An article recently reported “100,000 Atheists Are ‘Unbaptized.” This is being done by such groups known as the National Secular Society, Unbaptism.Org., or Sunday Assembly which “has launched new services in 35 cities across the world with plans for 16 more.” Certificates are offered to those seeking them with the following wording: “[Name] having at one time willingly submitted to the Rite of Christian Baptism and subsequently having realized my beliefs were in error, I hereby publicly revoke any and all implications of that Rite and renounce the Church that carried it out. In the name of human reason, I reject all that Church’s Creeds and all other such Superstitions. I wish to be excluded henceforth from claims of church membership numbers based on past baptismal statistics.”
At first this ‘certificate offering’ appeared to be a real astonishing thought and an effort in complete and utter folly. However, this ‘gesture’ may work for some who have the courage of their conviction to admit that they have no faith in God or Jesus of Nazareth. They do not believe in the Church as an institution that they can support and officially move on in life by declaring themselves as being what they really are, nonbelievers.
What may be sadder to deal with is the reality of many that still lay claim to something that their lifestyles or behaviors confirm is not their honest and earnest selves. And many people still attend church and perhaps are involved in its ministries and life, but have little or no ‘saving grace’ that affects the true essence of life resulting in the new and abundant life that Christ offers.
Perhaps there should be respect for the courage of many to declare their unbelief. It doesn’t make them the worse people in the world. Rather it simply says to the church that I am not a believer and I do not wish to any longer be associated with it or its ‘faith enterprises.’
The challenge to the church, however, is to be real about its own beliefs with some consistency. On many fronts it is fighting battles in the public while at the same time privately living out a reality that suggests otherwise about what its honest beliefs may be. In too many cases, it is hot on certain subjects while cold on others. Believers tend to be condemning about what they dislike and condone things that they themselves do or at least would prefer turning a deaf ear. Blaming others for the world’s ills and overlooking it’s own failures is common. Personal sins of too many believers are paraded before the public and overlooked by church members and its leaders. Too many believers are heard saying one thing while actually doing something totally different. Political ideologies are justified in biblical and spiritual terms while there is silence on matters that affect the social reality of the human experience. The Bible is clear and the words of Jesus speak specifically and with clarity about caring for the poor.
Remember, Peter stayed with Jesus even beyond Jesus’ rebuke of his personal and ‘real ideas.’ Under the right circumstances he denied Christ three times. Judas stayed while holding on to political and ideological beliefs that eventually thrust him into the worst betrayal. James and John hung around and they held on to their own personal ambitions. Thomas couldn’t accept the inevitable truth that had been told him before the fact because of his skepticism and unbelief. And the rest could easily walk away when their presence could perhaps have made a difference in the whole scheme of things one Sunday morning!
The rest of us that are a part of this 21st Century reality must deal with our own set of issues and must deal with them honestly and earnestly to find our own repentance and redemption. We’re not that much different from those flaws and failures of the men closest to the Master. And, like them, we have to face our reality and its truth about ourselves in a struggle with being true to what we believe toward repentance and restoration.
The end of all things will be revealing for everybody. The ‘unbaptized’ may have accepted that reality beforehand while the rest of us just hope for a different outcome instead of repenting!