It's an old adage -- the making lemonade out of lemons one. But I think it's an appropriate one given last week's "leading the news" results from the latest Pew Research Center study on "America's Changing Religious Landscape."
An NPR summary article is here ... but in a nutshell:
The Pew survey found the number of Americans who describe themselves as Christian dropped almost 8 percentage points, from 78.4 percent in 2007 to 70.6 percent last year. During the same seven-year period, those who describe themselves as atheist, agnostic or "nothing in particular" increased from 16.1 percent to 22.8 percent.
Those are the lemons. Here's the lemonade ... in the form of this commencement address from Huffington Post Religion Editor Paul Raushenbush:
From my vantage point as religion editor at The Huffington Post, I see what Christians from around the world are doing and actually feel this is the most exciting time for progressive faith that I can remember in my lifetime. Christians are on the front lines demanding that BlackLivesMatter in Ferguson, Cleveland, New York and Baltimore, holding communion services at the border and demanding a just and merciful immigration policy, dedicating themselves to caring for God's creation, proclaiming the full humanity of LGBT people and honoring their relationships as holy, showing solidarity with our Christian brothers and sisters persecuted in the middle East, leading interfaith engagement and standing up against Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism, we are demanding gender equality both in and out of the church, naming the moral outrage of the growing gap between the rich and the poor, and waging peace between people's around the world. Every day I see the continuing spiritual power of the Gospel wielded by women and men who are healing broken souls and transforming systems that oppress.
This is the Jesus movement I want to introduce to people who feel that the church doesn't care about them. I want them to know about the exciting things that are happening right now, including all of the ways that you are gong to be doing ministry in the world. Let's go out there and shout if from the mountain tops, because it is such good news.
You can read it all here ... and you totally should. And not just because it completely resonates with my favorite personal soap-box rant of all time. The one my congregation and colleagues have heard more times than they can probably count by now. The one that goes like this:
At any given moment we are surrounded by people who are convinced they know enough about being a Christian NOT to want to be one because what they know about Christianity they learned from Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell or Michele Bachmann. So who could blame them?
They walk right past the banquet we set every Sunday morning because they think the menu items are judgment and condemnation rather than justice and compassion. And so they're left starving for community, hope and meaning -- and we're left wondering why our pews aren't full.
We can do better. We must do better. Time to make some lemonade, people.