Faith Column: Downward trend might help us look upward

In Disney’s movie “Wall-E,” there is an interesting depiction of what the writers imagine humans will be like 700 years from now. They are extremely obese and rely on individual hovercrafts to provide all they need — food, mobility, entertainment, etc. At one point, there is an X-ray of one of the humans, and it shows his skeleton has nearly disappeared because of a lack of use.

Sometimes I wonder if American Christians are going the way of the humans in that movie. But not all is lost. A survey I recently read might shake up what Christianity will look like in America down the road.

The survey — compiled by Pew in 2008 (http://religions.pewforum.org/) — finds that for the first time in America’s history, religious adherence (people who say they are affiliated with a church) is on the decline.

One might expect after opening with that in a column written for the faith page of a newspaper, the following 400 words will be about how this country is going to hell in a hand basket. Or maybe a tirade about how politicians and media are ruining the strong ideals this country was built upon. Sorry to disappoint. I actually think the decrease in numbers can be a good thing.

Part of why I think the downtrend could be beneficial is because I do not ever see Jesus seeking the popular majority. But Roman Emperor Constantine, who received sainthood and is highly revered by many Christians, thought otherwise. Constantine paved the path for Christianity to turn the corner from regional minority to worldly significance a little more than 300 years after Jesus’ death. He converted to Christianity in the fourth century and was a champion for the faith and for combining it with governing matters.

I would argue that following Christ does not mesh well with power and control and being the popular thing. Just look up all of the “desert” fathers and mothers who fled to the wilderness during Constantine’s rule to escape the institutionalization of Christianity. And when it comes to the abuse of power, we cannot forget the crusades, several brutal European kings and queens who tortured in the name of Jesus, and even the efforts of the early American Puritans to set up a state-funded church.

Today, although there has been some abuse of power from the Christian majority, the most significant problem I see is the idea that an American Christian and the American Dream are synonymous. For a lot of us, the Christian God provides a comfortable life and is fine with us making one day a week the only time we interact with our faith.

I am guilty. Often I would rather end the night watching a movie than being quiet in prayer or in the Bible. Or I am more concerned about how my favorite sports team is doing than focusing on good time with Jesus.

More and more I’m convinced that, for the most part, the American Christian majority — according to the aforementioned survey, 74.8 percent still claim to be Christian — would benefit from some adversity and diversity around it.

We are just too comfortable. Without challenge and questions and diversity, we are in danger of having no spiritual backbone and relying on some man-made idol to run our lives — and we would make the “Wall-E” prophecies accurate much sooner than 700 years from now.

David Pressgrove is the area director for Bear River Young Life.

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