Friday, January 10, 2014

Like me, more Americans are increasingly turning to God

A woman kneels in prayer at the
Basilica of the National Shrine

Dear Friends,

A story by Jacqueline Klimas in The Washington Times, published on Christmas Eve, December 24th, 2013, had me thinking.

Ms Klimas wrote that a  higher percentage of Americans now consider religion a very important piece of their lives - and cites a Gallup poll released on Christmas Eve.

She goes on to say, "Still, despite the increasing reliance on the power of personal prayer, only four in 10 Americans self-reported going to a religious service in the past week."
She says that the number of Americans who report going to church, synagogue or mosque in the past week has hovered around 40 percent since the 1960s, with a high of 44 percent in the early 2000s and a low of 37 percent around 2010.

That’s down dramatically from attendance in the mid-1950s when about half of Americans said they had attended a religious service in the past seven days. The number showed little change from last year.

The polls she cites says, "Studies in the past have suggested that Americans may over report their religious service attendance, meaning it percentage may actually be lower."

All this, yet the poll also states that the majority of Americans, however, say religion is an important part of their lives.

About 56 percent say it is “very important,” while 22 percent say it is “fairly important” and another 22 percent say it is “not very important.”

That number is said to have remained somewhat consistent, fluctuating between the mid-50’s and low-60’s for more than 20 years and is down only slightly from the 58 percent who said religion played an important role in their lives last year.

So what can one take from this?

For me, this all means that attending services are down yet people are still religious - and in fact a majority of 78% of the people polled claim that religion is "important."

To me, "very important" versus "fairly important" is sort of a fine line depending on how someone feels or what's going on in their life.

For example, I haven't been to church services for years. But after saying that, anyone who really knows me will tell you that my relationship with God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit is one that I take very personal.

I love churches, especially old churches where you can walk into and feel a presence - a place that makes me feel a sort of reference for God and the blessing that I am thankful for. Yes, not only those Blessings that I have received, but for those which will also come. 

After saying that about churches, some would wonder why I wouldn't be a regular to Sunday services?

My reason why I don't regularly attend church services is the same reason that I believe church attendance is down - yet so many people say that God is important to them.

I believe that we have found God, Jesus Christ, in more ways than just on Sunday mornings.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about, in the winter I feed my horses their second feeding of the day late at night.  I do this for two reasons; first it allows me to give them something to chew on that will help keep them warm through a cold night; and second it gives me a chance to pray. Yes, pray.

Some of the closes times that I felt to God was when I was camping or fishing. Since moving here to Glencoe, I have had the same feeling right here at home.

Late at night around here is sort of special because there are no lights of the city to mask the millions of stars - stars that seem so close that it sometimes feels as if I could touch the heavens.

And yes, there is God.

On a clear night like tonight, among the millions of stars are my memories of my grandparents, my dad, and others who have passed - those who I miss.

Among those twinkling lights are thoughts of my mom's happiness, my wife's happiness, how life is treating my family and friends.

I'll think about the times when I was a boy, the times when I was in the service far from home, the times not too long ago when life was not always easy.

Sometimes at night, I think about the things that I've done wrong and my hopes that I've been forgiven.

I sometimes wish that somehow I hadn't done this or that, or that some things could have been different. And yes, sometimes I wonder if what happens in life can ever be averted - but then again I know real well that there is no rewind in life.

I'll remember lessons learned, and I'll feel for those having it tough these days. Inevitably, I will ask God for help to understand what he wants of me and if there is any way to help those who I know need help.

I don't pretend to be a "good" Christian. After all, I refuse to turn the other cheek to so many things. And as for forgiving my enemies, I leave forgiving them to God himself because I won't.

And no, I don't pretend to have lead a great and noble life. I'm not a hypocrite when it comes to admitting that I have certainly screwed up and done wrong in life.

But I do believe that through Christ, I've found peace within myself to forgive those who have wronged me while at the same time finding the ability to ask for forgiveness from others.
And yes, God knows how hard that has been.

Yes, in the night air out at the barn, there is my church under the stars. There is where I feel close to God.

Late at night, my stained class windows are the stars just outside of my small barn that's really just a stable. And yes, I'm not ashamed to say that there I ask God for guidance and forgiveness, for help, and strength.

Every once in a while I'll remember a passage from the Bible. Then after returning to the house, with my wife in bed, I'll open our Bible and look up what I was thinking about.

A friend sent this to me. It has helped me put things into prospective:

Micah 6:6 - 8

"With what shall I come before the LORD,
and bow before God most high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?

Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
with myriad streams of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my crime,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

You have been told, O mortal, what is good,
and what the LORD requires of you:
Only to do justice and to love goodness,
and to walk humbly with your God"

Yes, church services might be down, but God's small simple message is being heard:

Yes, I am a Christian. A Catholic. A true believer. And yes, with all that is taking place in the world and specifically our country these days, I certainly understand why many Americans are turning to Christ these days.

Like many others, I thank God every day for the blessings he has given me, the blessings that will come, the strength to deal with life's ups and owns, and the ability to know that with Christ everything is possible.

Tom Correa

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