Religious people have been their own worst enemies in recent weeks.
First came a study from the journal Current Biology showing that children from religious families are less generous and more punitive than their peers, and that the more exposure to religion they received, the worse they behaved.
There’s little for us mainliners to celebrate in this new Pew study. We’re losing people, and fast. I appreciate Heidi Haverkamp’s realistic-yet-hopeful words here and Rob Rynders’ there. But, like them, I’m not interested in spinning an argument that the numbers are somehow lying.
The numbers are clearer, however, than the reasons for them.
Years of experience don’t ease the journey toward a family waiting in an ICU. We pastors feel terribly inadequate, and at the same time incredibly grateful that the vocation allows us into the most intimate situations.
Finitude, contingency, transience. These three linked words signal basic elements of what it is to be a human—and especially to be a historian. David Tracy, noted theologian and next door study-neighbor, taught me this connection, and I’ve let it color my life and scholarly preoccupations.