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Overcoming Apatheism

The off-handed comment from my seminary professor was unexpected and totally took me aback. 

We're discussing religion in America. A fair number of Americans, he says, are theists: people who believe in a personal God. Christians would of course be included in this group. 

On the other hand, he continues, there are atheists: people who believe that there is no god, personal or otherwise. America is home to a number of these as well, he says. 

But then he goes on to say that the vast majority of Americans, in his opinion, are neither theists nor atheists. 

“Well, then, what are they?” our class asks. 

“You could call them apatheists,” he says. 

Apatheists? Yes. "Apatheism," as he defined it, was neither explicit belief nor disbelief in God, but rather an overriding apathy about life—especially all things religious. You might say that its icon is the 🤷‍♂️ emoji and its creed is “look out for #1.”

I’m not sure whether or not my professor coined the term, but I haven’t forgotten it. Now, to be clear, it’s not an official religious persuasion (at least I don’t think it is!). Nevertheless, since I first heard of it I have only seen apatheism increase.

We're launching the Heart for Arcadia initiative as a counter-attack of Christian compassion and care, so that we might overcome apatheism and share God’s heart for the world.

Functional apatheists

We live in a time when apathy abounds. Indifference reigns. And self-centeredness is supported, if not celebrated. Christ Jesus predicted, “The love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24.12). Those chilly hearts are in evidence everywhere.

The tragic truth, though, is that all too often churches look no better. We get preoccupied with our own needs and forget the needs of our neighbors. We focus on filling pews and plates and lose our fervor for pouring ourselves out for the sake of others. We become, in other words, functional apatheists.

And like it or not, outsiders form their beliefs about who God is and what He is like in large part from their impressions about Christians. If Christians act like everyone else, simply trying to guard their turf and get theirs, then the message comes through loud and clear: God couldn't care less about the world—as if He himself were an apatheist. As we well know, nothing could be further from the truth! (“For God so loved the world…”).  


A Counter-Attack of Care

This is why we are launching the Heart for Arcadia (HFA) initiative. It's a counter-attack of Christian compassion and care, so that we might overcome apatheism and share God’s heart for the world. We’ve already seen some of the firstfruits of this effort, and now we're taking the next step by intentionally plotting a way forward.

That's where the formation of the HFA task force comes in (see members below). The task force has just begun meeting, but I couldn’t be more excited about the good work that lies ahead. Over the next few months the task force will be working to clarify our HFA goals and—with congregational input and feedback along the way—to develop a plan for moving forward. They’ll be determining what are some critical actions that we can take in order to become by God's grace more fully a people who share His heart for Arcadia and beyond.


Taste & See

Apatheism may be on the rise, but it need not be true of Trinity Lutheran. Indeed, whether our neighbors realize it or not, they are depending on our church not to succumb to it. As we'll be reminded in this Sunday's Gospel, we are "the light of the world" (Matthew 5.14). Hide it under a bushel? No!

For when we as the Church let our light shine and do good works for our neighbors, then the world sees the light of Christ and gives glory to God—no longer wondering whether He himself might be an apatheist. May the Lord grant it for His name's sake!

Sunday's sermon

On Sunday we had a "guest preacher," as Simeon made an appearance in order to share the significance of the Savior's birth. 

Note: Please excuse the quality of the sound.
 
Listen to Sunday's sermon

News & Notes

  • In actuality, Heart for Arcadia really began this fall. It's been rather informal, though; it wasn't planned ahead of time, but good work fell into our lap and so we responded! Since then, there have been not only lots of conversations about it within the church, but also actions taken in our community (such as the benefit dinner for the Shoults-Sullivan family). Forming the task force is helping to formalize our efforts. The members are the Babcocks, Bill Beck, Dana Care, Tom Dunn, Becky Emery, the Loosemores, Sarah May, and yours truly. 
  • This past summer Chip May and I began a fun project, which we're finally ready to roll out. It's called Campfire Conversations, and it's a podcast in which we interview the deans and lecturers at Camp Arcadia. The conversations often delve into deep topics—the kind of things you talk about around the campfire—but always in a light-hearted way. New episodes will be released every couple weeks. Listen and subscribe here
  • It's February, which means we're in the ideal time of year for gathering together for fun and fellowship. Next Wednesday evening at 6 we'll have a mid-winter (3/4 winter?) potluck at church, hosted by the women's Bible study. And mark your calendar for Tuesday, February 25th, when the men's group will put on our 2nd annual Shrove Tuesday pancake supper (also at 6)—this year with the addition of a euchre tournament. Invite your friends and neighbors and join us!

From the Church Year

This week the Church Year commemorated the patriarch Jacob (aka Israel). From the Treasury of Daily Prayer:

"Jacob, the third of the three Hebrew patriarchs, was the younger of the twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah. After wrestling with the Angel of the Lord, Jacob, whose name means "deceiver," was renamed "Israel," which means "he strives with God" (Gen. 25:26; 32:28). His family life was filled with trouble, caused by his acts of deception toward his father and his brother Esau and his parental favoritism toward his son Joseph. Much of his adult life was spent grieving over the death of his beloved wife Rachel and the presumed death of Joseph, who had been appointed by the Egyptian Pharaoh to be in charge of food distribution during a time of famine in the land. Prior to Jacob's death during the blessing of his sons, God gave the promise that the Messiah would come through the line of Jacob's fourth son, Judah (Genesis 49)."

"And he said to him, 'What is your name?' And he said, 'Jacob.' Then he said, 'Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed'."

- Genesis 32:27–28

Looking ahead to Sunday

The 5th Sunday after Epiphany
  • Readings
    • Old Testament lesson—Isaiah 58.3-9a
    • Epistle lesson—1 Corinthians 2.1-12
    • Gospel—Matthew 5.13-20

+ Grace & Peace +

Pastor Tinetti

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