Monday, January 25, 2010


Spiritual but not Religious

I spent some time today at a workshop for ministers about a category of people who are not going to church because they are "spiritual but not religious."

According to the pollster who spoke - it looks like it may be 25% of people. With the others dividing like this:
12% - Not Religious Not Spiritual
25$ SBNR
20% Religious but not Spiritual
45% Spiritual and Religious.
I know it doesn't exactly add up - but all the numbers on this stuff is mushy. Like what is spiritual and what is religious. Oh well.

I heard Dr. Linda Mercandante report on her project on SBNR which was about her qualitative research of 80 plus people who self identify as SBNR

First she talked about what causes SBNR -
1. The intellectual landscape has changed over the last 20 some years
- distrust of reason (not anti-intellectualism but an understanding of some essential mystery that reason cannot accomodate)
- distrust of authority - religious authorities too
- fear of commitment - like to keep options open
- market driven environment where everything is for sale - you can access spiritual retreats, books, people for $$
2. Post Modernism - I always hear about post modernism at workshops these days!
- sense of fragmentation
- sense that there is no accessible universal truth
- no meta narrative - and anyone promoting one is seen as suspect
- no trust and desire for community of shared meaning

And the result of this is that people are creating their own meaning and cobbling it togeher. She used the word "hybridity." Blending many things that may not be compatible.

and for many people religion is seen as a roadblock
- they reject religions claims to truth
- they fear that religion demands an abdication of personal liberty (they say Footloose and think that is all churches? )
- people want to be "patrons" and not "subscribers"

And she said that the question is no longer - where do I belong? but what is the meaning of my life with my self as the arbiter?

What she found is that there were some consistent beliefs with the people that she interviewed.
1. They believed in God - but used other language. Like "The Transcendent" and "energy," "Light" etc.
This is seen as a force to cooperate with - not necessary a source of guidance and help

2. They believe that humanity is born good - and the problems come when blocked from the source. They often believe that religion teaches that people are born evil (we don't)

3. They have no confidence in life after death - often refraining from contemplating what comes next

4. There was not a sense of ongoing community within the spiritual communities that they had.

I don't know whether this is true or not - 80 conversations do not seem like a lot to me. I do know that the SBNR folks in my life make me think about the R part and what it has meant to me to live a very religious life.

So, I listen to this and wonder about it all. I know that my whole life has been shaped by the church and by the community that i have found there over the years. When I look at my friendships on facebook I see that there are intergenerational connections because of my life in the church and camp. That doesn't include all of my relationships with the "saints" who are not computer people but have greatly affected my life.

And that my life is also influenced by the practices of my faith - study, worship, sacraments. I have experienced wonder and healing and all kinds of "God moments" - more than anyone knows that have kept me going and kept me humble.

And I love that the church forces me to care deeply about people different from me. To work with them and for them. To learn to forgive.

Because I am in the religion biz I know better than anyone else - that there are flaws. However, religion has given my life meaning and purpose. And really - a sense of excitement and wonder as I continue to learn that there is always more to learn, to do and to become in this religious life.


No comments: