… about the longevity, the complexity, and the durability of Faith. A few years ago we were being told that religion was dying out, and religious people were dinosaurs who might only last another generation or two.
I will confess that I do hope that bad forms of faith, and dangerous or false religions do die out. At the same time, my hope is that Faith will flourish, if it is intelligent and compassionate, even though it will sometimes also be complex.
An article in a British newspaper discussed this, saying in part:
The atheist spring that began just over a decade ago is over. The success of five or six atheist authors, on both sides of the Atlantic, has petered out. (Dawkins, Hitchens, etc).
So what was all that about, then? We can see it a bit more clearly now. It was an outpouring of frustration at the fact that religion is maddeningly complicated and stubbornly irritating.
The events of 9/11 were the main trigger for the explosion of this angry rejection. There was a desire to see Islamic terrorism as the symbolic representative of all religions. This mindset declared that ALL religion is naïve and dangerous. Which of course is silly – even absurd: is the local Anglican vicar, struggling to build community and help smelly drunks stay alive, really a force for evil — even if she has some challenging opinions about feminism or capitalism?
When such questions arise, a big bright ‘complicated’ sign ought to flash in one’s brain. Instead, in the wake of 9/11, many otherwise thoughtful people opted for simplicity over complexity. They managed to convince themselves that religion is basically bad, and that the brave intellectual should talk against it.
So a British author is declaring that the tide of aggressive atheism has crested and is declining. I think she’s correct. And I sense that her reasons are accurate. While it is true that the Christian message is surprisingly simple – God loves us, and has come in Jesus, to give us a new way of living here and forever. Simple. But living that out is complex, with ethical questions, careful thought, and sometimes courage and perseverance.
That’s why we need churches – to learn the faith, to lean on each other, to team up and live out God’s love to the world. Following Jesus can be so much fun, but also at times can be complicated and challenging. We shouldn’t have to do it alone. So this church is 49 years old this week, with roots that go back nearly 200 years.
We’ll keep working on our faith; we’ll keep striving to live faithfully; and we’ll keep welcoming all to join a community of love, justice, grace, and servanthood. Thanks for being here to celebrate the beginning of our 50th year as part of Jesus’ team in downtown Burlington.
With love, ORVILLE