the nones

The NFL's Nonbelieving Pro-Bowler

Image via RNS/REUTERS/Tim Sharp

Earlier this month, NFL star Arian Foster, a running back for the Houston Texans, sent ripples through the world of professional football when he came out as a nonbeliever in the pages of ESPN Magazine.

Though he is not exactly an atheist — Foster told reporter Tim Keown he shuns that label and believes in "nothing" — Foster offered a counternarrative to the overwhelmingly Christian world of professional football and the college football system that feeds it.

"Everybody always says the same thing: You have to have faith," Foster, who is 28, says in the magazine.

While there are certainly other football players with nontraditional religious beliefs, Foster is the only active professional football player who has been open about his nonbelief. 

Weekly Wrap 5.29.15: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week

1. D.C. Metro Bans ‘Issue Ads’ after Pamela Gellar Submits Prophet Muhammed Cartoon Ad

Gellar, who leads the group that organized the ‘Draw Muhammed’ cartoon contest that prompted a shooting in Texas, submitted the winning drawing to run as an ad in the Washington, D.C. metro. According to the WMATA, that will not be happening.

2. Killing It: Nebraska’s Ban Another Sign of Decline in Support for Death Penalty

“A growing number of Republicans have recently taken up the cause of banning the death penalty in Nebraska and other states. They argue that it is inefficient because it does not deter murderers, is more expensive than imprisonment for life thanks to the costly trials and lengthy appeals, and is at odds with Christian morality.”

...

Is It Good or Bad When Churches Shrink?

Photo via Wouter Tolenaars / Shutterstock.com

Photo via Wouter Tolenaars / Shutterstock.com

According to a new study from the Pew Research Center, there are markedly fewer Christians and more “nones” — those who identify of no faith at all — in the U.S. than just seven years ago.

In the wake of this news, many critics have lost themselves in the question of who’s winning. But this isn’t a crisis. We don’t need to defend ourselves. We don’t need to obsess over whose team is in the lead. 

But we also can’t just shrug our shoulders. If we have any faith that Christianity has value in the public sphere, we should be reasonably concerned when people begin to see little importance in Christian identity.

 

How Sojourners Kept Me in the Church

Intern Cycle 30. Image via Sojourners.

Intern Cycle 30. Image via Sojourners.

This week’s headlines regarding the latest Pew report about the changing religious landscape in the US have gotten me thinking about my own journey with religion, especially as the discussion continues to emphasize the growth of the 'Nones' – the religiously unaffiliated who are said to now make up about one-fifth of the population and outnumber Catholics and mainline Protestants.

Almost eight years ago, I showed up to work at Sojourners for the first time as a member of Sojourners’ Intern Cycle 24. It saved my faith and it changed my life.

In Mixed Faith Marriages, Focus Is on 'Values,' Not 'Beliefs'

Dale McGowan’s most recent book, “In Faith and In Doubt.” Religion News Service photo courtesy of Dale McGowan.

If interfaith marriages are supposedly doomed, Dale McGowan’s should have been toe-tagged from the start.

He’s a committed atheist; his wife comes from a line of Southern Baptist preachers. Yet 23 years and three kids later, they are still happily married.

What’s their secret? McGowan, 51, has just written “In Faith and In Doubt: How Religious Believers and Nonbelievers Can Create Strong Marriages and Loving Families,” to help other couples considering what he calls a “religious/nonreligious mixed marriage” succeed.

“The key is to talk about your values,” McGowan said from his home in Atlanta. “A lot of time we mix up the words ‘values’ and ‘beliefs.’ Beliefs are what you think is true about the universe. Is there a God? Where do we go when we die? But values are what you believe are important and good. When you get couples talking about values they find out they share a tremendous amount, even if they don’t share beliefs.”

That’s what McGowan and his wife, Becca, did. While she believed in one God, she did not believe salvation could be had only through belief in Jesus. And he agreed that he could go to church with her — and did, for many years, with their children.

To the Dying Church: Maybe Death Is a Blessing

By Kristin Hunley, via CreationSwap.com

By Kristin Hunley, via CreationSwap.com

To the Dying Church,

I hardly know what to say. Watching someone you love, who helped raise you, who cared for you when you weren't well, who partially defined who you would be, slowly perish before your eyes is difficult to say the least. I love you. I don't want to lose you.

But, this is life. These things happens. Those you love do die. It's just how it works. I mean, there were churches before you. They may not have looked like you or sung songs like you or taught exactly what you do, but they all had Love – just different ways of expressing it. They changed people's lives. They made some people better people and, sometimes, they made people worse people. Then, they died.

In all of it, Love was there somewhere hoping to be valued, hoping to be expressed, hoping to be shared.

Standing at the foot of your bed as you struggle to hold on, fight to catch a few last breaths, is uncomfortable and wonderful, all at the same time. Remembering the twinkle in your eye from my childhood, the liveliness of your step is as beautiful and heartbreaking a thing as I can think of in this moment.

Death sucks.

To the Dying Church: Use Your Words

Small church, via CreationSwap.com

Small church, via CreationSwap.com

To the dying church,

The ongoing decline of American Christianity is well documented. A quick Google search of “mainline decline” provides statistics, commentary, and variously tried and discarded solutions related to the struggles of liberal protestantism in the United States. More recently, these trends are showing up in conservative Christian circles as well. The attention of the media, religious scholars, and cultural warriors has been captured by the rise of the “nones,” the “spiritual but not religious,” humanists, and evangelistic atheists.

It is clear who’s ascending and who’s falling. Organized religion is doomed. You, dying church, are in trouble.

I have seen your sickness up close. The congregation where I was baptized — once full on Sunday mornings — now barely hangs on. The church where I preached in college has long since closed its doors. My pastor friends spend their days worrying about shrinking worship attendance and a lack of financial resources for carrying out their ministry. Denominations pause from fighting and splitting just long enough to make budget cuts and lay off staff.

What can be done? What should be done? Is this a new reality that we simply must accept?

Survey: Majority of Libertarians Do Not Identify with Tea Party

via Wylio

via Wylio

While it's not uncommon to hear the terms "Tea Party" and "libertarian" uttered in the same descriptor, a new survey shows the gap between the two movements. According to the new American Values Survey, an annual release from the Public Religion Research Institute, a full 61 percent of libertarians do not consider themselves part of the Tea Party.

“While conventional wisdom has assumed that the Tea Party movement is fueled by libertarian convictions, most libertarians see themselves as outside of the Tea Party movement. Notably, libertarians are also half as likely as those who identify with the Tea Party movement to see themselves as part of the older Christian right movement," said Dr. Robert P. Jones, CEO of PRRI, in a news release.

In fact, only one in five libertarians claim affiliation with the religious right or conservative Christianity — a claim that more than half of Tea Party adherents would make.

If You Build It, Mean It

Worship illustration, orestpath / Shutterstock.com

Worship illustration, orestpath / Shutterstock.com

We're all exploring and asking, "What's next?" This particular question serves us well when we ask where our young people are.

"What's next?" and the related, "Who will take us there?"

So, this morning I was primed and ready to read "What Millennials don’t want from the church" by Rachel Sloan. It's a quick and worthy missive in which she says, "The most frustrating part of being a Millennial is that my church does not understand me." What specifically doesn't the church understand? Well, "Millennials (despite the terrible things you are told to believe about us) want real authentic, worship and real, authentic churches. We want churches that want to have a relationship with us."

Having made the same mistake many, many times, this time I decided to get my Millennial friends to chime in on the post. Some rightly reminded me that speaking on behalf of any one generation is an impossible task and presents certain rhetorical problems.

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