A Former Atheist’s Take on the Future of the Church

A Former Atheist’s Take on the Future of the Church July 14, 2015
Photo credit: Resclassic2 / Foter / CC BY

When I was on vacation recently, I looked up nearby churches and found, to my delight, that I had many to choose from.

My delight was overshadowed by sadness when I thought, “Will it be more difficult to find a nearby church twenty years from now?”

Of course, looking at the recent Pew Research Center numbers, the answer to that question is: most likely.

But while I am deeply concerned by the trends away from belief in God in our country, I am also full of hope.

How can I not hope?

I used to be an atheist.

But God broke into my life like a fist through a wall.

I know he can do the same in other peoples’ lives too.

I am sometimes more concerned for Christians.

I wonder:

Do we have the backbone for this?

Do we have the meekness for this?

Do we have the stamina for this?

Do we have the humility for this?

Do we have the endurance for this?

Do we have the joy for this?

I was a punk rocker in high school and one of the worse insults you could lob at a band, or another person, was to call them a sell-out (meaning someone who traded their authenticity for an easy way out).

My hope for the Church today is that we don’t become sell outs.

It would be a shame if being a Christian began to mean nothing more than slapping Jesus’ seal of approval on every trend, fad and ill-gotten new idea. Even when I was an atheist I felt disgust for Christian denominations that do this. What difference does being a Christian make if it looks like the practical atheism of most other people, with just slightly more cheer?

At the same time, it would also be a shame if Christians retreated deeper into their respective tribes instead of engaging with each other and the culture.

Shrinking away from ecumenism and the outside world is an insult to our baptism. God dwells within us. We will not be tainted by interacting with people who think differently than us. We will be enriched.

My time outside of the Church helped me to see that God is active in everyone’s life. There is something to learn from everything, even a sick culture.

Satan employs lies but he only does it successfully when he twists it with the truth.

As Christians we are called to enter into the tangle of lies and encounter the truth with others who seek it, without knowing they are seeking God.

So, as a former atheist-turned Catholic Christian, I look to the future of the Church with hope. I look forward to learning from others. I look forward to working with my fellow Christians in unprecedented ways. I look forward to drawing closer to the Cross of my Savior, Jesus Christ.

And I look forward to seeing God make miracles happen.

Editors’ NoteThis article is part of the Patheos Public Square on the Future of Catholicism in America. Read other perspectives here.

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