There's been a bunch of buzz this week about the study released by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life on religious knowledge in the U.S. I guess it isn't surprising that few Christians even scored above 50% on the 32 questions regarding world religions. And while this was a survey on world religions, I can attest to the Judeo-Christian slant to the questions that were posed to participants. In short, anyone that has attended a (Christian) church for more than a couple of years should have had a pretty decent handle on the majority of the questions that were being asked. But no. Many Christians couldn't name the 4 Gospels nor could they tell that the "Golden Rule" wasn't one of the Ten Commandments. With a lack of even a basic knowledge like this it is no wonder that people get upset when theologians and clergy start questioning the church's role in the experiment we call American or try to hold people accountable to their baptismal vows.
For example, Debra Dean Murphy writes one of the most thoughtful blogs around. Last week she was heavily criticized by a crowd that consisted mainly of United Methodists when she wrote about how Christians have allowed themselves to become Americans first and Christians second. The majority of those posting comments were totally missing the point of Debra's words. Many had a fundamental lack of knowledge of scripture not to mention the ability to be kind and loving as we've been taught by our Lord. I'd encourage you to read Debra's insightful column.
The other example that relates to the Pew survey is this week's posting by Dan Dick at UnitedMethodeviations. Dan has long been an advocate of accountable discipleship, i.e. being "church" is much more than just showing up for worship a couple of times a month. This week, Dan details an email he received from a young clergy person who had tried to raise the discipleship bar in his congregation and was told in no uncertain terms to back off, not only by his church leadership but by his District Superintendent. Just by asking people to consider living up to their baptismal vows he was taken to the wood shed! You can read the entire story here. I find it amazing that as soon as we start talking about expectations people get all nervous and suddenly don't have the time, don't want to be "Super Christians", and settle on mediocrity. Now, I must admit that since I've been studying theology, my expectations of others has been raised and as my loving wife kindly reminds me, "not everyone is in the same place spiritually as you are". This is true, but shouldn't we at the very least be providing people with the opportunity to grow in discipleship? Should we not be encouraging people to explore their relationship with God at a deeper level? Shouldn't we at the very least expect those who join us for worship on even a semi-regular basis to know the basics of our faith? I mean, remembering Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John isn't really all that difficult!