Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Resurrection Roundup

The Easter poll was a popular one. More responded to it than to the poll on the worst 80s songs. Here are the results:

Poll questions 1-4, choose one answer
Poll questions 5-6, choose as many as are true for you.

Poll Number 1:
The resurrection of Jesus was an historical event.

1. Yes. 73 (57%)
2. No. 54 (42%)

The intent of this question was to poll folks on whether or not they felt the resurrection of Jesus was event of history upon which the New Testament authors (especially the authors of the empty tomb narratives), are seen as reporting on an event, even if these reports may have elements of exaggeration or creative license. Of the 127 voters, 73 said yes and 54 no. 42% is a significant minority.

Poll Number 2:
The Empty Tomb narratives in the gospels are more like:
1. Reliable historical reports of an event. 66 (53%)
2. Creative religious legends. 58 (46%)

This question looks more specifically at the type of literature the empty tomb narratives represent. Only a slight majority see these narratives as historical reports instead of religious legends.

Poll Number 3:
The truth of the Resurrection can be approached through historical methodology:
1. Yes. 51 (44%)
2. No. 64 (55%)

This was interesting in that a slight majority felt that historical method does not lead to the "truth" of the Resurrection. This question did not specify what "truth" is. That may have been enough for many who may have voted yes on question one to choose no here.

Poll Number 4:
Christianity rests on:
1. The resurrection of Jesus as an historical event. 15 (12%)
2. The resurrection of Jesus as a proclamation of faith. 38 (32%)
3. Both. 40 (34%)
4. Neither. 24 (20%)

One-fifth of the voters claimed that Christianity does not rest on the resurrection of Jesus either as an historical event or a proclamation of faith. Only 12% said it rested upon the resurrection as an historical event. Most felt that the resurrection is a proclamation of faith even though 34% felt it needed both faith and history. Does the both answer mean folks have to have faith that it was an historical event or faith in the historical event's meaning?

Poll Number 5:
I am not a Christian because
1. Christians are jerks. 8 (19%)
2. Christians think theirs is the only true religion. 23 (56%)
3. Christianity insults my intelligence. 12 (29%)
4. Christians insist that their myths and legends are historical facts. 25 (60%)
5. Christians are wrapped up in right wing politics: anti-gay, anti-choice, pro-war, etc. 23 (56%)
6. I am just not interested. 13 (31%)

Questions 5 and 6 were for those who do not self-identify as Christians. Multiple answers were accepted. In question 5, 41 people answered with 13 saying they were simply not interested. Only 8 of the 41 said it was because Christians were jerks. That is not a large factor. Also only 12 said Christianity insulted their intelligence. The most popular answers had to do with the way they saw Christianity, connected to right wing politics (56%), as conceiving of itself as the only true religion (56%), and their belief that Christianity insisted upon its legends and myths to be historical.

Poll Number 6:
I might consider Christianity if
1. Christians behaved better. 15 (32%)
2. Christians valued the contributions of science. 28 (60%)
3. Christians valued the contributions of other faiths. 28 (60%)
4. Christian myths and legends could be appreciated symbolically. 29 (63%)
5. Christianity made the world a better place rather than a worse one. 27 (58%)
6. Christians were inclusive to gays, reproductive choice, against war, etc. 32 (69%)
7. I could find a community that respected my freedom to think and to grow. 31 (67%)
8. I am just not interested. 8 (17%)

When pressed, 46 people who did not self-identify as Christian responded as to why. Only 8 of those said they were not interested. In other words, 38 of them said they might be interested in Christianity if it were perceived by them to be different. Only 15 credited their lack of self-identification on the behavior of Christians. Apparently Christians do not hold the corner on bad behavior at least for the other 31. The rest of the answers were nearly even, with a full two-thirds saying they might be interested if they could find a community that respected their freedom to learn and to grow.

What I think this last question illustrates is that many people who do not self-identify as Christian would if they perceived Christianity differently. Obviously, these questions were mine, and they reflect my values, the values of the congregation I serve, and the values of Progressive Christianity.

While Progressive Christianity is not for everyone, it certainly is a path that many would take if they found such a community. This poll as a whole suggests that there are different views regarding the stories of Christianity held by people already in the pews and the pulpits.

While not a majority, a solid minority does not regard the resurrection of Jesus as an historical event. This is an important option for many. Some may regard this as a lack of faith or apostasy within the ranks. They may see this as a sign of an ever-widening division. Others see this as part of the reformation of the church as people continue to learn and grow, embracing both the mysteries of faith and the modern or post-modern world.

The big question is this? Can we worship together? My answer is that we already do and certainly could and should continue to do so.

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