Fr. Nicholas A. Marziani, Jr., D.Min.
It gives new – and ominous – meaning to the phrase, “talking past each other.”
Actually, it’s even worse than that. We’re not simply talking past each other when it comes to just about anything having to do with speaking about divine topics, we’re not even connecting at all!
Jonathan Merritt, an author and contributing writer for The Atlantic and the The New York Times, and a megachurch preacher’s kid as well as a some-time minister in his own right at a church outside of Atlanta, reports that a Barna Group survey of one thousand Americans reveals some disturbing facts about the business of “speaking spiritually” in our nation at this time.
A supermajority of American people of faith – including active members of houses of worship – seem to suffer from a religious fluency syndrome that renders them, literally, speechless when attempting to communicate about spiritual topics to others. And quite possibly, in the opinion of your humble St. Augustine-based commentator, challenged to even ruminate about such things within their own hearts and minds.
Merritt reports that only 13% of practicing Christians, to cite one faith group, have a spiritually-oriented conversation even once a week (who knows what goes on at church!).
He concludes that nearly half of our spiritually tongue-tied populace has been turned off by the politicization or polemical nature of “God-talk” today. Others simply don’t want to come off as seeming “extremist” or “weird.”
That may be unfortunate when it comes to discussing doctrine and dogma, but the real kicker is that we don’t know how to discuss virtues of the good life like “patience” or “gentleness” or even “kindness.” Behold the rancorous “24-hour news cycle”, so overwhelmingly negative and divisive!
Merritt concludes his observations by noting that if common folk don’t jump into the void of religious rhetoric, that vacuum WILL be filled by questionable people with personal agendas.
He calls for a “revival of sacred speech” and a “rekindling of confidence in the vocabulary of faith” among all people of good will.
Hear, hear! This guy’s on to something! Fortunately here in St. Augustine there are interfaith groups and organizations devoted to fostering “God-talk”, and so I have hope for the future.
It is in that vein that I wish you all a very blessed and happy New Year!