The Trouble With Christianity (in the USA)

“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” -Brennan Manning

This quote has stuck with me since I first heard it on DC Talk’s Jesus Freak CD. Couple that with St. Francis of Assisi’s famous line, “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words,” and I think you have a pretty good explanation as to why Christianity is rather unappealing to so many. 72% of non-church goers think the church is “full of hypocrites” according to the Barna groups research. There’s an obvious disconnect.
I’m making this case not as an evangelistic appeal, but simply to say, from both an insider and outsider perspective, I find very little evidence or reason to believe the claims of Christianity. As someone whose more or less followed this religious system for over a decade, that concerns me.

For years, I’ve ignored the large majority of “Christians”, opting instead to focus on the inspiring lives of Mother Teresa, Dr. King, John Perkins, Shane Claiborne, and my close friends who’ve lived out their beliefs and convictions before me. Yet, the elephant in the room was and is the vast majority of Christians whose lives look so strikingly similar to the rest of society (save a few condemning judgments). If these others claim a relationship with a super-natural God, a life empowered by the Holy Spirit, and a belief in the same Bible that I read, why do our lives and convictions look so different?

As a person whose at times struggled with doubts in the existence of the super-natural, I’ve leaned heavily at times on the witness and testimony of others. In the past, I’ve chosen to look to the testimony of those who claim Christianity and live out the same convictions I believe in, but the reality is that they are in the vast majority. If one were to take a scientific approach to assessing these claims. It would seem those who claim a connection with the super-natural and live radical lives of self-sacrifice that look like Jesus are in the vast minority, they are outliers. The majority of ‘evidence’ in an empirical study would should those claiming a super-natural empowered Biblical Christianity, live lives that look nothing like the Christianity I see in the Bible. The evidence would show that I am an outlier, that I’m one of the ones reading the book wrong, coming to inaccurate conclusions, and am obviously not in touch with the “leading of the Spirit”.

I want to spend the next several weeks trying to flesh out some of my beliefs, with Biblical support, and put them out their for discussion. I’d like to ask of those who agree with me, why are these convictions not present in most churches and Christians lives? And of those who disagree with me, where am I wrong? What am I miss reading? My intent will not be to toot my own, or anyone’s own horn, nor preach to the choir. I’m really seeking for some honest answers.

Thoughts on a Public Faith

I’m a firm believer in faith and religious beliefs being an integrated part of ones daily life. And thus, I don’t believe ones religious opinions need to be regulated to private conversations amongst those you are sure you agree with, rather then openly discussing even with those with whom you do not agree.
That being said, I have to attribute my lack of thoughtful blogging lately to my inability to be too open with my faith, both my beliefs, and my struggles and doubts. A while ago, I attached my blog posts to my facebook notes, thus sharing my most recent thoughts not just with those interested parties who’d opted into a email or rss, but with long lost high school friends and college acquaintances. In some ways, it’s been a rewarding experiment. I’m a different person in many ways then I was in high school, and it’s a chance to share my current place with those who’ve been a part of my journey in earlier years.
At the same time, I’ve found the publicness (just made that up) to be a little too intimidating for me. Trying To Follow started as just my personal blog, but I’ve tended to write primarily under a theme of what I understand to be Christian values. The audience, you, have been faithful fellow sojourners, encouraging me along my walk, while hopefully being similarly encouraged and challenged in yours. Now, I was sharing thoughts with people who hadn’t even asked for them, and might not be as interested or as receptive. The intimidation caused me to freeze up and not really write anything at all.
So, why am I sharing all this with you? Mostly to say that I want to continue on this journey, this conversation about trying to follow, and I’d love for you to come along with me.

(Details: Here’s my current plan, I’m going to blog about faith specifically here on trying to follow. Most everything else I’m going to post at I’ll cross post if it’s relevant. Plan subject to change, batteries not included).