This week the Pew Research Center published a study titled, “Why America’s ‘nones’ left religion behind.” The ‘nones’ are a term the Pew Center came up with to describe the non religiously affiliated. They are a fast growing segment of our society and one that continues to concern pastors across the denominational spectrum. Here’s a list of quotes from some of the ‘nones’ surveyed:
I doubt anyone is surprised by any of these responses. The sentiments range from apathy and disinterest to outright hostility and rage. While only 5000 people were surveyed, these responses represent the voices of millions who have been hurt or just turned off by the church’s ignorance, irrelevance, bigotry, and violence. If two words could sum up how they collectively feel, those words would probably be – fuck Christianity.
I join them in this sentiment, not because I hate the church or Christianity, I don’t. After all, I am a pastor. And I say this not just because I too have been deeply hurt by the church. But I say this for the same reason I must say, “Black Lives Matter,” instead of “All Lives Matter.” To do so is to stand in solidarity with the oppressed, which, you know, is very Christian.
Consider Amos 5:21-24, “I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt-offerings and grain-offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
Here we find God basically saying, “Fuck your festivals. Fuck your solemn assemblies. Fuck your burnt-offerings and grain-offerings. Fuck your songs. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
One could easily replace, “festivals” and “solemn assemblies” with Sunday church service and Bible study. “Burnt offerings” and “songs” could easily be switched for praise and worship music. The point is obvious, when religious observances take the place of justice and love, our religious observances become something perverse and idolatrous. It’s then that we need to realign our priorities and not only change the way we do church but change the way we talk about what it means to be the church. This is what it means to say – fuck Christianity. In this strongly worded statement we find a kind of holy affirmation, a calling to place empathy and love as the highest spiritual and moral idea instead of ritual and theology.
Peter Rollins calls this, “the fidelity of betrayal.” We affirm our fidelity to the teachings of Christ by betraying the oppressive and violent religious structures we’ve erected in his name. Thus, sometimes the most Christian thing you can do is leave the church. Sometimes the most Christian thing you can say is – fuck Christianity.