A few days ago I posted a CS Lewis quote that I titled,” C. S. Lewis on Atheism.” For me it simply seemed to be a typical wordsmith type quote-clever language and deadly logic. Something quite surprising happened. That quote had more reads than anything else I had ever blogged, overcoming my previous highest day, ” When God Dies.” Was there a connection? I believe so. Many internet viewers are very interested in atheism and skepticism. That would indicate a pattern in our culture.
We live in a time of skeptics and doubters. The popularity of doubting God is at all-time high. From 2007 -2012 the number of non-religious Americans grew from 15% to 20%. This increase is by far the largest increase in any five year period. That, as well as the rise of people that called themselves agnostics and doubters, causes these types of blog entries to have many readers. Why are we headed in this direction?
America is becoming highly secularized – There is not one easy answer to our rapidly increasing secularism. We are far more diverse than ever before. In any given community there are people from various parts of the world, and they practice many faith traditions. Our diversity, instead of allowing us to celebrate our identity, has caused us to lose our identity in the name of being fair and accepting. The easy answer is for all to be “secular” and non-offensive.
People are just busy – The demand of success and productivity seems to leave little room for God or religion. Society demands that we be productive, do our best, and produce and spend at ever increasing rates. That means success is king, and it is measured with the bottom line. Workers are expected to put in long hours and give all to the job. That leaves very little for God or religious practice.
Churches have hardened attitudes – Our world is crying for mercy and grace and the church just seems to demand more. With all the other pressures people have in our culture, it would be nice if churches offered a place of refuge and comfort. On the contrary, the church has become as success oriented and demanding as the workplace. The church needs to offer help and understanding instead of rules and judgment.
Perhaps if you find yourself reading this because you are interested in atheism or skepticism, you might consider that God meant for His church to be a place of peace. Let us all take the advice of Mahatma Gandhi who said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” As a believer or a skeptic, just give such an idea a chance. Become that change you want to see in the church
Drawing of the Crucifixion by St. John of the Cross
Where have you hidden,
Beloved, and left me moaning?
you fled like the stag
after wounding me;
I went out calling you, but you were gone.
—-Canticle of John of the Cross Stanza 1
God has hidden His true self from us is the first cry of the soul. Indeed every seeker of God longs for the mystical presence because in such a presence we can touch the hand of God. John tells us in his canticle that such a presence is hidden from us. The long journey of the believer is to find that level of the spiritual which is concealed from us by asking God to manifest His divine essence to us. The search for the divine leaves us moaning. We are left in a state of grief because the quest is so elusive. Victory does not come to he who prays the most or the loudest.
The mere wisp of the touch of God flees from us us as quickly as the cautious deer when he sites a man. We get a little glimpse of God, and it wounds us because we want so much more of Him. We call after Him and we cannot find Him. All manner of prayer and sacred reading is this search for the essence of God in the here and now. In John’s canticle I feel a sense of urgency and determination that are vital elements to a true relationship with God.
In today’s rush towards relevance, we can forget what is basic. The Apostles Creed is basic. In one short confession, we affirm our faith in the resurrection, and embrace our baptism. In the early days of the church, there was a great cry to understand basic beliefs, and the Apostles Creed was an answer to that cry. Today’s world is full of “spiritual but not religious” people who are searching for answers. Perhaps this short confession can be used as a launching point of spiritual inquiry and it could lead to further examination of the faith.
My suggestion is simple. Make the creed a part of your daily prayer life, and allow it to be the basis for your discussions with spiritual seekers. I have found that if we stick to the ancient, but basic, documents of Christianity our impact is far greater. The creed is presented below. Recite it like you have never heard it before, and allow the words to be food for thought
I believe in God the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.And in Jesus Christ, his only Son our Lord, who was conceived from the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to Hell; on the third day he rose from the dead; he ascended into the heavens; he is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. Thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead.I believe in the Holy Spirit; the holy catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.