Writing for MyNorthwest.com, Dan Restione reports, “Northwest leads way in designer faiths creating God in our image.” For even the casual observer of religion in the region, this is not shocking news.
In the article Mark Markuly, Dean of the School of Theology at Seattle University, notes that “we in Seattle are a little ahead of the patterns that we’re seeing in the rest of the United States.” What are those patterns?
Those patterns include not going to church regularly, not reading the Bible outside of church, and not believing the bible is totally accurate. New research shows Northwest residents, and the rest of the U.S., are drifting away from established churches and their dogmas, and cutting the cloth of faith to fit our specific needs.
Markuly calls this “cherry picking” the faith. Of course, this type of syncretism is not new. Because of the fall of mankind into sin millennia ago, we are perennially clever at worshiping a god of our own making. Markuly, however, seems right to note the acceleration of this type of thinking given the advent of the Internet, cable television, and the other technologies that allow us to live in a “niche” world of information. “There isn’t one grand narrative or story that binds everyone together,” Markuly observes, “there are lots of little stories.” And all of these “little stories” combine to create people’s religious faith.
Thankfully, Markuly warns of a downside to this jury-rigged religion:
People become somewhat rootless in their belief system. That system might work for them in good times, but when times become tough, they might have problems holding their world together when they cherry pick beliefs or practices that don’t have an internal coherence.
The good news is that God in Christ has acted to save us from the idol factory of our hearts–this tragic effort to domesticate and manage God by tweaking him into our image. “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5). Indeed, there is a grand narrative being played out; God in Christ is reconciling the world to himself (Cf., 2 Cor. 5:19).
I long for our region to become, instead of a leading movement away from the gospel, a leader in the proclamation of this breathtakingly good news. Praying and working for new headlines to be written in our generation.