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?