I have to stop reading polls. I allowed myself to wallow in a moment of depression yesterday when I saw the news article about the decline in the number of U.S. citizens who describe themselves as “Christian.” The Pew Research Center issued its latest poll on religious affiliation, and there’s no way to polish the spots off this wormy apple: Christianity is down. According to the Pew poll, the Christian share of adults fell to 70.6 percent from 78.4 percent between 2007 and 2014, with declines among all major Christian denominations. For the first time, the number of people in the U.S. who describe themselves as “un-aligned” with any particular religion exceeds the number of Catholics.
The news isn’t really surprising. How many of us have relatives, friends and coworkers who just don’t bother making a faith connection? They’re not atheists, they’re not even agnostics, they’re just not paying particular attention to their eternal Life. Making buffalo dip for the afternoon football game takes priority over sharing the body of Christ with fellow believers. As Charles Schultz, creator of Charlie Brown, would say so eloquently, “Sigh.”
But then along comes Pope Francis. I don’t think the Pope reads polls. Or if he does, he doesn’t spend time wallowing, he spends his time doing Jesus’ work. The Monday, May 11 Wall Street Journal is sitting next to me as I write. And on the front page, just below the headline is a beaming photo of Raul Castro, President of the avowedly-atheist, Communist country of Cuba. Who’s standing behind him? Why, Pope Francis of course. And the headline reads, “Cuba’s Raul Castro lauds Pope, says he’d consider return to the church.” Castro was so struck by the Pope’s work to restore his country’s relations with the U.S. that he read all of the Pope’s writings and speeches and says he is seriously-considering returning to the faith of his birth.
So, I guess God’s lesson for me is: less reading, more doing. If we want our relatives, friends and families to return to God’s house, it’s on us to show them that this house is a house of love, a house of joy, and a house of great fellowship. We aren’t going to convince the “Un-aligned” with words and arguments; but with actions. If you want to attract new Christians, behave like Christ. Just ask Castro.