Right before the new year, a tweeted quote from comedian John Fugelsang made its way from the Huffington Post to the social media feeds of progressive Christians of my ilk:
But Fugelsang’s spin on the “Jesus was a Liberal” bumper sticker likewise appeared on the feeds of many atheists, agnostics, humanists, and sundry other Nones (people who do not claim an institutional religious affiliation) of my virtual acquaintance.
Many of these were participants in my study of the spiritual lives of the religiously unaffiliated in America, which has involved interviewing nearly a hundred Nones across the United States over the past eighteen months and gathering narrative input from another hundred-and-forty online.
While the appeal to this religiously unaffiliated cohort of such plainly religious (and, not for nothing, political) messaging might come as a surprise to some, according to the 2008 Pew “US Religious Landscape Survey,” seven-in-ten Nones emerge into Noneness from Christian backgrounds. So, it makes sense that the Christian idiom—its narratives, rituals, symbols, professed ethics, and so on—remains a significant resource for these folks, whether they’re arguing against it or adapting it to alternative spiritualities.
This was certainly the case for the majority of the Nones I interviewed across the country. Regardless of where they stood with regard to religious belief or unbelief, or attendant practices, the people I interviewed told me repeatedly how much they admired the Jesus of the Christian Gospel, radical defender of the poor and outcast.