”Two hands working can do more than a thousand clasped in prayer.” – Unknown
I’ve spent a lot of time recently trying to understand Atheism. As I read more articles, watch more youtube videos, and interact more on blogs and twitter, I keep coming back to one thing. What has Christianity done so wrong that has created such resentment? I’ve come in contact with some very angry people on the web (both Chrisian and Atheist). They wouldn’t characterize themselves as “Angry”, but all of their speech and actions reflect otherwise. One interaction between a Christian and an atheist I found resulted in the atheist saying “You’re right I hate bigotry, I hate ignorance, I hate persecution of minorities, I hate liars and frauds, just full of hate”. This came after a Christian used some choice 4-letter words to tell him he was a hateful person. The ferocity and volume of the content condemning religion is numbing.
Then you throw in the statistics. Just last week statistical analysts showed that religion may become extinct in 9 countries. Other articles like “Why the Gods Are Not Winning” provide statistics that religion is on the decline and skepticism and “non-religious” are increasing. Even studies by Christian organizations like The Barna Group have shown that regular church attendance in the US has declined steadily over the past few years and there’s a growing section of the population that doesn’t want to be identified with a formalized religion.
But why? What is it about “The Good News” that’s causing people to give up on religion? Is it the message? Or is it the implementation? How can Christians show the life transforming power of Jesus Christ when the outside world sees them as “entrenched-thinking, antigay, angry, violent, illogical, empire building, convert-focused people who cannot live peacefully with others?” (Unchristian, 2007, p27) Maybe it’s the perceived lack of difference making Christians have on the world. The total income of American churchgoers is $5.2 trillion, of which they give approximately 2 percent of 2 percent to a church or non-profit organization. The wealthiest Christians in all of history could end world hunger, solve the clean water crisis, provide universal access to drugs and medical care, guarantee education for all the world’s children, and support all orphans globally by simply giving the biblically recommended 10 percent. (The Hole in Our Gospel, 2009, p216-219). Instead our world hears and sees Margie Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church say “Elizabeth Taylor is in hell where she belongs” or Pastor Terry Jones burn a Quran then protest outside a mosque.
I recently volunteered with World Vision at a concert for the Christian rock band Third Day. The band had partnered with World Vision to help promote sponsorship of children in poverty areas. They showed a video and one of the band members gave a testimony about their work with Children in Haiti, followed by an intermission. During that time I took information on sponsorship with me through the aisles to see if people who didn’t want to actually come to the booth would be interested. When we got done at the end of the night another 34 children were sponsored and the World Vision coordinator said that was a good number. I walked back into the auditorium and looked around. The place seated probably 2000. That’s about 2% of the people, who you can assume are largely all Christians, sponsored a child. And that was considered a “good number”? The bassist Tai Anderson of Third Day had to rdefend promoting ONE.org’s campaign to have federal dollars for poverty fighting campaigns on their website. One of the repeated comments was “it’s not the governments job to help the poor, it’s the church’s”. Well, if the church were doing such a great job, why would we need to petition the government for dollars?
There are countless individuals who embrace their faith, but shun the church. They want to make a difference in the world and not just coast through it. They are frustrated with the apathy the see with so many comfortable worshipers in state of the art auditoriums. It’s time to stop talking. It’s time to stop politicking, protesting, dialoguing, analyzing, compromising, and DO SOMETHING. People are walking away from religion because of the apathy and hypocrisy within it, not the message. The battle isn’t with the world, it’s with the Christians themselves. But is it a hopeless battle? I don’t believe it is.