There was a story about evangelical Christians in the New York Times yesterday that I felt was worthy of further comment.
The main story concerned a couple who refused to rent their chapel to a same sex couple. The resulting backlash from the community cost them their business, and the chapel was bought by another evangelical outfit.
The leader of this organization with a congregation of 300 was Mr. Ryan Jorgenson.
He took it upon himself to organize a conference of self-styled evangelical Christians to teach them how to evangelize atheists, agnostics and Mormons.
I thought this intent was worthy of examination.
In the first place, what authority does this flawed human being have to judge that anyone needs his lectures on salvation? How did he come to choose these particular segments of the population for his attention?
The answer to the first question is that male members of any Christian organization think that they have the answer to everything religious, and that it is their duty to follow up on their notions.
The second answer is that these particular groups are vulnerable targets in his mind.
How successful he will be remains to be seen, as there are formidable roadblocks to his plan.
Atheists are singular people, and even if he knew of an organized group of card carrying atheists, what is to say that they would be open to the belief that there was a sky daddy to boss them around in this life and direct them in the next?
Atheists by definition are “without Theism” They believe that there is not enough evidence to support any belief in a super power that controls them in this life or any parallel universe.
This is going to be a very hard sell, and even if the conferenced goers keep a data base worthy of the NSA, they will have no luck in garnering adherents.
The second category is the agnostics who profess to be unsure of any of the beliefs in an afterlife or ruling sky daddy. Their attitude is one of not really caring. Laziness, lassitude apathy or ignorance is very hard to overcome with any outreach program even if there are coffee and doughnuts.
The last category the Mormons surprised me. Since 1998 I have been reading the exit stories on Exmormon.org which is a bulletin board devoted to the recovery from Mormonism. Most of the people have come to abhor any religion, have many mental and emotional problems and PTSD from living in the cult of LDS. Having personal experience with the same cult, I can understand that ex Mormons would not want to have anything to do with any religion, and some go on to achieve agnosticism or become atheists.
On the other hand, some go to community based churches like the Universal Unitarians who are not concerned so much with an afterlife as to what can be achieved in this life with community service and helpful programs to both humanity and nature.
The statistics of religion in America is now mirroring the statistics within the European community and worldwide Catholicism. There are many who are not going to weekly or even monthly church services. There are those who are discounting the norms of traditional families, such as the nuclear family with a male and female as parents. Now we have all sorts of combinations that don’t fit into the traditional cookie cutter pattern so dearly loved by evangelicals.
I do have a dog in this fight, but hope to remain sort of objective in this essay, as a good reporter ought. I only know two atheists, and they were the product of repressive religious practices from parents. It is kind of difficult to believe in a loving god when your mother spanks you because you don’t want to go to church. It is very difficult to believe in the Christian version of god when all the religious practices in your childhood tell you that you count for nothing in this life, and if you eat that hotdog on Friday you are going to hell.
These are just the facts, ma’am.
As to agnostics, I do not know anyone well enough to quiz them on this subject and don’t really care. Apathy kicking in here.
Now Mormons, that is a subject of study for me. I have learned so much from reading the human interest stories about those who have left their families and childhood friends behind, and forged a new freer life without the three hour Sunday services, continuous monitoring of daily life, and the hideous underwear. Some of those who disregarded the religion imposed by their True Believing Mormon parents are related to me, so I do have some insight as to prevailing patterns.
As the country proceeds into the 21st century, more and more of the youth are going to go their own way, and will not have the time, money or interest to preach about Mr. Jorgensen’s fantasies.
What is he going to do-hop on a bike and pedal furiously after the Mormon missionaries? Offer them a different heaven away from their former religionists?
Don’t forget that old joke- Mormons have a wall built in heaven to keep them from knowing that there is anybody else there.
Maybe they can correlate that with the Orange Haired One, who would like to have his own walls everywhere.