I’ve known people who say that they are not religious — not Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, or Muslim. Sociologists of religion would classify such individuals as “nones.” The Pew Research Center on Religion and Public Life came out with a study last year that found Protestantism and Catholicism in rapid decline in the United States while the religiously unaffiliated portion of the country is growing exponentially. My own denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA), has shrunk by more than half since 1980. Last year the Southern Baptist Convention saw the largest percentage drop in church membership in the last 100 years. Are we headed to a place in our country where religion is all but obsolete? Are we becoming a religion-less society?
Organized religion may be on the downward slope, but religiosity, or better spirituality, is as alive as ever. One might not have a church membership or go to worship, but everyone has something and/or someone from which they draw ultimate meaning — even those who claim “none.” The rapid decline of Christendom in the west has not changed the fact that all of us carry a spiritual hunger. We yearn for transcendence, peace, purpose, fulfillment, and satisfaction. To ask someone whether or not they are religious misses a deeper truth. All of us have religion; the more important question is what kind.
I’ve learned that we are quick to feed our spiritual hunger with the food of money, status, power, position and title. The problem, though, is that we feed ourselves with things which ultimately perish. False gods ultimately leave us empty and wanting more. However, in Jesus Christ we have manna that does not pass away. Jesus affirmed this when he spoke to a crowd in the gospel of John saying: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (6:35). The bread of life that Jesus offers our hungry souls is nothing more or less than his own self. We are thirsty for something beyond, and in Christ we find the living water that quenches our thirst. Christians gather on a weekly basis wherein the promises of God are proclaimed in preaching and received through the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. It is in our gathering for worship that our hunger and thirst are satisfied, week after week, by the one who never leaves us wanting.