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I'm Okay With Being a Loser

I've never felt this way before. I feel like an outsider, an anomaly, a weirdo, a putz. I've never felt this way before except maybe in the fourth grade when I got cut from a Little League team. What a loser. That's how I feel now.

And I'm okay with it.

I guess I should have seen this coming. Some really smart and successful people have been calling me a loser for a number of years now. Ted Turner started it, and now Bill Mahr, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have jumped on the bandwagon. Even Bill Gates, the king of philanthropy, once said that church is for losers.

Okay, so it's not like these titans of business, entertainment, and science have personally contacted me just to say, "HEY LOSER!" But they've said as much to the kind of people I identify with--people whose beliefs about reality and way things work in the world are centered in the Bible and the person of Christ. I never really let it bother me, figuring that people who are on TV (or who own a TV network) or who write bestselling books for run big companies are entitled to call other people losers. That's fine. I still know plenty of people who hold beliefs similar to mine, so I'm comfortable. If we're all losers, so be it. At least we're in the majority, even if we aren't rich and famous.

But now I'm beginning to wonder if there are as many people out there who share my beliefs as I once thought. Maybe I've been living with the misperception that a comfortable majority of people in America still hold beliefs similar to mine. Actually, there's no "maybe" about it. If reliable organizations such as the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life are to be believed, I am in the minority. I have been cut from the team. I am officially an "outsider."

Recently the folks at Pew (isn't that a great name, by the way, for an organization that does research on religious people and their beliefs?) conducted a comprehensive survey called The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey. They interviewed more than 35,000 adults, including 3500 residents of my home state, California. They found that most people believe in God (71% of the nation is "absolutely certain" that God exists), and nearly two-thirds believe that "Holy Scripture" is the word of God.

However, when you separate the responses of Californians, the numbers drop somewhat in terms of belief. Only 62 percent of my fellow Golden Staters believe that God exists, and barely half of them believe the Bible is God's word. Okay, that's not great, but it's not bad.  At least I'm still in the majority.  

Then I participated in a survey of my own, one of those boxes embedded in websites like espn.com, where they ask you if you think the Chicago Cubs will win the World Series this year, and only 2% of the respondents say yes. The survey I took was part of a Los Angeles Times article on the Pew Survey and the way the results differ in California. There were only three questions in this little online survey:

  • Do you believe in God or a universal spirit? That's a pretty open-ended question, so even someone who believes in The Fonz as their Higher Power could answer "yes." That's the box I checked, and to my surprise only 39 percent of the 20,000 respondents did the same. A full 61 percent of my fellow Angelenos said they did not believe in God or The Fonz.
  • How important is religion in your life? Again, nothing harsh here. You don't have to be Rick Warren to answer yes to this question, yet only 35 percent said religion was either very important or somewhat important. Nearly two-thirds said it was not important.
  • How often do you attend religious services? I realize that some very religious people don't attend religious services. Still, only 36 percent of the people who responded to this survey said they went to church as much as once a week or as little as "a few times a year." Sixty-four percent said they never go to church.

Maybe the response to these questions would have been inverted in one of those regions where people turn to God and their guns in difficult times, but out here in Southern California people like me are definitely in the minority.

And I'm okay with it. In fact, the feeling of not being part of the majority party, which initially made me feel all loser-like, is beginning to grow on me. Even more, in a bizarre way, knowing that out here on the Left Coast I am more or less a stranger in a strange land, I feel somehow empowered. Weird, huh? By "empowered," I don't mean in a "the rest of you are going to hell" kind of way, but in a way that helps me identify more closely with Jesus and His disciples.

I recently read the prayer of Jesus for His disciples in John 17 (sometimes called the real Lord's Prayer), and I have to tell you, there's nothing in there that says the followers of Christ are supposed to be in the majority, or that we will be loved by the world, or that we won't be called losers. In fact, Jesus pretty much says the opposite. "The world has hated them," Jesus prays, "for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world" (v. 14). "They are not of the world, even as I am not of it" (v. 16). Jesus even reminds His followers that the world does not know the Father (v. 25). Wow. Pretty strong stuff. I guess Jesus isn't surprised by the findings of the Pew Survey.

