Wednesday, September 29, 2010

American Christians don't know diddley about religion?

A new study (take it for what it's worth) suggests that Americans, particularly Christians, no little about the basics of their faith.

Some of the survey, of course, could be debatable. The section on how much believers know about the Constitution and religion suggests Americans think things are too restrictive. But this is subjective. And it may be based on news stories that suggest there are those trying to make it more restrictive than it actually is, and hence believers assuming that the restrictions either are, or will be, law in the land. So the survey, like all such attempts to categorize millions based on the answers of hundreds, no doubt has flaws. (see my medicine show post).

And of course, Catholics score at the bottom of the list in knowing anything about religion in general or their own faith in particular. This has to stop. I know folks say it's not the Church's job, but yeah, it actually is:

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
But there's more to the results than our illustrious media might guess. Religion is, in the end, a world view and approach to living. It is not an academic exercise. It is not a scholarly treatise on how we understand the world. Did it surprise me that atheists and agnostics scored so high? No. I learned quite a lot about religions as an agnostic, but not to become more religious. Or even to learn from them. I merely wanted to find all the little tidbits that validated my unbelief.

Many, if not most, secularists who study all about religion do it for one reason: to justify not believing. Hence, they are merely looking for everything they can to justify not accepting what they've learned about. Imagine Rush Limbaugh. I would venture to say he knows more about Obama's policies, history, background, and experience than half the people who voted for him. That means what? That Rush Limbaugh is smarter? That Rush Limbaugh must be the official authority to approach for any information about Obama? No, he finds out what he finds out to reinforce what he already believes.

In addition, many who are religious see it as a life, not a series of textbooks. To them, it's more important that they give that cup of cold water, they feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those imprison. It's the living it that counts, not the scholarly comprehension. To put it bluntly, which is better: having a completely academic understanding of sex, or actually experiencing it?

That they can't answer some basics about their faith, or the difference between Hinduism and Buddhism is of little concern. Especially if they feel they've discovered the Truth for living. After all, if one discovered a cure for cancer, would we ridicule them for not continuing to study other remedies? Even if we believed the other remedies just as effective? They already have a cure. In addition, the idea that one must study all religions and know all about all religions comes from a society whose basic belief about all religions is that they are all wrong.

This is not to say I think Christians should be uneducated. Far be it. I believe because of the increasing hostility toward the Christian faith, and the inroads made by other faith traditions, it would do us well to learn about those faiths and their histories, both the good and bad. Also, we should know better the basics our our beliefs. When almost half of Catholics don't know what the Church teaches about the Eucharist, when Evangelicals believe that their tradition teaches we get saved the old fashioned way - by earning it, then there are problems. Christians should understand their faith as much as atheists don't understand their own faith in atheism. By doing so, it will help us, as Peter says, always be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks us to give an account for the hope that is in us.

1 comment:

  1. Glad you added that last paragraph because I was getting ready to say something similar. We as Christians should know more about our faith not so that we can say "I know more than you" but because we are beginning to be persecuted in this day and age. We should know what our faith is and live it, but also why we believe what we believe. The who, what, when, where and why of our Church. The past, the present and the future (that being the afterlife) We should strive to learn and grow not only in the faith but in the religious expression that we have chosen to live our faith within.
    Thanks for the post!


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