Sunday, March 02, 2008

Religious Landscaping

Sorry--I know this graphic is hard to read. That's as big as I can make it.

You may have seen the report out last week from the Pew Religion Forum which outlined "America's Religious Landscape." It told us a lot of stuff we already knew, like "Americans are increasingly unaffiliated religiously." (Though some are religiously unaffiliated). The survey confirms that denominational identity is increasingly unimportant, which we also already knew, though it still makes those of us with denominational affiliations in our job titles a little queasy.

It used to be easier to answer the question "Why are you a...[insert religious affiliation here]?" You were a Lutheran because your parents were Lutherans and you were raised in the Lutheran church and it seemed fine and fine is good for Lutherans. We're good with fine.

That sort of denominational default ended a while ago for many people. I'm a Lutheran because my friend Sara took me to her church when I was 11 and I fell in love. With the church. We moved before I could fall in love with Sara, though I think the reverse is not necessarily true but I digress.

So none of this is big news, though the flip-flop in percentages from Mainline Protestant to Evangelical Protestant is still startling. They're growing. We're not. Lots of people have guessed why, but I don't like most of the answers.

Here's what I want to know: Why do we go to a particular church? I'm not concerned with denominations here, necessarily, though that's salient, of course. Mostly I want to know:

  • Why does a particular faith community make your heart sing?
  • What's the thing that gets you out of bed on Sunday morning (or Saturday morning, or out on Saturday evening or Wednesday evening or whenever you go out to practice your faith)?
  • What can't you live without?


Anonymous said...

This is a great day for me to answer this little survey...because it is exactly 2 years ago today that I wandered in to Abiding Peace Lutheran Church!

I think what I love about my church is foremost the people. In my church it's truly no big deal that I am gay. You certainly don't find that in every church community! The people at my church accept me even though I am more conservative (gasp!) than most of them are. Also, I liked how the people there did not push me or pressure me to join. I was allowed to come and experience the church without feeling anxiety about officially joining the church. Although that line is a hard one to walk (showing interest in someone without pushing them) AP does it beautifully.

What gets me out of bed and in to church are again, the people and also the sermon/message. The sermons always give me something to think about as I make my way through the workweek. I have enjoyed participating in most of the adult education opportunities our pastor offers, and I have learned a lot about Lutheran history and also about myself. I have been inspired to change my usual style on some things to get a more rounded approach to issues or problems. I do really appreciate all the hard work Pastor Donna puts in to our services and her sermons and her workshops. She is a gem, and I am proud to call her my friend!

I think Martin Luther rocks! Almost every day I think about his acts of courage as he challenged the status quo, and I try to also be courageous in my own life (on a much smaller scale).


Anonymous said...

First Sheryl we are so glad you wandered into the community!! You are a rock star and we wouldn't be the same without you there.

Second, this is interesting to me because I was a member of this church well before it was the Abiding Peace we know and love today. I came back to church plain and simple because of Donna. My mom and dad had been asking me for years to come to Christmas come to Easter etc but I refused to be a "Christmas Christian" and stayed away. I was suffering in my own cynical world that rejected organized religion and on some very basic level was rejecting a God I could not see or have access to. My folks finally got me to met Donna and come hang out and it was a beautiful thing to not feel even one ounce of pressure from Donna about going to church. It was all about community for her and building a place of trust between people. I fell in love with many of the folks going to church also and it became a logical conclusion that I should start going to back to service. I went to my first one with cynicism still on my heart and was BLOWN AWAY by the sermon. Donna was speaking TO ME... I had never had that experience before.. it was beautiful. I have missed very few Sunday's since that day (how many years ago was that?) and each Sunday I find the message very personal and thought provoking. I am still in love with the people I go to church with and value them as family. I have no fear of rejection because I am not gay in a "gay" church. Man they love me for me.
I go to church because I want to see everyone and I KNOW that Pastor has something to say to me that day. It is a message I often should be hearing and it normally lets me work something out that I had been chewing on.
I am a Lutheran because.. why would I want to be anything else? I explore other justice minded religions and find things in there that I relate to but it's all God and why not follow in the footsteps of people who fought the system? Who saw something wrong and said .. hey! that's not the way it's supposed to be - lets change it! Martin Luther was my kind of guy!
I have other things I could say but I think I am writing a Novela so I should lay of the typing.. LOVE MY CHURCH