When I was a kid in El Paso, there were two things I never saw/knew.
1. People who were NOT Catholic.
2. Men who did NOT drink, with one exception: my maternal grandfather, who gave up the juice in my toddlerhood at the beckoning of my mother.
Since my migration to the Chicken Friend Nation (Dallas-Fort Worth) in 1992, mine eyes have seen the aforementioned and much, much more.
One statement I can never understand, and it might be my insensitivity as a result of of being here almost as long as in El Paso is: "Oh no, I'm not Christian. I'm Catholic," or "Oh, he/she is not Christian. They are Catholic."
But...but...to be Catholic is to be Christian. I guess the line which divides both sides is still as deep as the days of Martin Luther and The 95 Theses.
So, what are we talking about here? The pros/cons of the Roman Church vs. the Protestant faction?
Not really. In fact, my thoughts today run much deeper than that. Where it that easy, i.e., picking a denomination, my concern wouldn't be so. But, it started last year, when a business statistic at the office caught my attention above all.
After reviewing a stats report, one (statistic) stood out. According to that report, over 40% of families declared no formal association with any church. The stat does not imply all those people are churchless -- or worse -- non-believers, it basically implies that many people aren't members of any church, or don't attend any church in particular.
Wow! That's 4 out of 10 or 40 outa 100 or .400%. Even the greatest baseball hitters can't reach those stats, save -- maybe -- the great Ted Williams, and that was only for one season. Focus, focus.
Well, I seem to know all those 40%-ers. In fact, we just made new friends during Spring Break, and they are churchless, also. I did a quick count of our friends and the stat was just right. In fact, in my group it's more like 50%.
Back in the day, it was understood everyone was Catholic. The women and children went to church and included the men for weddings and quinceaneras. All men drank, except my grandpa, and nobody every disputed it.
Every now and then I revisit the thought, if only to wonder -- again -- why this is happening?
We made some new friends this past Spring Break week. They hail from L.A., and have three kids. We spent a lot of time at each others' homes, and entertained the kids all week.
At one point, after a few cold drinks, the topic came up. "Where do you go to church?" they inquired.
It turns out the wife in this couple is Catholic, but he is not. He was raised in a Catholic home, but the family left to join some Protestant cause of sorts.
In all these conversations about God and the state of our churchness with these and other friends, there is one common school of thought: the raising of our children. It is agreed that adults can live a life without organized religion, though they should not. But children, like their formal education, need constant cultivation. Mine are in a menagerie of religious ideology at school -- all inclusive. Two of their most beloved friends are from Islamic families. The rest are from the unchurched and/or all layers of Christianity.
There's much to say about this subject, but one statement made by the husband of our new friends said it best...
A former U.S. Marine, he is a veteran of the Desert Storm conflict. During combat, he expressed this, "I turned around and realized that night myself and two of my friends were praying to three different Gods. I was praying to Jesus, my friend to the right was praying to the Virgin Mary, and my friend to the left was praying to Budda. All three of us made it home unscathed, and later, over drinks, we ask one another, 'Which of our three Gods brought us home?' To this day, I don't know."
That event led to his eventual separation from his former Protestant church.
In my business, I have seen -- literally -- ministers pray to all forms of deity in honor of the dead. After participating in over 5,000 funerals, and in a similar line of thought as my friend, I wonder how it's all sorted on the other side.