Are Americans shopping for a religion or seeking God?

25 March 2008

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life recently delivered their "U.S. Religious Landscape Survey" results online.  A Fox News analysis of the report indicated that almost half of the 35,000+ Americans surveyed had "left the faith tradition of their upbringing" to either switch to a different denomination or completely different religion (including no religious affiliation at all).

Part of the change has been attributed to the very mobile and fluid nature of our society.  Given that over 22 million Americans moved to a new home between March 1999 and March 2000 and over 8 million Americans moved to a new state in 2006 America is definitely mobile.

One Fox New host (Paul Gigot) recently asked "Are we that fickle about God?"  I think he either misunderstands the difference between God (the Person) and religion (the mechanism by which humanity attempts to reach out to God) or he is simply good at asking questions that beg to be clarified.  One of the comments he received during the show included this: "One-third of those conversions are actually from one Protestant denomination to another."

I see a different force at work, however.  Moving to a different state or town might cause a person to switch from the "First Baptist Church" of city A to the "First Baptist Church" of city B but what would cause a person to switch from the "First Baptist Church" of city A to the Methodist or Lutheran Church of city B?

In a word?  Dissatisfaction.

I believe folks are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with their milquetoast "religious" experience.  They are wanting something more.  They are wanting more structure and order in their lives.  They are wanting more of God in their lives.

Naomi Schaefer Riley of the "Wall Street Journal" notes in the same Fox News show: "...people are not looking for easy churches to belong to. They are not looking for ones at that require the least of them. They are looking for ones that have strictest theologies, the most standards when it comes to your sexual behavior and also to other kinds of community standards." [emphasis mine]

Why are people choosing stricter standards in their lives?  Because they know that the God of Scripture has strict standards and perhaps they are craving more of Him and more of that righteousness in their lives as well.

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