Not long ago I had the rather unpleasant experience of speaking with someone from a major theological institution. She was doing some market research and wanted to know my views about the direction her school was headed. The move du jour seemed to be a kind of one-size-fits-all training applicable to every kind of religious thought and conscientiously (or self-consciously) changing the language to avoid sounding too this or too that. I listened for a while but eventually interrupted her to ask, “So what do you folks believe these days?”
“Why?” she countered.
“I’m just trying to figure out your mission. What are you trying to do?”
“Oh, yes, do you mean are we still Christian? You picked that up, did you? Well, we’re de-centering Christianity.”
Now it was my turn. “Why?”
“Because it’s dying. Surely you’ve seen the Pew Research. Americans are leaving churches in droves.”
The survey reflected what I’d been hearing for a while. Churches were folding as people opted for brunch and baseball over hymns and homilies. But did that mean Christianity was dying? Or are those churches in decline simply falling short? In his book, Faith After Doubt, Brian McLaren says this “falling away” is the result from many Christians’ inability to tolerate doubt. In the post-evangelical age of biblical inerrancy and unshakable certainty, merely suggesting you have questions can put you in socio-spiritual limbo, leaving you alone with your uncertainties.
How is that healthy for any individual, community, or faith? When did “knowing” replace believing? In our hyper-competitive world of know-it-all, over-achieving A-students-for-life, have we lost our respect for doubt? That may be why congregations are dwindling. The sermons and discussions may have no teeth. The community’s lived experience may be pallid and cold. The theological waters may be so shallow it’s not worth the plunge.
At Gather we’ve always loved questions… always embraced doubts… always made room to ponder big ideas with healthy suspicion. Why? Because we’re a faith community. Starting this Thursday at 7:30pm, we’ll look more deeply into doubt and faith. We’ll draw from McLaren’s book. But we’ll make sure we leave space for healthy discussion. Don’t miss one week in this series. It could be everything you need right now in your own faith formation. I look forward to seeing you all!
Peace, and blessings