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As discussed in my previous column, we asked a national sample of fellow Christians to imagine that God held a televised news conference.  Would they watch and would they learn anything new?  We then had them imagine they were reporters at that news conference.  What questions would they ask?

The “reporters” in this pretend news conference volunteered 1378 questions they would ask.

  • A third would ask “why” questions: Why all the suffering?  Why do bad things happen to good people?  Why is there so much hate?
  • A fourth would ask “what” questions: What is Thy plan for us?  What is the meaning of life?  What is my purpose in this world?
  • And one in six would ask “how” questions: How can I please Thee?  How soon is Jesus coming?  How can we save the world and have peace?

But there was only one – ONE – question that began with “which.”

“Which religion has it right to the best extent?”

Two others came close.  One participant would ask God His own religion and the other would ask whether there is one true religion or many.

But out of 1053 Christians in the sample, only one person would directly ask the same question a teenager in upstate New York asked 200 years ago.

It was the most disappointing finding of the whole survey.

And is further demonstrated by the small number of times related words and phrases were used:

Think what that means.  Americans simply aren’t looking at religion the same as in the past.  They aren’t asking which church they should join, but they are looking for explanations.

Our friends and neighbors are looking for meaning.

What do we do about it?  Tell them this life on earth is Act Two of a three-act play.

Tell them about Act One – that God laid out a plan for us before we came here.  We used our agency, our free will, and decided we would follow His plan – that mortal experiences such as suffering would be necessary for us to fully progress and become more like God.

Once they hear the reassurances we can provide, then tell them about the question Joseph asked.

Gary Lawrence is a public opinion researcher and author of a forthcoming book “Millions Believe As We Do But Haven’t Yet Found the Church; Conversation Ideas From a National Poll.”