From the Sunday Chicago Tribune. June 24th. 2007
A pew or a canoe: Not a tough choice
June 24, 2007
I see a sign, and it's telling me that many Christian males have lost interest in the standard version of what it apparently means to be godly.
Consider that the Barna Group, a Christian research organization, recently issued a report indicating that mothers are better stewards of Christianity than fathers in relation to families.
Further, Barna found, men are more likely to be "unchurched" than women, with males accounting for 55 percent of the category. Unchurched meant "has not attended a Christian church service within the past six months," excluding holidays.
Research also showed that more women pray at least once a week: 89 percent versus 79 percent. I don't know if that includes males praying: "God, please don't let my wife ask me to go to church again this Sunday."
There happen to be a few other religions in this country, so that helps explain why some people are unchurched, but some of it may involve how all this is measured.
The standards for determining that mothers were better Christian energizers involved attending church, praying, reading the Bible, participating in a small group, attending Sunday school and volunteering to help at a church.
I would guess that most of the people who do these things are wonderful Christians, but these acts say nothing about the spiritual reality. In large part, those things simply mean you're a joiner, not more holy.
Definitely among the unchurched, I think there are healthy alternatives to the pursuit of a higher being that apply in any religion. I know church is a great place to find religion, but there are better places to draw closer to the non-fiction author of all that wonderful creation out there.
Let's look at a theoretical Sunday morning. I have a choice: I can go sit in a church pew and, in a congregational monotone, recite words that I'm guessing many people don't even think about as they say them. Maybe it's just me, but it seems that a direct conversation with an all-powerful deity would generate a little more enthusiasm.
My other choice: I can hop in my canoe and paddle up the White River in southern Wisconsin and within minutes find an unspoiled spot that looks like it's right out of the original Garden, precisely as its creator intended it.
For me, the better option is to savor the peace-giving, faith-inducing wonders of nature, the official art form of the deity. This is a temple I would visit every day. And, not to speak for other guys, but such alternative methods of "going to church" could explain why at least some men who aren't showing up with the other parishioners.
When my sons were growing up, we held our own brand of religious ceremonies beside a campfire, where spiritual feeling was palpable, and talked in a Christian context about how Native Americans lived so harmoniously with creation and in awe of its architect.
I think my sons now are as unchurched as I. But they still love to camp. And when one of them called by cell phone the other day and asked me to tell one of the old Indian stories on speaker phone by his campfire, I knew that the great spirit must still be alive.
I may be unchurched, but I think God's voice sounds much clearer in his own back yard.
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