A survey of one: Spiritual practice key to religion’s survival
PETALUMA, CA, July 10, 2017 – By their own admission, the results of San Francisco radio station KALW’s recent religious survey are “not necessarily statistically valid.” Even so, they reinforce what many of the more scientific studies have been suggesting for some time: Religion is in decline.
“I would say [I’m] spiritual and religious by preference,” wrote one survey participant, “but traumatized by several churches, so church is no longer in my life.”
“I agree with many of the ideas and values of Christianity, but am against extremism of any kind,” wrote another. “I feel like ‘religious’ people are the most judgmental individuals ever.”
Still, well over half of those surveyed, regardless of church participation, indicated that some form of daily spiritual practice is important to them – an indication, perhaps, that religion’s so-called decline is not as precipitous, or as inevitable, as some might assume.
As a Christian, one of my favorite spiritual practices is getting together with friends at church every Wednesday night to listen to an inspiring message, sing a few hymns, pray with and for one another, and express our gratitude to God for blessings large and small.
I’ve been doing this for decades, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized what an extraordinary activity it is. How many of us can say that we’re committed to spending an hour a week, every week, to give thanks to the Divine and bask in one another’s spiritual largess? For me, this is church in its purest, most unadulterated and unassailable form.
You never know what folks are going to say at these meetings. Sometimes it’s pretty simple. A family outing that went better than expected. Some situation at work that was resolved. Other times it’s pretty impressive stuff. Like my friend who relied solely on prayer to overcome a debilitating disease. Or the elderly gentleman whose life was saved during World War II when the anti-tank grenade that landed next to him failed to detonate.
Recently I had my own story to share about the time I was almost run over by a car while riding my bike. I’ll never forget the incredible joy I felt, not so much for not being hit, but for having been spared any feeling of animosity toward the driver of the car.
Sometimes we have lots to say. Other times, not so much. Either way, I find it encouraging, even healing, to be sitting in a room full of people whose primary focus is on the many instances of God’s grace they’ve experienced over the years.
Of course, as wonderful as this all is, it doesn’t mean that I’m unaware of those times when something one of my fellow Christians or I say comes off sounding judgmental, or how upsetting it is when someone senses a disconnect between what they hear being preached and what they see being practiced by those of practically every religious stripe. I can say, however, that this has been the exception rather than the rule in terms of what I’ve observed within my own congregation over the last umpteen years.
Mine may only be a survey of one, but it’s a survey that has me convinced that despite all the evidence to the contrary, any religion that encourages and supports a deeper appreciation of God, an unconditional love for humanity, and spiritual growth that results in practical healing will continue to progress and to thrive.
Eric Nelson writes about the link between consciousness and health from his perspective as a practitioner of Christian Science. He also serves as the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Northern California. Follow him on Twitter. Continue the conversation on Facebook.