The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Religion a la carte

We are in the midst of a "spirituality bull market," says George Gallup Jr. Consider Gallup's recent research detailing America's spiritual landscape.

49 percent of Americans said they had experienced God's presence within the previous 24 hours.

59 percent said they had "a sense of being a part of God's plans or purposes" within that period.

41 percent said prayer was an important part of their daily life in 1987. By 1997 that rose to 53 percent.

78 percent said they felt a need for spiritual growth in 1994. By 1998 that grew to 82 percent.

  • Gallup and co-author Timothy Jones offer and interpret a plethora of data in The New American Spirituality; Finding God in the Twenty-First Century (Victor, 2000).

    "People want more than a long-distance relationship with God," Gallup says. This makes the present a profound moment for engaging the culture in a serious discussion of faith.

    The bad news for Christian churches is that Americans' spiritual interest is broad but not deep and is often me-centered, Gallup says. Americans often don't know what they believe or why. In postmodern ears, the idea of truth — that some religious teachings are true and healthy and others are not — sounds prescientific or like theological imperialism.

    Americans increasingly treat religion and spirituality as a cafeteria lunch counter at which they construct a personal belief system from diverse and sometimes inconsistent elements, Gallup says.

    Churches should go deep. They need to ground faith in the revealed truth of Scripture, nurture people in life-changing spiritual practices and cultivate distinctively Christian ways of being and relating, he says.

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