Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Sunday "Obligation"

I know a lot of people who consider themselves "Christian" but don't go to or "believe in" church or organized religion.  I find this troubling.

I was raised Protestant, but we went to church every week.  We did not have a holy obligation as I do now, but we were there every week, not just for major holidays.  My family of course goes to Mass each week.  There is always a bit of grumbling from one or both of the teens, but we go.

A French friend of mine recently pointed out (proudly) that the French people are now largely non-religious. They are very proud of their tradition of secularism.  It is sobering to think that a once Catholic country is now a country of non-believers.  While about half the country still considers itself Catholic, only 4% attend Mass regularly.  Compare that with the 5 to 10% who are Muslim and a trend seems clear. With half a million inhabitants of France now professing to be Muslim, I think they will eventually become a Muslim country.  A lack of religion or belief leaves a void that will eventually be filled by belief in someone or some practice.

Many years ago I worked at a Methodist church and we had a great preacher as pastor, Dr. William H. Hinson.  I worked in children's ministry so, although childless, I paid great attention to his sermons about families and child rearing.  On one Sunday I vividly recall him saying, "Folks tell me that they don't bring their kids to church because they want them to have a choice.  I am telling you that if you do not bring them to church, you are depriving  them of that choice.  They cannot choose between God and 'the world" because they don't know God!  They only have the world.  They have the world 7 days a week.  Perhaps you can give back 2 hours of that to God and give them a chance to know God.  Only then will they truly have a choice."

Dr. Hinson has been on the other side for many years now, but his words still ring in my ears.  The other day I was thinking of a particular friend with children and wondering if now that the kids have arrived, if they go to church.  I am going to ask them about it, because I know they consider themselves to be Christian.  They consider themselves such because, like me, they grew up going to church.  The next generation will not be Christians if their parents don't take them to church, just as they won't be Catholic if they don't go to Mass.  How can they be something that they know nothing about?

All of this converged for me today.  This week as we listened to the story of God calling Samuel, I thought about how God calls us each, but sometimes we need our "Eli" to point the way.  I remembered that video reflection from Epiphany Sunday to which I referred recently the one about how our guiding stars are "just for us."  Then yesterday, I read about Samuel pointing out to King Saul the error of his ways.  I wondered if I am to be that star to my friends; or perhaps I am to play the role of Eli or the unenviable role of Samuel.

I am praying for  direction and boldness of heart to talk to my "no church" friends about these realizations.

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