September 14, 2002
9/11 - An Opportunity Missed by
A year after
America sustained its greatest attack on its soil by a foreign power,
organized religion has failed to "seize the attacks as a teaching
moment, a time to ignite moral, spiritual or emotional growth," asserts
pollster George Barna.
nearly half of the population claim their faith was a critical resource
in helping them personally to respond to the attacks.
Really? If so,
why did church attendance spike to half of America's population for only
a few weeks after 9/11, falling back to 43 percent by November where it
was before? Why has there been no increase in numbers who read the Bible
or attend Sunday School? Why has the percentage of unchurched Americans
remained flat at 33 percent?
The Gallup Poll
reports the same trends, and even found a record high of 71 percent of
Americans saying after 9/ll that religion "is increasing its influence."
By May only 53 percent agreed. That's evidence America's churches lost a
huge opportunity to offer hope.
America's churches fallen short?
First, too many
churches have failed to teach that there is absolute good and absolute
evil. George Barna reports that the percentage of people who believe in
"moral truths or principles" that are eternal, has plunged from a poor
38 percent before 9/11 to a dismal 22 percent today.
Why? Too many
Americans are doing things they know are wrong, like gambling or sexual
sin such as out-of-wedlock sex or pornography. Rather than admit their
actions are evil, Americans rationalize their behavior as being "not
When was the
last time you heard a sermon on chastity or cohabitation or the
permanence of marriage or the evil of divorce?
Second, too many
clergy prefer safe or innocuous topics such as Abraham. Personally, I've
heard 50 sermons on Abraham and would be happy to never hear another.
Third, too many
houses of worship are self-satisfied for wrong reasons. On the Sunday
after 9/ll I attended an Episcopal Church where the pastor bragged that
an all-time record number of children were in Sunday School. But he
failed to explain why Muslim terrorists had committed horrific evil.
Their parents came to hear answers for that great moral question.
they and their children now stay home Sundays.
pastors have said? They could have preached with the clarity of George
Bush in his speech Wednesday on the anniversary of 9/11:
"The attack on
our nation was also an attack on the ideals that make us a nation. Our
deepest conviction is that every life is precious, because every life is
the gift of a Creator who intended us to live in liberty and equality."
the President declared.
anything else, this separates us from the enemy we fight. We value every
life; our enemies value none - not even the innocent, not even their
At the World
Trade Center, 300 firemen sacrificed their lives to save others. The
terrorists sacrificed their lives to kill 3,000 innocent people.
Fourth, too many
congregations do not urge adults to attend classes to study Scripture.
Most Catholic churches, for example, don't even offer adult Sunday
School. Result: even weekly church attenders don't know enough to lead
an unbeliever to faith.
Half of those
who call themselves Christian are unable to name who delivered the
Sermon on the Mount. Many Americans can not explain why Easter is
celebrated or what the Ten Commandments are, according to Gallup Polls.
There is hope.
In "The Next American Spirituality", a book written with Timothy Jones,
George Gallup, Jr. notes that the percentage of Americans who
"completely agree" that "prayer is an important part of my daily life,"
has risen from 41 percent to 53 percent over a decade. And those who
never doubted the existence of God has risen 11 percent in the same ten
years. Sales of books with spiritual themes are soaring.
because Americans claim they are more spiritual does not make them so,"
the book adds. Too many Americans make choices that contradict their
values. Boomers believe in angels but millions cheat on their taxes.
College students pray regularly but 44 percent are binge drinkers. And a
quarter of Americans say drinking is a problem at home, the highest
percentage in decades.
Americans "think the state of moral values in this country" is getting
My question to
readers is what will YOU do about it?
encourage your pastor, priest, rabbi or imam to preach on practical