Studies have shown that the fastest growing religious groups in America, and indeed around the world, are atheists and agnostics. I never know what to make of such studies, and I’m sure that the religious picture in America and around the globe is more complex than any study can perhaps capture. After all, Pew Research found not too long ago that 14% of people who said they don’t believe in God also identify themselves as Christian. So, religion can be a complicated thing.
One thing seems clear, though. Nationally, involvement in churches is trending downward. Again, there are probably many reasons for this, but one reason that occasionally raises its head did so again this week. As news of the devastating earthquake in Haiti reached us, the Rev. Pat Robertson felt it necessary to use his TV program to say that the people of Haiti had made a deal with the devil to rid themselves of French domination during the colonial period. It worked, the Rev. Robertson said, and ever since, the people of Haiti have been cursed with one terrible thing after another. So, he suggested, perhaps this disaster is a “blessing in disguise”, causing the Haitians to turn toward God.
The online site where I read about this allowed readers to comment on the story, and every response was highly critical of the Rev. Robertson’s statement. I noticed that there were a number of comments from people who cited such remarks as one reason why they either didn’t believe in God or wanted nothing to do with the church.
I wanted to tell each of those people that there is another way of holding one’s faith, that there are other people whose Christianity is quite different, and who don’t assign horrible natural disasters to divine punishment for wrong-doing. But it’s hard to get the media to pay attention to you when you’re just being reasonable.
It seems that in many ways, we have some how managed to cede Christianity to unreasonable people. It is they who so often seem to be the people who are consulted when a Christian point of view is wanted. So my question is this: how do reasonable Christians get air time? How do those of us who hold a more sophisticated, nuanced faith get that across to people who find the Christian tradition to be bankrupt because of the more unreasonable voices among us?
I don’t know the answer to that. It seems that Jesus needs a better publicist.