When the Washington Post takes an interest, you know the story must be worthy of note. When the story the Post is reporting originates in Canada, it really is time to pay attention. When the Canadian story that merits column space in the Washington Post, is a story about religion in Canada, you know something really remarkable must be taking place.

So, it is surely not without significance that today the Washington Post found room for 475 words on the religious scene in Canada.

Of course, the fact that a Canadian story on the 2011 National Household Survey merits attention in the Washington Post may simply be a function of the fact that some mainstream media outlets seem to delight in anything that appears to be bad news, particularly when that bad news relates to religion. So, the Washington Post today carried a blazing headline announcing,

Canadians turning away from organized religion


The story states that,

A new national study shows that while Canada remains overwhelmingly Christian, Canadians are turning their backs on organized religion in ever greater numbers.

The next line goes on to point out that,

Results from the 2011 National Household Survey show that more than two-thirds of Canadians, or some 22 million people, said they were affiliated with a Christian denomination.

It is difficult to understand how this represents a picture in which Canadians are “turning away from organized religion.” As I have said before, it is stunning that 22 million Canadians can identify a Christian denomination, let alone express a willingness to identify with one.

The only other evidence from the NHS reported in the Post that justifies the headline’s contention that Canadians are “turning away from organized religion,” is the finding that,

Observers noted that among the survey’s most striking findings is that one in four Canadians, or 7.8 million people, reported they had no religious affiliation at all. That was up sharply from 16.5 percent from the 2001 census, and 12 percent in 1991.

Why is the headline not “‘Canada remains overwhelmingly Christian'”? Why not announce “A Mere 25% of Canadians Claim No Affiliation With Any Christian Denomination”? Why couldn’t the headline state, “22 Million Canadians Claim Affiliation With Christian Denomination”? That sounds newsworthy to me, in fact stunningly newsworthy.

Clearly, as I have pointed out previously it is true that “Affiliation Is Not Attendance”. https://inaspaciousplace.wordpress.com/2013/05/09/affiliation-is-not-attendance/

But why is the only really newsworthy part of the Canadian study the fact that non-affiliation with a Christian denomination in Canada has risen by a mere 9% in the decade from 1991 to 2011?

To listen to the pundits over the past decade, one could be forgiven for getting the impression that organized religion in Canada has virtually disappeared from the cultural landscape of our nation. Yet on any given Sunday in most cities in this country, thousands of Canadians still choose, without support from social pressure and with no hope of material gain, to give up an hour or two of their precious free time to join in a corporate act of Christian worship in church.

For those of us who labour in the Christian church, it is hard to see how the continuing participation of so many faithful people in the life of the church is not a remarkable affirmation of the tenacity of faith. The church is the beneficiary of countless thousands of hours of volunteer labour, and millions of dollars annually in freely given financial contributions.

The determination to focus on decline in the church is mystifying to those of us who continue to find church a source of nourishment, energy, vitality, and inspiration. Perhaps a reporter from the Washington Post would like to drop into a Christian church some Sunday and view the religious scene in Canada from a slightly different perspective.