Adam Ford, a Christian cartoonist, made this comic that I’ve seen several people sharing online:
The full strip is here and you should read the whole thing to understand his perspective.
In short, it acknowledges what the studies have been showing: Christianity is losing people while the “Nones” are growing. But Ford suggests that the shift has everything to do with people who never really cared about religion one way or another — the “cultural” Christians — and simply use whatever label is most convenient at the time.
There’s probably some truth to that. But I think Ford dismisses a very real concern that Christians ought to have: Not everybody leaving the faith is simply apathetic about faith.
It’s offensive, really, to suggest that those who no longer call themselves Christians were never really true Christians to begin with.
A lot of them are leaving because, even though they’re super devout, the loudest voices in Christianity no longer reflect their attitudes.
They hate that Christianity is anti-gay, anti-women, anti-science, anti-sex-education, and super-duper-Republican.
The Barna group — a Christian polling organization — has been saying this for years:
Even among young Christians, many of the negative images generated significant traction. Half of young churchgoers said they perceive Christianity to be judgmental, hypocritical, and too political. One-third said it was old-fashioned and out of touch with reality.
Again: That’s coming from churchgoing Christians, not people who just don’t care about religion.
Another Barna study looked at young people who were serious Christians but left the faith after the age of 15 (when they could think for themselves). Why did they leave? It’s not because they stopped caring about faith or no longer believed in God.
Here’s just one of the more popular reasons they no longer identify as Christians:
Young adults with Christian experience say the church is not a place that allows them to express doubts. They do not feel safe admitting that sometimes Christianity does not make sense. In addition, many feel that the church’s response to doubt is trivial. Some of the perceptions in this regard include not being able “to ask my most pressing life questions in church” (36%) and having “significant intellectual doubts about my faith” (23%). In a related theme of how churches struggle to help young adults who feel marginalized, about one out of every six young adults with a Christian background said their faith “does not help with depression or other emotional problems” they experience (18%).
Many of these people still believe in the divinity of Jesus and look to the Bible for guidance. They’re not saying “Meh” to religion like the comic suggests. They would gladly be Christian if modern-day Christianity represented them. But it doesn’t, so they don’t mind finding their own way forward.
Believe me, I *wish* more of those people who were in the ranks of the “Unaffiliated” were atheists. They’re not. Most of them believe in a “higher power” and many of them are Christians in every sense of the word.
Some Christians are just convincing themselves that they’re doing everything right, and if young people were just more devout, they would never leave the fold.
That’s a very convenient lie. It’s some of the most devout people who are ashamed to be associated with Christianity because of what its leaders have done to it. Too bad a lot of Christians can’t bring themselves to admit that.
(Thanks to Jeff for the link)