God, organized religion, or both


By Melissa Martin



Talking about religion can be a touchy topic—even among Christian believers.

The Most Post-Christian Cities in America: 2019 is a recent research study conducted by Barna research; an evangelical Christian polling firm. The ongoing study surveyed a random sample of 21, 378 American adults over a ten-year period. Visit their website for more detailed information. www.barna.com.

Please keep in mind that not all studies are created equal and all contain margins of error. Plus, Barna, a for-profit company, is commissioned to conduct research projects and they sell books. Nonetheless, I found the results interesting.

How did Ohio fare?

Among Ohio’s cities, Toledo was highest on the list in the number 35 spot—47 percent of residents considered themselves as post-Christian. In Columbus, 42 percent of residents qualify as post-Christian and the city ranked in the number 59 spot. Youngstown-Warren came in at 41 percent in the number 63 spot. Cleveland-Akron-Canton came in at 39 percent. Dayton and Cincinnati both tied at 38 percent.

To be identified as post-Christian, an individual had to meet nine or more of the factors: Do not believe in God. Identify as atheist or agnostic. Disagree that faith is important in their lives. Have not prayed to God (in the last week). Have never made a commitment to Jesus. Disagree the Bible is accurate. Have not donated money to a church (in the last year). Have not attended a Christian church (in the last 6 months). Agree that Jesus committed sins. Do not feel a responsibility to “share their faith.” Have not read the Bible (in the last week). Have not volunteered at church (in the last week). Have not attended Sunday school (in the last week). Have not attended religious small group (in the last week). Bible engagement scale: low (have not read the Bible in the past week and disagree strongly or somewhat that the Bible is accurate). Not Born Again.

I did not get a call from the Barna group, did you? The southern areas of Ohio are considered to be a part of the Bible Belt region—heavily influenced by socially conservative evangelical Protestantism. Results may have been different based on Belt Bible residents’ responses.

However, the larger cities in Ohio tell a story about declining Christianity.

“The Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center,” via a 2015 study. In Ohio, 73 percent of adult respondents reported their religion to be Christian and 4 percent reported non-Christian faiths. With 57 percent of Ohioans reporting daily prayer and 33 percent saying they seek guidance on right and wrong.

USA Today reported on the religious counties in every state in a 2018 newspaper article. Putnam County, Ohio fared as top dog.

What’s the takeaway from this column? The landscape of Christianity is changing in some parts of America.

What’s the takeaway from this column? Some Christians attend church services and some do not. Religion is about relationships. A relationship with God, ourselves, and others

Several years ago, I turned in my license as an ordained minister because of my perception of corruption, injustice, legalism, toxic judgment, and guilt-producing dogma in church leadership. Counseling Christian adult women sexually abused as youth by pastors, deacons, church members and their own fathers/stepfather who sat in pews every Sunday took its toll. Counseling devastated pastors’ wives when spouses had extra marital affairs or got caught with pornography took its toll. Pedophile priests and deception/lies in celestial places took its toll.

I didn’t give up on my faith in God, my devotion to Jesus, or my compassion for people. But I dropped organized religion like a hot potato. Therefore, I would meet 5 of the required criteria in the Barna survey.

What’s the takeaway from this column? We are messy people with messy lives. And we are all sinners saved by grace.

Maybe, I’ll try organized religion again.

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By Melissa Martin