In my early years, I didn't know much about Christian sub-divisions, so I had to ask my parents, "What am I?" "Protestant," they said - that was to distinguish me from a couple of Catholic friends I had. Of course, I had no idea what a "Protestant" was, except that it was a "non-Catholic."
I remembered those days, and my youthful and tepid interest in religion, when I read of a recent survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life which interviewed 35,000 people. They discovered that the fastest growing religious group was the "non-affiliated." That category did not mean that those who checked it had no religious opinions floating around in the backs of their minds. It simply meant that they had checked "nothing in particular." It is to that "nothing in particular" group that I would address my remarks.
I can truly appreciate the avoidance of intolerant religion or the rejection of one that claims to be the one and only true faith. I also share a common distaste for the pettiness and self righteousness that can be found in many churches. If these were my only choices, I too might check the "nothing in particular" column.
On the other hand, piety without passion is an oxymoron. Faith is not a religious "salad-bar" where we pick a warm fuzzy feeling here and a small jolt of spiritual energy there. A vital faith is one that profoundly changes life, brings hope and purpose and direction. That kind of faith comes only with commitment, a total investment of life and identification with a particular community of faith. The writer of II Timothy writes, "I know whom I have believed ..." That is a far cry from "nothing in particular."
Wilbur Rees is currently Pastor Emeritus at Shalom United Church of Christ in Richland.
Wilbur calls himself a “survivor.” Having weathered the first two and a half decades of a tumultuous life, he went on to complete his education and serve as pastor in four states. He has written numerous article for religious publications and, in addition to this book, is the author of “Three Dollars Worth of God”. He is now retired and lives with his wife in Washington State.