Yesterday morning when I came out of my study no more than five minutes had passed before people were asking me about the article in the Kitsap Sun newspaper. Because Sundays are busy busy work days for me, I obviously had not read the news. I read it today. Apparently Kitsap County is not very religious, according to a recent Gallup poll. The article (read it here) was interesting.
The breakdown of the article is that Kitsap County is the most irreligious county in Washington and the seventh most irreligious county in the country. More than half of the people in the Silverdale-Bremerton-Port Orchard area report having no religious convictions. The article was accompanied by photographs of small congregations worshiping.
People wanted my opinion yesterday before I ever had a chance to read it. Well, here is my opinion.
1. I know where I live. I did not need the numbers to tell me this a heathen place. By heathen I do not mean unsophisticated or evil, I just mean that most people do not value God, church, or spiritual vitality. I have great neighbors, but they consist of committed atheists (That Darwin fish is on the car!), lapsed Catholics, Mormons, and secularists.
2. This heathenness is one of the reasons we came here in the first place 14 years ago. It makes it exciting to do ministry in a place where the majority of the people are against you. This is where the action is. Why anyone who is interested in advancing the Kingdom of God would want to stay in areas heavily saturated with the gospel is beyond me. I knew what I was getting into.
3. Blame seems to be put in the military culture and the anti-institutionalism of the area. I agree. I researched quite a bit of this for parts of my doctoral work. If I may quote myself:
“The State of Washington has one of the highest unchurched populations in the nation. Many prefer other activities to interest or involvement.”
Then I go on to quote the Bremerton Sun, the same newspaper that published article (back then it was called the Bremerton Sun) from article titled “State 49th in Pew Time” published on 19 September 2002.
“Hiking, biking, and sailing win out over prayer and Sunday school as weekend activities.”
So this is not a new development as yesterdays article indicated. Its been this way for a long time.
4. In the same chapter of my doctoral project I observed that the lack of Christian numbers has resulted in a larger than normal fundamentalism in which fundamentalist Christians have ‘closed ranks’ and control the religious dialogue. That is still happening but less so. It is interesting to me that the photographs with the article are of smaller congregations, while ignoring the fact that many larger communities, primarily in South Kitsap and the Poulsbo area are doing great work in impacting their world and attracting people who previously were not in a church community.
5. It makes me very proud of my church. I think FBC Port Orchard has done a spectacular job of overcoming her historical tendencies by embracing a strong growth pattern that is leaving a larger footprint in the culture. What I mean by this is that many churches planted here were done so by transplanted people from other parts of the country, primarily the American South. The result was a church culture that did not reflect the indigenous population of Western Washington. That hinders cultural impact. We at First Baptist have worked hard to overcome this and I think we have turned a corner and are actually more attuned to Western Washington than to the sociological constructs transplanted here from other places.
Okay, so that is what I think about that.