A Fascinating New Poll Shows That Americans Are Losing Faith In God, the headline reads. The fascinating poll may be new, but the trend is not. For those of us in the “faith” business it is a disconcerting trend and troubling, perhaps in the same way that the decline in beer drinking might be troubling to the folks at Budweiser. But this may be more than a loss of market.
The headline could simply have said, Americans are Losing Faith. Fascinating or not, all the polls show that we are losing faith, that is, our ability to trust. We have lost almost all our faith in the Congress and much of our faith in the president. We don’t trust big business or big government. Lawyers live with the used cars salesmen among the other bottom feeders we do not trust. We don’t have much faith in the value of a college education and even science has become so politicized that you can’t have much faith science, or at least not in scientists. The fact of the matter is, we are losing faith in ourselves
Our loss of faith is not just a loss for churches and synagogues and mosques. It is not just a vocational concern for pastors, rabbis and mullahs. Our loss of faith is a loss of the stuff that holds us together. Students without faith in their teachers will do what it takes to pass, but not to learn. Citizens with no faith in government will do their best to stay out of trouble, but give little thought to the common good. Employees without faith in their employers will punch the clock and put in their hours, but do nothing to build the business or please the customer. Children without faith in their parents will accept a ride to the next event, but will not accept instruction and admonition.
A faithless culture, as ours seems destined to be, is not good for human thriving.
So how did we lose our faith? Surely pastors and teachers and doctors and lawyers, politicians and bureaucrats, have betrayed our trust. Some loss of faith has been bitter. Without doubt professors and pundits, playwrights and poets have mocked our faith. Some loss of faith is cynical. Clearly materialism and commercialism have lied about the value of faith. Some loss of faith is lazy.
Americans are losing faith and we don’t need a fascinating poll to tell us so.
Losing faith in leaders and institutions, civic values and common good, has already been very costly for us.
But the poll was about faith in God. The loss of faith in God will finally prove to be the most costly for us.
Losing faith in God, we will be more and more like the townspeople who delighted in the shame borne by the young couple found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Since the couple had not yet been married, the gossip was delicious. Losing faith in God, we will be shepherds who don’t bother to go to Bethlehem to see the thing the Lord had made known to them. Losing faith in God we will be magi who ignore the rising of the star in the east. Losing faith in God we will end up with Herod for king and a slaughter of the innocents as our reward.
Losing faith in God we will live in a cold and lonely world with no room for beauty and love; no Creator’s love that speaks all that is into creation, no Redeemer’s love that says, “Not my will by yours be done,” no Spirit’s love that says, “I am with you always just as he promised.”
On Sunday we will celebrate the lives of two faithful people, Mary and Joseph, who faithfully did as God has said. On Tuesday evening we will worship at the manger bed of the faithful savior to whom we belong, body and soul, in life and in death.