“Pollsters are turning to religion just as more Americans are losing theirs.” This is the first sentence in Carl Bialk’s Friday, The Numbers Guy article. One of my buddies has for years been cheering on this dwindling of numbers from the atheist sidelines. For my part, on the supposedly opposite sidelines, I’m also cheering this shrinking of warm spots in the pews.
From my perspective, I sincerely suspect that too many pew warming “Christians” are attending for other reasons. Now for a quick apology to and jab at my Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters who rarely warm a pew. Those preferred spots to stand on are being warmed by some for similar reasons. My pain inflicting pleasure isn’t over spotting those who haven’t voiced the right words in what they see as a true confession of faith.
This problem rests in the like of a pastor I dealt with who, if he never lived out his confessed fantasies, may not have committed a few heinous crimes; the sexual predator who had, like a Praying Mantis had been preying on adolescent girls in his sunday school classes; or a monk still hurting from a year or two of giving into an old sexual desire he shared with other monks. These are the nasty versions that I catch even myself using to avoid seeing my own and more common slights called sin. Here is the most common means we all share in to keep our selves distracted.
What has all of this to do with those dwindling numbers? Well, I feel that a significant number of those filling the pews or standing about during the liturgy are there because it was only habit. While it’s possible some of those may eventually be won over by staying put, I see us enabling the majority in avoiding change. My dad’s point about everyone needing a bloodied knuckle before figuring out they’d done something wrong as the most likely means of resolving things.
Staying in Church without seeing any need of, moment by moment, living out who our repentance calls us to be is an all too secure fiasco. Now, before you see me standing in the pulpit waving my finger at everyone out there in the pews, realize that I see myself as guilty as that pastor, monk and Praying Mantis. There is no need of such extreme acts to be just as dysfunctional in my relationship with fellow Christians.
So then, beginning to use other’s sins as avenues down which my own are becoming more obvious fuels my need to live out my repentance.