Mark Osler: Christian arrogance is driving ‘nones’ away

Mark Osler, who describes himself as an evangelical Christian, believes that arrogance on the part of the faithful is driving more and more people to identify themselves as “nones” who affiliate with no organized religion. Writing at Huffington Post, he says:

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.

This raises the question, then, of how to be a public Christian, even an evangelical Christian (which is how I identify myself), without running the risk of 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.

He goes on to elaborate about each of those characteristics, and writes that “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.”

Read his full post here.

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  1. Gregory Orloff

    With regard to Mr. Osler’s justified concern, it’s worth reminding ourselves that arrogance isn’t among the fruits of the Spirit, but patience, kindness, generosity and gentleness are (Galatians 5:22-23). Their presence or their absence can make or break how “outsiders” perceive Christians and the presence or absence of God’s spirit among us.

    Theologian Alexander Schmemann wrote:

    “A kind person — a virtuous person. Between them, there is a big difference. A kind person is kind because he or she accepts people as they are, covers them with kindness. Kindness is beautiful, the most beautiful thing on earth. Virtuous people are activists, obsessed with the desire to impose their principles and goodness, easily condemning, destroying, hating… In this world there is a lot of virtue, and so little kindness.”

    In his post, Mr. Osler also wrote: “We should not pretend that our faith or our life in faith is perfect, or makes us perfect, or is easy. We should be honest about our doubts, and about our own failures.” This bit of refreshing honesty reminds of some poignant words that recently came out of the Taizé Community:

    “Believing in God, trusting in him, means relying on him. Having faith does not mean being able to explain everything or having an easier life, but finding stability and a starting point.”

    “It means not being dependent on our successes or failures, and thus ultimately on ourselves, but on Another who loves us.”


  2. Mark Osler is also an Episcopalian. I know this because he’s one of my parishioners at St. Stephen’s in Edina, Minnesota!

  3. Dallas Bob

    Mark Osler is correct. All too often today the face of Christianity is one of arrogance (not to mention ignorance). Meddling in the private lives of thoughtful, intelligent Americans is rightfully seen as arrogant behavior. I suspect for many of the “nones” Christianity is seen as little more than an attempt to villify gay people, criminalize abortion, and stop contraception. The public face of the Church is often one of privilege whose rights are above all others in society. And some Churches constantly complain about how they are persecuted in the USA. They are beleagured victims in the “War on Christmas” and of “Obamacare”. Until Christians do less paranoid whining and more following Jesus in serving humankind, the nones will continue to grow. And frankly who can blame them.

    Bob Button

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