I had a chance to return to my hometown, St. Louis, last month.While I was there, I took time to visit with Glynn Young, who writes one of my favorite blogs, Faith, Fiction, Friends.
Glynn and I have known each other for years, but not well. In recent years, through his blog, I’ve learned that we both have a strong interest in religion, and I was eager to see whether we might deepen our friendship. I think we’re off to a good start.
Glynn talks about his faith more easily than I do, and I admire that. I learned that, as children, we both were raised in The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. I’ve remained a lifelong Lutheran; Glynn has tried other flavors of Christianity over the years and has learned to be more open in discussing his faith in Christ. I’m working on it. The statistics show that on average, Lutherans invite someone to church once every 26 years, so at least I come by my shyness honestly.
During our visit, we agreed that Christianity is undergoing a major upheaval, and we’re not entirely sure where it’s headed. The obvious trend is that Christians are becoming as divided as Americans on the major issues of the day – abortion, stem cell research, homosexuality, the size of government and on and on. Sadly, as we divide, we seem to demonize one another so much that it’s hard to tell we belong to the One who tells us not to do that.
What brought all this to mind is a recent survey from Gallup. The survey indicates that seven in 10 Americans believe religion is losing its influence in American life. This is one of the highest percentages since 1970, when 75 percent of America said religion was losing influence. Keep in mind that these were the days of Vietnam, Woodstock and racial upheaval.
Self-reported membership in a church or synagogue has fallen over the years as well, from a high of 76 percent in 1947 to 61 percent today. It’s common today to hear people say they are spiritual but not religious, which usually means they’re not involved with a community of faith. I think they’re missing out on the strength, comfort and personal growth a church or synagogue can offer, but my view seems to be fading fast.
So, where are you on this issue? Do you think religion is fading in influence in America, and how is it faring with you?