Derek Penwell, writing at Huffington Post, says many of the “nones” turn away from religion, at least Christianity, because of the apparent unwillingness of many Christians to live like Jesus. The question that should be keeping Christians up at night is “So what?”
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.
They hear the smugness of Christian reproaches against a society that would presume to remove God from public schools (because, you know, God is used to getting kicked around by effete liberals). But we shouldn’t be surprised how the “Nones” fail to square the fairly straightforwardly pacifist Jesus of the Gospels with the Libertarian Jesus of some Christians, a Jesus who apparently doesn’t have a problem with the idea that school safety can be secured with “God and a loaded gun.”
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 the expense 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?
So, here’s the thing: Christians can’t just believe stuff. People want an answer to the question: “So what?” They want to know what turns on these much-discussed beliefs, what difference these beliefs make in our lives. Do they help us care for the poor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked or welcome the outcast? Or do these beliefs merely represent a golden barrier that offer protection against blame?
In short, people who’ve lost interest in Christianity might just like to see Christians for whom believing “this stuff” is merely the first step to actually living it out.