Jonathan Rauch wrote a religion column for The Atlantic Monthly. He once titled the column “LET IT BE.” In the piece, he compared his own religion – or nonreligion – to the current state of religion in America.
“I used to call myself an atheist, and I still don’t believe in God, but the larger truth is that it has been years since I really cared one way or another: I’m an apatheist” – a neologism combining the terms apathy and theism. “Apatheism” as he defines it, is “a disinclination to care all that much about one’s own religion, and an even stronger disinclination to care about other people’s.” Later he adds, “Apatheism concerns not what you believe, but how.” That how can be summarized in two terms “uncaring tolerance.”
Rauch argues that apatheism is already the genuine state of religion in America – not just among atheist and agnostics but even among regular church goers. That is, they gather for a lot of reasons other than God and truth, and he lists several: “…to connect with the culture or a community, to socialize, to expose children to religion, to find the warming comfort of familiar ritual.”
His most condemning paragraph, in my opinion, is this: “…even true-believing godliness today often has an apatheistic flavor. I have Christian friends who organize their lives around an intense and personal relationship with God” (ed. so he is talking about us) “but who betray no sign of caring that I am an unrepentantly atheistic Jewish homosexual. They are exponents, at least, of the second, more important part of apatheism – the part that doesn’t mind what other people think about God. I believe that the rise of apatheism is to be celebrated as nothing less than a major civilizational advance.”
Sadly, I believe Rauch is partially accurate in his assessment of the contemporary socio-religious state. In many quarters, Apatheism is the norm: it is the ordinary and common state of many who call themselves Christian and even go to “Bible-beliving, Jesus-preaching” churches.
Apatheism may have become the norm or usual state of religion and many church-goers, but God clearly calls us to something greater – an unusual passion. Now, more than ever, the church needs people with enough passion and fire to unfreeze the status quo.
Lord God: You are a consuming fire; please come light the fire in your people. Give us the fire of Jesus, that scorched religious pretenders with a tongue that shot lightning, and used a whip to separate the moneychangers from their overturned tables and scattered coins! Give us the warmth of Jesus that invited children to interrupt the sermon and be gathered in His arms, to be tenderly blessed and made the sermon. Give us the fiery conviction of Your Son, as He stood with the immoral woman, and challenged the religious henchmen to toss a stone – if they were without sin. Light the fire in our prayers to burn away the ho-hum, sing-song litany of heartless verbiage. Teach us to pray like Jesus in the garden: Pleading, screaming, ripping up the turf, sweating blood in battle! We plead for you to act on what we sing: “Light the fire again!”
“Kindle afresh the charisma of God which is in you…!” 2 Timothy 1:5
This Sunday at South Suburban EFC: “An Unusual Passion.” Be there!