So what are we losers supposed to do? Staying with the prayer of Jesus, it seems pretty clear that we are to be set apart (the Bible word is sanctified) by the truth, which Jesus defines as "your word" (v. 17). And it's a really good idea for all of us in the minority to "be brought into complete unity" so that the world (that would be the majority, the non-losers) would know that the Father loves them and sent Jesus as proof (v. 23). And apparently we shouldn't keep our beliefs to ourselves. Jesus makes it clear that His prayer isn't for us losers alone. "I also pray for those who will believe in me through their message" (v. 20). It's the old "in the world but not of the world" deal. We can't separate from the world. We have to be in it, informing the cultural conversation with truth, justice, compassion, and most of all, love.

With all this in mind, I'm okay with being a loser. In fact, I'm more than okay. I'm kind of proud of the label.

 

 

Tags | Belief

Comments

From one loser to another, well said! It amazes me how we are suprised by the way we are treated by the "stronger-I don't need a crutch", types.

Thanks for sharing a fresh look at Jesus' prayer. I was just thinking today about being in the world but not of the world and I was reminded of what Paul had to say to the Corinthian believers about carnality and what he said to the Thessalonians about rapture (I know-wierd connection). The church has certainly been "caught up". Somehow I don't think that is what Paul meant...

You always get me thinking. Thanks again for the word--we losers need to stick together :-)

In light of eternity, the real losers are those who continue to reject Christ and will spend eternity separated from Him. To be a loser here on earth is to be a winner for God's eternal kingdom.

I really liked this article. Thanks. Keep up the good work.

Thanks, Joel! Appreciate your comment.

Stan...I love this! I'm one of those people who walks around with a giant L on my forehead daily. Thanks to Napolean Dynamite, it's now cool to be uncool so I'm gonna make it. :)

I think it was Christopher Wright in Mission of God who said that the Israelites were the minority called to serve the majority. I don't think a lot has changed in the Christian family. I believe we are still a minority called to serve the majority. So I guess that means I'm ok with walking around with an L on my forehead.

Carrie 'loser' Nye

At some point the vagueness of Pew's questions robs them of meaning.
"God" or higher power isn't defined.
"Religion" isn't defined.
Attending church is probably pretty well defined.
I appreciate and agree with your feeling about being a loser being OK. I do think we have to avoid complacency. We don't want our church/religious activity becoming irrelevant and feeling OK about it. The salt sitting in the salt shaker is irrelevant to the food on the plate if it just sits in the salt shaker and says, "It's OK that I'm a loser."

Good point, Doc, on the descriptors. They can be vague. I guess that's why I was all the more surprised when 61% of the people polled by the LA Times said they didn't believe in "God or a universal spirit." I would have expected that kind of result if the descriptor had been "the God of the Bible," or "the God of Christianity." But when you basically give people an open-ended definition of God and they still say no, well, it has to say something about the long slide of belief in America, in particular the readers of the LA Times.

I don't think being a "loser" makes us irrelevant if, as you say, we avoid complacency. If irrelevance has come to much of American Christianity, it's because we've lost our saltiness.

...and now we join the Christians that live in most areas around the world, who have always had outsider status. I'm always humbled by followers who live where it's really hard; in the U.S., it's always been so easy.

One more thing: Is anyone else HORRIFED that a majority of those who say they are evangelicals don't believe that relationship with God only comes through Jesus? What the....?

I wasn't originally from America and when I first came here, I always wondered why people put an L to their head. One day my friend told me that they were calling me a loser and I just laughed. Why do you put an "L", meaning loser, to your own forehead? Doesn't that makes it a label calling yourself a loser? Strange American ways.

Keep up the good piece of work, I read few blog posts on this website and I conceive that your web site is really interesting and holds circles of superb information.

So what is wrong being a loser. If I lose now I try harder maybe next time I will win. I am not afraid to lose anyway. - The Balancing Act Lifetime

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Stan's entire life has been wrapped in content: selling, writing and publishing books and resources that help ordinary people capture a glimpse of extraordinary things.