neither exemplary nor nominal, but I think that makes me pretty typical!

2) "Typical" Christians:

IT said...

I would say there are humble Christians, and arrogant Christians. The former can listen. The latter only dictate.

IT said...

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