Okay, this is my last post in this series about Christianity in post-modern society, I promise. Well, I promise it is unless I think of something else. You should know that I’m a seat-0f-the-pants writer and, truthfully, I don’t know exactly what I’m going to say until I actually say it. So, it’s entirely possible that by the time I’m finished, I could come up with ideas for 3 or 4 more articles in this vein. You’ll just have to wait and see.
Today, I’m going to tell you about a group some call “the nones”, aka “spiritual but not religious”. Right about now, you may be thinking “What? How can you be spiritual, but not religious?” It’s okay if you don’t get it. I myself, in one of my not-so-finest hours called it a cop out and flippantly dismissed a whole segment of people just because I didn’t get what they were saying. So, even a cool, hipster progressive/emergent dude like me can get it wrong now and then. I’m telling you, we older folks are screwing the pooch on this.
How are we screwing up, you ask? For one thing, calling them “the nones”. While it is easier to say that “spiritual but not religious, it’s a little demeaning. Calling someone a “none” is like saying they don’t really count. That may not have been the intention of whoever coined the phrase, but it’s the result. The term comes from a Pew Research Center Report, which stated that nearly 1 in 3 young adults answered “none of the above” when asked about their religious affiliation. And, as Christian Piatt says, “We humans love ourselves a meme, so of course, the “nones” became a new category of person that hadn’t exactly been labeled as such before” (from his WaPo article). But, what other mistakes might the older generation be making?
I think the biggest one is forgetting our own young adulthood. For this to make sense, we should remember that a lot of what’s happening today isn’t all that new. Disaffection with the direction society is taking and the counter-culture that’s resulted from it is an invention of Gen-X and the boomers. Unfortunately, we grew up and, like Peter Banning in the movie Hook, we’ve been gone from Neverland so long, we’ve forgotten how to fly.
That brings up two questions: 1) Why is this a big deal? and 2) what should we do about it? It’s a big deal because church as we know it is going away. Churches arelosing membership because young people are tired of our shit. If you want the church to be around and relevant in the future, you’re going to have accept some changes. For the answer to the second question, Diana Butler-Bass gives us a good place to start in an article of Huffington Post (titled “The Future of Faith”):
“Listen to the new voices, hear what is being said about conventional religiosity and church life, and change thoughtfully and wisely. Right now, the church does not need to convert the world. Rather, the world needs to convert the church. The unaffiliated, I suspect, would like to see a more humble form of faith from churches and denominations, an active, authentic way of life in line with biblical practices of hospitality, forgiveness, friendship, service and generosity.”
Those unaffiliated aren’t the only ones who would like this.
Society is changing at a breakneck pace these days and Christianity, as a part of society, is no exception. I know it can be scary, especially if you don’t understand it. I’ve barely scratched the surface of these changes, but I hope this series has shed a little light on them. As I’ve said before, my goal hasn’t been to explain them fully, but to open the door and show what’s there. You’ll have to do the heavy lifting on your own. I wouldn’t dare rob you of that.