This post really grabbed my attention yesterday. Go read it and come back (it might take you a few minutes longer than you usually spend on a blog, but it will be well worth your time). We have some things to discuss.
I've linked to Conversion Diary here a few times in the past--I find Jennifer's conversion from atheism to Catholicism fascinating. Although we don't necessarily share the same "brand" of Christianity, I find Jennifer's faith to be vibrant, thoughtful, and sincere.
Last week she asked the question, "What is the religious climate in your country?" And, boy, did she get answers!
Yesterday she listed out a generous sampling of answers she received from her readers around the world. To say a chill went down my spine would be an understatement.
I was brought back to my first visit to England in 1984. I was a college student traveling around the country and studying at Oxford, and I was struck mainly by two things during the eight weeks I was there. First, I was profoundly affected by the history all around me . . . and the lack of it in my homeland. It's true, America is such a young country. Seeing the sights in England--buildings that were centuries older than our entire country--helped me put my upbringing into a perspective I had never had before.
The second thing that struck me was how much the people of England, and the United Kingdom in general, needed Jesus. As I walked around I noticed that something seemed to be missing from the faces of many of the people there. Was it hope? Was it faith? I wasn't sure, but it was palpable, this lack of something. For the first time in my life I was confronted with what a society without a firm spiritual footing--a Christian footing--looked like.
And it made me sad. And it made me pray deeply for the people of England.
It also gave me a sense that more and more missionaries need to be there. Just living lives that are different among people who have no hope.
But who wants to say they are missionaries in England? It's like being a missionary to Switzerland! Ha!
Anyway, Jennifer's post really gave me so much to think about, to pray about. Some of the more chilling answers, in my opinion . . .
To the question "At a typical social event, how appropriate would it be if a person were to explicitly acknowledge in casual conversation that he or she is a believing Christian?" one reader from Luxembourg said it would be "odd and slightly inappropriate." Really.
To the question "What belief system do the politicians in your area claim to practice? " a reader from British Columbia said, "The more a politician discusses his religious affiliations in public the more suspect he is."
Jennifer asked about the size of the average family and most readers said that the family is declining in importance (especially in Europe) but Muslims all have big families.
She asked, "What seems to be the dominant belief system of the people in your area?" One reader from the U.K. said "shopping." Others said "apathy" or "indifference."
Finally, when asked "Do you notice any trends? Do people seem to be becoming more or less religious?" most readers from Europe seemed to think that religion in their part of the world is dying out completely. A couple of people said that there are some thriving Evangelical churches in London, but outside of London the church is dying.
Of course, there were some bright spots. The church in Africa seems to be thriving, as does the church in the Philippines. China seems to be easing its restrictions a bit.
But this thing about Europe . . . oh, it breaks my heart.
What are your thoughts? I'd love to know.