As we enter Lent, thoughts and efforts turn to the role faith plays in our lives and quench the spiritual thirst we may experience.
A recently released report of the Barna Group, a research firm focused on the intersection of faith and culture, pointed to trends that suggest that the religious landscape in the United States is morphing into something more spiritually parched, more challenging to those of faith.
Among the findings, drawing upon surveys of more than 5,000 interviews conducted through 2010, found:
1. American Christians are becoming less theologically literate. The basics of Christianity are now unknown mysteries to a growing share of Americans, especially young adults. The studies showed, for instance, that while most people regard Easter as a religious holiday, only a minority of adults associate Easter with the Resurrection. As well, it was found that few adult Christians believe that their faith is meant to be the focal point of their life or to be integrated into every aspect of their existence.
How much time are you prepared to spend to learn more about your faith during this Lenten season? How important is faith to your life?
2. Christians are becoming more ingrown and less outreach-oriented. Despite technological advances and social networking that make communications easier, instant and far-reaching, Christians are becoming more spiritually isolated from non-Christians than was true a decade ago. The report of the survey found that adult Christians are less likely to invite those of others faiths to a church service or church-related event, and teenagers are less inclined to discuss Christianity with their friends than was true in the past.
When do you share your faith with others, whether they fellow Catholics or those of other faiths? How much are you willing to take the time to understand the faiths of others?
3. Growing numbers of people are less interested in spiritual principles and more desirous of learning pragmatic solutions for life. When asked what matters most, teenagers prioritize education, career development, friendships and travel. Faith, though a significant factor, takes a back seat to life accomplishments. Similarly for adults, lifestyle comfort, success and personal achievements trump faith.
Where place does faith play in your priorities? How does it compare with the everyday “realities” and “practicalities” of life?
4. Among Christians, interest in participating in community action is escalating. Largely driven by the passion and energy of young adults, Christians are more open to and more involved in community-service activities than has been true in the recent past. An expanded focus on justice issues and service has struck a resonant chord with many.
How will you seek to serve or be present in a special way to others during this Lent?
As you prepare for Easter during this Lenten season, there are resources you can draw upon from St. Anthony Messenger Press. Franciscan Father Richard Rohr, in Wondrous Encounters: Scripture for Lent, offers meditations on the daily readings of Lent to help transform us into our original “image and likeness,” which is the very image of God. In Servant Books’ The Little Way of Lent: Meditations in the Spirit of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Father Gary Caster helps guide us from the desert we sometimes experience and “thrust us into the heart of Divine love.”
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Photo of parched earth by Prozac1.