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People Who are Good for No Good Reason

As we become an increasingly global, diverse, post-modern and pluralistic world in the 21st century, we are also finding the line between secular and religious is often blurred. People have eclectic views as they sample from the buffet of philosophies and religions from both the West and East.

Interfaith Efforts

Ecumenical and interfaith efforts emphasize our common agreements rather than doctrinal differences and now those doctrines are less important than practices, attitudes and actions for many of us. Much of this is highly individualistic, but some people who do not claim an institutional religious affiliation are now consciously seeking community.

Rise of the Nones

Sunday Assembly describes itself as “a godless congregation that celebrates life.” Their motto: “live better, help often, wonder more.” Their mission: “to help everyone find and fulfill their full potential.” Their vision: “a godless congregation in every town, city and village that wants one.” The Silicon Valley Sunday Assembly refers to themselves as “a forum for people who are good for no good reason.” Sounds like a lot of good people I know and love.

Elizabeth Drescher studies “Nones” (who now represent some 20+% of Americans) and refers to Sunday Assembly as a “call to community and service to atheists, humanists, and others among the religiously unaffiliated.”

Drescher goes on to note ” for half of the people I interviewed, the Jesus of radical compassion and justice remained spiritually and ethically significant regardless of religious identification, affiliation, or practice.” Many are ‘Good Samaritan Nones’ who up the ethical ante. Their understanding is that the ministry and character of Jesus calls for more radical ethical action requiring risk, challenge, and even conflict on behalf of the oppressed.

Drescher asks, “Do Nones of a more spiritual leaning hunger for participation in religious and/or spiritual institutions that more boldly call for the sorts of practices Good Samaritan Jesus represents?” Her research suggests, “Perhaps some do, but largely, not so much. Or, at least not in the ways religious organizations and religion researchers typically understand participation in religious institutions, in terms of sustained, exclusive affiliation on the model of voluntary membership.”

“Many Nones in my study, that is, reported participating on a regular basis in more than one community they identified as spiritual or religious, perhaps taking in a Taizé service at a local church on Saturday evening, practicing yoga a few times a week, and sitting with a meditation group from time to time.”

The Way to Happiness

Earlier this year we stayed in the beautiful Ashland Springs Hotel and picked up a small booklet reprinted in the hotel’s name, entitled The Way to Happiness: A common Sense Guide to Better Living. I agree with almost everything in it although I am in no way a follower of the group’s leader L. Ron Hubbard! It’s self reference on the back cover is: “This may be the first non-religious moral code based wholly on common sense” and it also boasts that is is “admissible for government departments and employees to distribute it as a non-religious activity.”

Where Church Doesn’t Mean What You Think it Means

Jubilee! Circle in Columbia, SC is a progressive, inclusive community, influenced by Creation Spirituality, ecumenical, feminist, and traditional Christian theologies.” This is “where ‘church’ Doesn’t Mean What You Think it Means.” They encourage visitors to “Curb Your Dogma.” Pastor Candace Chellew-Hodge recently wrote about “Millennials Invent New Religion: No Hell, No Priests, No Punishment,” noting how Millenials have “dumped its religious leaders, its priests or gurus, and has dispensed with the obligation of coming together each week as a community.”

Reaching Out

The United Church of Canada recently released a Report on Comprehensive Review Conversations, where they conclude that “There is a yearning in faith communities for connection: with the broader United Church, other faith traditions, their communities and there is conviction that God is calling the United Church out: Reaching out to people in need, out of our buildings into the community, out of isolation into partnerships, out of our denomination to ecumenical and interfaith relationships, out of our country to international partnership, out of mundane spaces to ground change in the transformative spaces of connection with God.”

The Future of Faith

What does this all mean for traditional religious institutions? I believe that it means that many mainline churches and other traditional religious institutions will quickly face a crisis of support as their elderly populations pass on. Those that can transform and communicate a clear prophetic, progressive voice of social, economic and environmental justice as well as peace and non-violence will fare better, particularly if they engage emotionally as well as intellectually with like-minded people in the community and offer a vibrant community life for all ages.

New on-line ministries such as Extravagance UCC will increasingly gain traction if they are network based, keep pace with rapidly evolving social media platforms and figure out ways to cultivate supportive, face-to-face community life and financial viability.

Community Vitality

Community vitality is created when people meet up and do things together that express joy, meaning, and common purpose.

Individual transformation requires community support.