The Nones

Andrew Sullivan, a prolific blogger for the Atlantic, recently posted a story on the growing religious demographic called the Coming Age of the Nones.  I’ve blogged about this before (here and here).  He has some great insights.  He sets the stage with these statistics:

In 1990, 8 percent of Americans reported that they had no religious beliefs. Twenty years later, that’s 15 percent. But when you look at younger Americans, you see that the proportion of “nones” is reaching 22 percent.

Then he tries to explain why this happened:

No doubt, some of this is a reflection of the sex abuse crisis. But the intellectual collapse of Christianity under the leadership of Protestant fundamentalists and Catholic theocons is surely relevant. The well-deserved inability of literalists to win many converts among educated people is also surely salient. The emergence of the politicized Christianist right – and its assault on Christianity as a freely chosen spiritual process – will surely lead to a continued and accelerating flight from organized religion.

Then he assesses the future potential for religion within this landscape:

But the Nones are not Ditchkins atheists. They express their position primarily as a form of skepticism and Deism…

61 percent of Nones find evolution convincing, compared with 38 percent of all Americans. And yet they do not dismiss the possibility of a God they do not understand; and refuse to call themselves atheists. This is the fertile ground on which a new Christianity will at some point grow. In the end, the intellectual bankruptcy of the theocon right and Christianist movement counts. Very few people with brains are listening to these people any more.

If the only form of Christianity that was available to me was the one represented by what Sullivan calls the theocons or the fundamentalists then I too would become a ‘none.’  I would rather be an agnostic hoping that there is a God out there that I can’t understand rather than believe in a god that seems so rigid, legalistic, and angry.  For me, this group has failed to contextualize the gospel.

Thankfully, I think there is another way.  I believe there is a growing number of churches and Christians that are integrating their faith with the complexities of our contemporary world.  I see faith communities emerging that are authentic and intellectually satisfying.  My goal as a pastor and church planter is to be a part of this group.  I want to ‘do church and theology’ in a way that presents the gospel in intellectually compelling ways to this demographic.  I love the nones, because I feel I am one of them.


One response to “The Nones”

  1. Peter Kim Avatar
    Peter Kim

    I agree. Fortunately, there are more churches popping up that are more culturally relevant. I think the next step needs to be Christians getting into the lives of the Nones. It’s one thing to change the style and substance of the churches programs to make them seem more culturally and intellectually relevant; if the church’s members aren’t actively getting more involved in the lives of non-believers around them, then all of the changes are meaningless. Non-believers aren’t going to start walking into churches on Sunday just because they notice they’ve changed their style. Someone who has a relationship with them will need to invite them.

    I think most church-goers’ friends are predominantly Christian and most church-goers’ free time is spent with other believers. It’s comfortable hanging out with other Christians all the time, but I don’t think it’s what Jesus would be doing.