By Vernon A. Williams
The United States of America boasts, “In God we trust,” claiming to be “One nation, under God, indivisible.” The rhetoric is pervasive but the reality is far more suspect. Few topics spark as much polarization as religion, but the conversation is imperative in these times of crisis.
What is the status and future of religion in this country, which claims to be founded on Christian principles, even though history and systemic inequities today conflict with that supposition?
This conversation is complicated by the fact that some of those who describe themselves as devout Christians are the most brazen hypocrites. The ultimate oxymoron is to claim staunch opposition to abortion while embracing the death penalty. The contradiction makes a lie of the very notion, “right to life.”
Many “holier-than-thou” religious zealots cry “Lord, Lord” at a deafening pitch while ignoring police murder of unarmed citizens, children drinking toxic water, cries of brown children STILL locked up in cages and oppression of the most vulnerable populations.
How can a man or woman of God reconcile their faith with the fact that they bow to political leadership that is the antithesis of every tenet of Christian (and virtually every other) faith. The current leader of the free world has a steady 40 percent base of support even though he is arguably in violation of at least eight of the Ten Commandments and in constant conflict with scripture – both the Old and New Testaments.
Skepticism of organized religion did not begin with the current administration and won’t end when it comes to an end – prayerfully the third week of January 2021. But this president’s unholy disposition, divisive rhetoric and contempt for the disenfranchised fueled the flame of cynicism at a rate not seen in a while.
This week, The Washington Post reported:
“Historically, Americans have recorded relatively high levels of worship-service attendance and belief in God, as compared with their peers in advanced industrial societies such as Europe or Japan. The U.S. example seemed to show that faith could survive in an environment dominated by science and technology.
“A forthcoming book by University of Michigan political scientist Ronald F. Inglehart, however, suggests that the United States is now rapidly catching up with the trend toward secularization elsewhere.
”When asked to express the importance of God in their lives on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being “not at all important,” and 10 being “very important,” Americans rated Him at an average of 4.6 in 2017 — down from 8.2 in just over a decade, according to an excerpt of Inglehart’s book, ‘Religion’s Sudden Decline,’ in the current issue of Foreign Affairs.”
The Pew Research Center last October revealed that the share of Americans claiming “none” as their religious affiliation had grown from 16 percent to 26 percent since 2007. Fewer than half of Americans now attend services regularly — with only 35 percent of millennials going at least once a month.
A disturbing trend suggests that in the last decade, social and economic development rendered human survival less precarious, human suffering less dramatic – precipitating a perceived drop in the need for existential comfort or guidance from age-old tradition. In the vernacular of the streets, the world became arrogant and, in essence, told God, “We got this.”
The year 2020 has been a harsh reminder of how little control man has over the forces of the universe and how powerless we are to prevent the loss of everything we hold dear – once humankind strays from the path of faith, worship and obedience.
This column is not some apocalyptic chastisement for an errant world. Just the opposite. It is affirmation that if God brings us to it – that is, any adversity – He will bring us through it. Faith is never the absence of challenges, it is the capacity to endure and overcome them. God prescribes exactly how and when this nightmare will end.
It’s simple. All we have to do is heed Second Chronicles 7:14 which spells out the only viable solution: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
Or we can wallow in the mire of pandemic, social injustice, catastrophe, and man’s inhumanity to man, trying to figure it out all by ourselves. We have a clear choice.
CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org.