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Darin Z. Krogh: Church plays constructive role in society, when not divisive

Many of us who don’t go to church were still disheartened at a Gallup poll that reports that Washington state is among the 10 least-religious states. When asked if religion is an important part of their daily life, only 52 percent of Washingtonians responded “yes.”

While not regularly attending church myself, I do regard church attendance a good thing for our society. Church attendees are less likely to steal my car, break into my house or sell drugs to my kids.

Church attendees are more likely to call the cops on crime, build a hospital and provide food and shelter for the needy.

Maybe some insightful social scientist can tell us why church attendance is declining in the Evergreen State. We don’t seem so bad here. However, I do know that a lot of the lost sheep are hiding out at the Northern Quest Casino because I can’t find an empty seat at the $3 blackjack table on early Sunday mornings.

Maybe after they lose their money, they’ll return to the fold. Broke and hungry.

Most any congregation will welcome the truly repentant with a spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood.

Religion does join people throughout the world, but it sometimes builds walls between people and nations.

Families too. Walls go up. A loved one chooses to remain apart from the clan. Sometimes the clan banishes a family member. Often one family member causes another to be separated from their kindred, as in Charles Graham’s poem “The Picture That Is Turned Toward The Wall,” about a daughter banished by her father years ago. Here’s the punch line from that poem:

There’s a name that’s never spoken and a mother’s heart half broken.

There is just another missing from the old home, that is all.

There is still a memory living, there’s a father unforgiving

And a picture that is turned toward the wall.

Political differences do not seem to spawn the kind of ruptures that are caused by religion. Mom cautions everybody to shut up about politics at family dinners. Usually everybody goes along, perhaps because most people don’t care to the core about politics.

And even if they do, family members love their kin sufficiently to allow them their errant political ideas rather than cut them off forever. But often that is not so with religion.

The movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” provided some insight into religious parents stretched to the limit by an adult child making her own life choices. The humor of the movie is extracted from the frustration of religious Greek Orthodox parents as they try to discourage their adult daughter from marrying a man who is not of their faith, who is not even Greek!

Uncompromising parents are not the only ones who segregate family members due to religious considerations.

Children take up the cause.

When children become adults, they no longer make their choices under Mom and Dad’s direction. The kids may choose exclusive religions that discourage association with nonbelievers, sometimes parents, brothers and sisters. And even if the chosen religion does not discourage association with nonbelievers, the religious adult child might feel the need to steer clear of other (former?) lifestyles that may have included family members, even parents.

It seems against nature for families to dissociate.

It spills over into future generations.

Grandchildren may never come to know their forefathers and foremothers.

Grandparents are reduced to birthday/Christmas gift-givers to their children’s children. A separation becomes fixed. Then accommodated. Then grudgingly accepted.

Somebody should form a help group for parents cut off from their children and grandchildren.

Yes, there are plenty of scriptural citations to justify removing the sinner from one’s life, but cutting off a family member because they might detract from your spiritual growth?

Older parents should know better.

Adult children may not. They need the seasoning that only years of living can bring. Years of living that may include disconnection by their own children on one sad day in the future.

One sad wised-up day when their own picture is turned toward the wall.

Read more columns by Darin Z. Krogh at