This article mirrors my own experience. Had I not encountered another way of being Christian, one that took science, history and culture seriously, I may not have been a committed Christian. Likewise, if the only examples of ordained ministry I’d ever seen were like the majority I wtnessed as a child, I likely would’ve continued to say “no” when asked if I was going to be a preacher–because, I never wanted to be a preacher *like the one’s I saw growing up,* with only one exception. But then I encountered Anglicanism in the form of The Episcopal Church, and I saw faithful priests going about their ministry in a holisitic way. The one allowed me to hold tighter to my faith even as I encountered the breadth and wonder of God’s world, and the finite nature of our knowledge of it, while the other put me in a place where I could hear the call of God and the affirmation of the community without an immediate “no” coming to my lips.
It’s more than a little disheartening that many of the interviewees told David Greene that they don’t feel welcome in religious communities because of their doubt, particularly in light of the fact that they have been welcomed to be doubters on public radio. They can air their concerns to a reporter they’ve only just met who will then literally air them to a national audience, but they don’t feel like they can go to the most natural place, a faith community, and share their doubts there. We’ve failed them.
Beyond that though, I almost couldn’t bear to listen as my peers explained the various reasons why they’ve moved away from faith. These include a range of reasons from misunderstandings of the Bible to the problem of tragedy to, for a number of respondents, their perception of Christianity’s universal stance against homosexuality. We’ve failed them.
We failed them in so many ways, but perhaps none more severe than in letting one form of Christianity — and let’s name it: conservative evangelicalism — become the most public face of our faith in the United States. The young people who put it all out there on NPR, my peers, feel estranged from a faith I don’t adhere to. Of course I recognize it, and I remember it, but I don’t claim it. It occurred to me that, without a few crucial influences in my life — from my parents to pop culture — there but for the grace of God go I. I could’ve been a “None” too.
This morning, as I listened to both segments of the NPR story, my first response was to write a solution, to provide an answer, to suggest that we progressive Christians do better PR. But I don’t know. Now, as I sit here actually writing, I feel the old feeling of defeat creeping up again. It seems unavoidable: the most extreme voices are always the loudest.