Faces on Faith: Listen for God’s voice when you pray
In 1964, Bob Dylan released an album with the title track “The Times They Are A-Changin.'” The song was a hit, and was recorded by numerous other singers. In fact, it has remained a recognizable and popular song. When Dylan recorded the song, the times were indeed changing, especially among the youth of the nation. The lyrics resonated with them and became an anthem for the social protests of the day. Those young people, now five-plus decades older, were changed by the years of protest and turmoil, and, while they are calmer and slower now, they have never really changed back to their pre-protest selves.
In the ’50s and very early ’60s, while not everyone went to church, almost everyone was familiar with what went on in church. Many, if not most, parents sent their kids to Sunday School, even if they didn’t attend church themselves. Increasingly, however, as the youth grew up they walked away from church and faith. The protests raised questions of relevance to what was happening in the world, questions for which they couldn’t find meaningful, satisfying answers.
As they grew up and became parents themselves, having walked away from church and faith, they found little value in sending their children to church as their parents had done. Now, as we come into the third generation of people with no experience and no interest in faith. Nearly all American faith groups have declined since the turbulent ’60s, many as much as 50 percent or more.
Other changes have occurred as well, many related to this decline in faith and the loss of spiritual values. Halloween has become the second most popular holiday in the United States, significantly behind Christmas. Tellingly, the people who measure these things are using money as their indicator, $9 billion dollars for Halloween and $465 billion for Christmas in 2018. Thanksgiving seems to be better known for what we spend on Black Friday, or as one Web retailer calls it, “the seven days of Black Friday,” than it does for genuinely giving thanks.
If this sounds like unmitigated bad news, don’t despair. Remember Elijah, complaining to God that he was the only man of faith left in Israel. First, God sent him to anoint the ones who would restore Israel, then said he would keep 7,000 who had not worshipped idols, a faithful remnant. As best I can tell, God always keeps a faithful remnant. And where is the faithful remnant now? We’re it. Listen for God’s voice when you pray. Follow his call. Faith the size of a mustard seed, said Jesus, is sufficient for great things to be done.
The Rev. Alan Kelmereit is the assisting rector at Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church.