November 13, 2007

Active vs. Liturgical?

Category: Theology - Liturgical :: Permalink

Leadership Journal just published the results of a recent survey of American Christians from which, the article says, there emerged “portraits of five distinct segments,” each consisting of about 20% of the total.  They named the segments “Active, Professing, Liturgical, Private, and Cultural Christians.”

What strikes me as particularly weird was the inclusion of “Liturgical Christians” as a category distinct from all others.  (“Distinct” is their word.)  Liturgical Christians, they say, are “predominantly Catholic and Lutheran,” which is already a bit odd since Episcopalians are liturgical, too, to say nothing of some Reformed churches. 

It’s also very hard for me to believe that Catholics and Lutherans (and Episcopalians) make up only 16% of American Christians.  Surely that means that many people in liturgical churches are counted in the other categories.  Surely there are people who are members of liturgical churches but who are also what the survey calls Private Christians or Cultural Christians.  And surely there are members of liturgical churches who are also Professing Christians and Active Christians.

Liturgical Christians, we’re told, are “regular churchgoers,” have a “high level of spiritual activity, mostly expressed by serving in church and/or community,” and “recognize [the] authority of the church.”  But how, then, are they “distinct” from Active Christians or Professing Christians?

It seems fairly likely to me that these segments didn’t actually arise from the results of the survey, as the article claims, but that the surveyers themselves imposed these categories, perhaps through the sorts of questions they asked and the assumptions they brought to the survey.  I suspect that asked questions based on a certain set of assumptions (“This is what constitutes an ‘active Christian'”), but that they found that there were people who didn’t fit into the categories created by those assumptions (“What do we do with these liturgical people?  How about we make a new category!”).  But what were those assumptions?

What, in the surveyer’s mind, distinguished these Liturgical Christians from the Christians in the other categories?  I imagine the fact that they regularly attend church distinguished them from the people in the Professing, Private, and Cultural Christian categories.  And I suspect they weren’t included as “Active Christians” because they didn’t do some of the practices or agree with some of the beliefs that the surveyers thought were necessary for someone to be considered an “Active Christian.”  Either that, or they did something or believed something that “Active Christians” don’t.

But which beliefs?  Which practices?  Was it that they tended not to be as active in personal Bible reading, though they heard the Word in the liturgy?  Was it that they didn’t evangelize (or beat themselves up for not evangelizing) as much as people who ended up in the Active Christian segment?  Was it that they didn’t affirm that salvation was through Jesus Christ?  Or was it that they recognized the authority of the church, a characteristic which is listed for Liturgical Christians but not (!) for Active Christians?

The survey itself doesn’t seem particularly valuable to me, but its value may be, not only that it reveals that fully 60% of the Christians surveyed don’t seem to be committed to the church, but that it reveals how evangelicals think about liturgical churches.  As someone who is planting a church which is both evangelical and liturgical, it interests me to know that people in the evangelical world see a sharp distinction between “active Christians” and “liturgical Christians.”

Posted by John Barach @ 1:35 pm | Discuss (1)

One Response to “Active vs. Liturgical?”

  1. michael Says:

    Shows that he who asks the question has no idea what he’s asking.

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