Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Effect Of Cold Climate On Spiritual Development

Next week comes the first day of Spring. That announcement is always regarded with surprise and grim amusement in New Hampshire. The feel and appearance of the world outside has given us no hint of a vernal equinox, and a moment’s reflection reminds us that real spring is still a month out.

What effect does this have on those who grow up with this disconnect? Does it teach young Christians to keep hope despite appearances, or does it undermine their faith in truth by providing a yearly cognitive dissonance between what is technically true and what is plainly not true?

Church attendance is lower in the northern states, lower still in Canada, lowest of all in northern Europe. Hardy faiths known for expecting the worst held on a good while – Lutherans, Congregationalists (the descendants of the Puritans), Scots Presbyterians, Jews – but even those have waned in the last generation.

I don’t know how well the Catholic numbers are holding up in colder climes. They seem to be an all-weather church, but perhaps that is just an impression. It would certainly be a good ad campaign for them: Catholicism – the All-Weather Church, with pictures of people laughing, people crying, people serious; feasting, fasting, noisy, quiet. I give these great ideas away for free. The Vatican won’t use it, but individual Roman Catholic Churches or organizations might want to give it a whirl.

Baptists and Pentecostals flourish in warm climates, Methodists, Episcopalians, and Disciples of Christ in temperate ones. There are good historical reasons for those beginnings, but perhaps weather influences their ability to persevere. The cold northern faiths may have been done in by technology – improvements in heating, lighting, and transportation meant that suffering and hardship were less inevitable. Warm-weather give-it-to-me-NOW sorts of faiths were still viewed with suspicion, but the rigorous girding of the loins from the Auld Faith no longer seemed quite so necessary.

Well Pilgrim, lemme tell ya. Bad weather comes.

1 comment:

jlbussey said...

Lots of Spring out my way, and I have the pictures to prove it! But then Spring out here in western Washington is usually pretty early...