Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pew Survey on Religion

It seems like every major news outlet is covering the Pew Survey on Religion in some way.  (Here is one outlet's summary.  If you prefer to read the study itself, here is a link to the Pew Forum.)  Basically, the findings are that people do not perform well on a "religious pop quiz."  We don't seem to know even the most basic tenets of our faith; we seem to led by our hearts and not our heads when it comes to religion.

I do worry about the "fairness" of pop quizzes.  I think we'd be surprised at how poorly we'd perform on any range of topics.  Furthermore, who decides which questions demonstrate religious knowledge?  If a person can recite and explain the Apostle's Creed and the Lord's Prayer, wouldn't that show at least a minimal understanding of the Christian faith?

But despite that reservation, I don't think we can see the results of this study as anything other than a call for ongoing Christian education - Sunday School, adult forum, Bethel Bible study, and, of course, music!  Church music doesn't respect the distinction between heart and head.  Soaring tunes can be matched with texts that explain and describe our faith, thereby pairing aesthetic beauty with Christian education.

Our closing hymn "O Christ, Your Heart, Compassionate" (ELW 722) this past Sunday is just one example of that blending.  For one thing, the choir sounded fantastic on the last verse descant at second service, and the hymn itself has a beautiful tune.  But the text also contains a number of allusions to specific Bible verses, and a call to ministry.  Verse three appears below as an example:

O Christ, create new hearts in us that beat in time with yours,
That, joined by faith with your great heart, become love's open doors.
We are your body, risen Christ; our hearts, our hands we yield
That through our life and ministry your love may be revealed.

From what I can tell, the survey didn't ask people if they had any hymns memorized or how music informs their faith.  That's certainly a glaring omission of one important aspect of worship!

1 comment:

  1. I think a trend towards not knowing the reasons behind our religious beliefs can make us susceptible to the over-simplification and fanaticism we see in some places. It is one of the problems in Islam, for sure, but also within the Christian circle. Those who want to "cherry pick" verses from the Bible to make their political points are counting on Christians not to be able to see this.