Editor's Note: Anne Marie Roderick tells her story of why she's NOT part of the 20 percent of Americans who identify with "no religion in particular." Find more stories (or share your own) HERE . Read about the study HERE .
It’s not surprising that a third of my peers say they are religiously unaffiliated. Our religious lives are too complex these days to fit in neat boxes with one-word labels. I may be a “Christian,” but does that mean that I am like other Christians? Not necessarily. There is sometimes more truth in being a “none” — in stating what we are not — rather than trying to pin down exactly what we are. But, I choose to affiliate anyway. Here’s why I am not a “none:"
1) Tradition matters.
Regardless of how complicated my Christian identity may be, I find stabilizing hope and inspiration in the saints and teachers who have come before me, in the rich traditions, rituals, and practices of the liturgical year, in the Book of Common Prayer, and in the old hymns and spirituals I was raised singing.
Young people and young adults can choose to be the inheritors of our religious traditions, whatever our faith inclinations may be. As inheritors we join a lineage of seekers, teachers, singers, thinkers, poets, and activists who have made religious faith and practice relevant for their times; now it’s our time to carry the tradition forward, to breathe new life into the wisdom of the past.
I am not a “none” because I know that my story is bound to the stories of those before and those who will come after me.
Our religious traditions have failed us; we have to be honest about that. As a Christian in the Protestant tradition, I have often mourned the ways my faith community has failed its people, especially those close to me. But my faith calls me to be part of a dynamic process of forgiveness that allows me to both stick with the church and hold the church accountable for its role in the world, past and present.
I am not a “none” because the church needs people like us — to challenge, to listen, to find new meaning, to seek justice, and to ask forgiveness.
In my generation’s post-post-whatever reality, pinning down exactly who we are and what we believe, even as individuals, isn’t easy. We’re changing just as quickly as the world around us, and the task of naming our identities through check-box labels doesn’t cut it anymore. We are no longer satisfied with being told what our identities mean, especially as they relate to religious faith and affiliation.
Instead, we are digging deeper: What has being a Christian meant for me, in my life? How has my Christian identity informed my unique experiences and my relationships with others? What are the stories that form my faith journey and how can I give voice to those stories, how can I bring those stories into dialogue with others?
It is crucial that young adults continue to ask big questions and seek satisfying answers, but we don’t have to do that floating alone somewhere in none-land. We can return to our religious traditions for support and guidance, and our traditions will be better because of it.
Anne Marie Roderick is a former editoral assistant for Sojourners.