Saturday, May 06, 2006

Report on Spirituality and Culture

My favourite columnist, Mark Steyn has written 2 articles recently about religion in modern culture. The first column is about the world, and he starts off by fittingly observing that when we fail to believe in God we’re liable to believe in anything. In North America it seems to be various types of trendy new age “spirituality.” In Europe, Mark observes that the trendy thing to do is to convert to Islam, which will no doubt have significant cultural and political ramifications. He then asks, “Where is Christianity?” and while he commends Pope Benedict, he notes that leadership from faith filled Protestants is sadly lacking.

Europe is often described as a post-Christian society, and in many ways that’s a fair statement. Christian leaders have a herculean task ahead of them to generate a revival in faith and cultural influence, of course, the second cannot happen without the first. I pray for Europe.

Mark’s second article is about Canada. Here he basically rips apart a Toronto Star article, (This isn’t usually very difficult, pick on someone your own size Mark), that compares Canadians’ Sunday morning visits to Tim Hortons, with Americans’ greater tendency to attend church. The Star article, Timbit Nation, really isn’t worth reading; it’s another one of those attempts at forced Canadiana that totally fails to inspire.

Fortunately, Tim Horton’s has not replaced attending Church, about 1/3 of Canadians attend religious services at least 1 once a month, there’s a decent chance that in the line up for coffee on Sunday Morning is someone going to or coming from church. This week Statistics Canada released a report on the state of religion in Canada. In addition to those Canadians who attend worship services regularly, 21% of Canadians practice religion on their own at least weekly:
Perhaps most striking is the many Canadians who infrequently or never attend
services yet regularly engage in personal religious practices. Of those who
infrequently attended religious services over the previous year, 37% engaged in
religious practices on their own on a weekly basis. And of those who had not
attended any religious services over the previous year, 27% engaged in weekly
religious practices on their own. Overall this group of adults who regularly
engage in private religious practices, but infrequently or never attend
religious services, represent, 21% of the adult population.

From a faith perspective this provides challenges and opportunities. There is a large group of people that churches must reach out to. In our church, we have volunteers to bring communion to those who can't attend. But we also need to reach out to those who are able to attend but choose to practice privately instead. These people are most at risk of falling away from their faith without the support and community that a living church offers.

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