Just as we got ready for Passover, Easter, Ramadan and Norwuz, the Gallup organization raised eyebrows finding that fewer than half of Americans now belong to a house of worship, a downward trend that has persisted for some time. Gallup: Fewer than half of Americans belong to a church or other house of worship (religionnews.com) At the same time, there seems to be concern among the “nones” (i.e. those who have no religious affiliation), that as organized religion decreases, they had better watch out because they will face more and more legal oppression. This position is forcefully articulated by a young law professor named Tyler Broker. The Legal Oppression Of Nonbelievers Will Escalate The More Religion Declines | Above the Law
Well now. Hopefully this view is overly pessimistic while others see interesting possibilities for the nation’s religious future.
Wesley Graham-Michaelson, the former general secretary of the Reformed Church in America, has this to say about the Gallup poll:
“When nones are asked why they have disaffiliated from any religious organization, only 22% say it is because they do not believe in God. The primary challenge facing pastors, rabbis and imams is how to invite nonmembers into an authentic experience of God.” Behind Gallup’s portrait of church decline (religionnews.com)
And he notes that “color” and national origin matter:
“The nones who enjoy lattes at downtown coffee shops on Sunday mornings instead of singing in church are largely young, hip and white. But the country’s demographic future as a whole is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse, and this will impact the religious landscape.”
Lampooning aside, this is probably true in our Tysons community. The vibrant Korean-American churches you can find on our Tysons Interfaith map support the author’s point that immigration can actually increase religious participation. “Denominations rooted in Africa and Asia now have hundreds of congregations throughout the U.S., which continue to grow.”
The task, therefore, for faith communities in this changing world, seems to be to find ways to engage with non-affiliated “nones” to communicate that they are welcome, that the faith experience is relevant and has something to offer their lives. At the same time, we must reassure the non-practicing that faith communities such as those who are members of Tysons Interfaith, are strong supporters of all aspects of the First Amendment. Any perception of state sponsorship of religion is directly counter to the freedom to practice religion (or be agnostic). Admittedly it is tricky to juggle all the requirements of the First Amendment – to protect religious expression without crossing the line into perceived partiality for or even state sponsorship of religion. We can say, that at Tysons Interfaith, we are all about defending the freedom to exercise our various religious practices, while at the same time promoting spirituality, building community and cultivating respect and understanding among neighbors regardless of religious affiliation, race or culture.
This blog post is the expressed opinion of its writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Tysons Interfaith or its members.