Five years ago I created and published the above graph at Internet Monk. It was based on a very large survey by the Pew Forum that showed how people had switched from their childhood faith group to their current faith group. If you have trouble understanding the graph, you may want to read the original analysis. I am showing it again now, because I think it is relevant to our discussion.
Just about two weeks ago there was a post that compared Evangelical Christianity to Caffeine Free Diet Coke:
Today, Coke has become a drink that does not quench thirst, does not provide any stimulant and whose strange taste is not particularly satisfying. Nonetheless, it is the most consumed beverage in the world. It plays on the mysterious enjoyment we get out of consuming it as something to enjoy in surplus after we have already quenched our thirst. We drink Coke because “Coke is “it”” not because it satisfies anything material. In essence, all that remains of what was once Coke is a pure semblance, an artificial promise of a substance which never materialized. In Zizek’s words, we ‘drink nothing in the guise of something …” It is “in effect merely an envelope of a void.”(22-23).
When you look at the graph you will see a broad yellow band across the middle of the page. It represents those who were raised Evangelical and still remain Evangelical. The narrower yellow bands represent many of those who comment at Internet Monk. They may have grown up in the evangelical church, but they now identify elsewhere, or no where at all. These people would tend to agree with the quote above, and that Evangelical Christianity does not provide any stimulant and is not particularly satisfying.
However, like Diet Coke, Evangelicals still has the biggest appeal among the three major religious grouping listed. (Sorry Orthodox readers, but your numbers were too small to get your own grouping. You have been included in the “other” section.)
What you do need to realize it that when you “diss” caffeine free diet coke, you are putting down my drink of choice. And, while I do have one foot in the post-evangelical wilderness, I am not headed in the direction of liturgical style worship.
Don’t get me wrong. I think liturgical style worship has many redeeming qualities. If you read last week’s post on “Cigar City Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout – Double Barrel Aged: A Metaphor for Liturgy” you will notice that I had only positive things to say about that particular beer. Why? Because generally I have only positive things to say about liturgical worship. How did I come up with the name of the beer? I went to rankbeer.com (yes such a place exists) and I pulled down the number one ranked beer. What I was trying to communicate was that I was not trying to compare liturgy to some ho-hum drink, but rather the number one beer on rankbeer.com!
It is not like I don’t have exposure to liturgy: My wife sings in a very liturgical choir, my sister-in-law is an elder in a liturgical church, and I have been to countless liturgical services over the years. I do have a theology degree, so it isn’t like I don’t understand the significance of what I am seeing and hearing. But liturgical services leave me spiritually dry and desiring a taste of something else. I have the same reaction to beer. All beer.
If you look at the graph above again, I would represent a little squiggly yellow line at the top which is not sure where it is going to end up at the bottom. I know it is not going to be in a liturgical service, but that doesn’t leave me a whole lot of options. If I was to create this graph ten years from now and find my place on it, my best guess it would probably be in a Anabaptist/Mennonite tradition that spans the Evangelical and Mainline worlds.
So I wrote this post to remind us that while some of us in the Post Evangelical Wilderness will find their destinations in Liturgical traditions (Denise Spencer, Jeff Dunn, and Chaplain Mike are all examples of this), many of us will have great difficulty in going that direction. Some may remain in their own Evangelical traditions, grouse about the taste of Caffeine Free Diet Coke, but still continue to drink it. Others may look to some other beverage entirely.
The other thing I would like us to think about from the graph above (though not the purpose of my original metaphor) is that while most of us have come to a spiritual wilderness out of Evangelical traditions, many come to a spiritual wilderness out of liturgical traditions. While it is not the purpose or direction of this blog to focus on this area, it is wise for us to remember that others may need different solutions than the ones we are offering.
Your thoughts and comments are welcome.