What Do People Believe and Long For?

How would you describe the spiritual climate in your community? Most people wouldn’t know how to answer that question because (a) many people don’t bring their spiritual beliefs up in natural conversation, and (b) many people only hang out with people who think similarly to them. As a part of our annual Cru Winter Conference, we decided to take to the streets one afternoon to hear what people in the community believe about spiritual things. The results may surprise you!

Or maybe they won’t. Idk.

Regardless, I hope these results will help you to better understand the spiritual climate around you.

The Survey & Location

We had around 30 Cru staff/students walk around downtown Manitou Springs for a couple hours with a simple 5 question spiritual survey. Manitou Springs is popular tourist destination for those visiting CO, but even more so for those who are from CO and looking for something fun to do on the weekend. Around 37 individuals/groups agreed to fill out the survey of diverse backgrounds, beliefs, ages, genders, and ethnicities.

What Do the Surveys Say?

Question #1: What three words would you use to describe yourself?

The vast majority of people used overwhelmingly positive words. They describe themselves as fun, excited, grateful, growing, peaceful, and just generally good. A few people used a mix of positive and negative words. Usually something to the effect of “most of life is good, but I feel stressed and too busy.” Three people used all negative words. They felt stressed, disappointed, busy, and unprepared.

Question #2: What do you want people to remember you for?

Again, the vast majority of people wanted to be remembered by positive character traits: good person, easy going, kind, loving, etc. Interestingly, the two most common traits were generosity and humor! A handful of people wanted to be remembered by things they did: making a difference, making the world a better place, changing the world, etc.

Question #3: What do you think happens after you die?

An overwhelming majority of people said some variation of going to heaven, though their understandings of what heaven is, who goes there, and how you get there was quite diverse. A good amount said either nothing happens, they don’t know what happens, or they don’t care what happens. The rest (around 15%) communicated some form of reincarnation or becoming one with the universe.

Question #4: As far as you understand, what was the main message of Jesus?

The overwhelming majority of people said Jesus’ main message is love. Three of those people highlighted the golden rule specifically. Others mentioned various good character qualities and actions such as being excited, speaking truth, caring for children, being courageous, etc. Two people weren’t sure what his message was and one had specific doubts and questions about the historical trustworthiness of Jesus’ words. Two people said he came to die for sins.

Question #5: On a scale of 1-10, what is your desire to know God personally?

Most people responded with a number between 7-10. Three people had a number between 4-6. Five people respond with 0 or idk. One person actually began to tear up when this question was asked.

Patterns in the Results

Those who understood Jesus’ message as “the golden rule”, “dying for sins”, “love”, or “forgiveness”, also had numbers of  4-7 in wanting to know Jesus. These people likely have personal experiences with church or were familiar with some biblical teachings but aren’t currently religious or interested in a relationship with Jesus. Again, most people surveyed were very positive, want to be positive, are generally spiritual, see Jesus as a positive person, and would want to know God personally if he existed. Yet, when asked if they would be interested in walking through a booklet together called, “Knowing God Personally”, all but one refused.

A few people were not spiritual at all but keep a very naturalistic view of the world where we try to be good people and when we die, we die. To them, the reality of God and the teachings of Jesus are either false, unknown, or unimportant. Lastly, a few people were very spiritual but in an eastern spirituality sort of way. Emphasizing love and being a good person while believing in reincarnation and ultimate Oneness with the Divine.

In sum, respondents generally desire to be good people, desire happiness/positive experiences, and would want to have a relationship with God if it were possible though there is much distrust regarding this topic.

What Does This Mean & How Should We Respond?

As a Christian – a follower of Jesus – what these results show me is the universal ache humans have for goodness, beauty, and joy. But, you can’t long for goodness if you’ve never experienced badness. The incredible drive people have for goodness reveals to me a universal experience of badness, brokenness, and sin. In a follow up conversation, I would love to ask these people what painful experiences they have experienced. I would then want to ask where they think it came from.

While nobody wants to be a bad person, everyone has both intentionally hurt others and been hurt by others. We have all sinned and been sinned against. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The first half Romans 6:23 then says, “For the wages of sin is death…” By death, Paul is referring to eternal separation from God. Because of sin – both our own and that of the world – we each have been alienated from a relationship with God and denied entry into His good, glorious kingdom. That’s why Jesus was sent to preach his main message, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news.” (Mark 1:15, CSB).

Jesus announced the arrival of the kingdom of God – one where goodness reigns and badness and evil are no more (Rev. 21) – and he embodied it through his life and ministry (ie: healing the sick, forgiving sins, raising the dead, care for the poor and outcast, etc). Being fully human and fully God and without having any sin in him, Christ modeled this kingdom living, and called people to repent, that is, to turn away from the sinful ways of the world and to the good, holy, and righteous ways of the kingdom. Jesus then however was killed on a cross (as the prophets predicted), resurrected from the dead, and ascended into heaven. All those he promised who trust in him as Lord and Savior, are forgiven of their sin and are given new hearts, through God’s Holy Spirit, that transform us to participate in the same type of kingdom living that Christ himself lived. When Jesus comes again to inaugurate the kingdom of God in full, all those who have trusted in Jesus and have been given new hearts are given access to eternal life in the glorious and good kingdom of God. The full verse of Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus our Lord.

Reflection Questions

Q1: In what ways have you been sinned against and hurt by someone?

Q2: In what ways have you sinned against and hurt someone?

Q3: What sorts of goodness and justice do you long for in the world?

I encourage you to watch this video from the Bible Project about Jesus’ ministry and to read the Gospel of John. You may be surprised to see how a personal relationship Jesus fulfills these longings and changes you to be a conduit of God’s righteousness, justice, and goodness.

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