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Living Our Values:

posted Mar 22, 2015, 10:11 AM by Melissa Navratil

The End of the Beginning and the Birth of Something New

Something happened to religion as we moved into the 21st century – everything changed! In 1999 Gallup Poll asked Americans if they understood themselves as Religious, Spiritual, both or neither. The results were:

Spiritual:                     30%

Religious:                    54%

Spiritual and Religious:  6%

Neither:                        9%

In 2009 the Princeton Survey Research asked Americans the same question and got some startling results:

Spiritual:                      30%

Religious:                      9%

Spiritual and Religious:  48%

Neither:                         9%

What happened in those ten years that brought about such a significant change? In her bookChristianity After Religion author and regular commentator for such media as USA Today, Time, Newsweek, CNN, FOX, PBS AND NPR Diana Butler Bass looks at major events during that period. (While I agree with much of what she says I do not believe religion is going away. But I do believe something is happening that is as significant as the Protestant Reformation 500 years ago.)

The first event was the response of religion and religious leaders to the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. Many people turned to religion, religious serves and religious leaders to help them find meaning in the event but were too often told locally and nationally that it was God’s retribution on an unbelieving nation or God had nothing to do with the attack and therefore religion had nothing to offer.

The second is not an event but the mishandling of two sexual issues by the vast majority of religious institutions and denominations. Years and decades of sexual wrongdoing by religious clergy was covered up throughout the United States and the staunch religious opposition to same sex marriage led to a lack of religious creditability for many Americans inside and outside the Church.

The last parallels “The Great Recession” and could be called “The Great Religious Recession.” Throughout the first decade of the twenty first century all religious institutional attendance and membership, which also meant financial support for religious institutions, took a nose dive. This left the structures which support religious institutions very fragile.

The result is fragile religious institutions with little authority among the populace in the United States at the end of the first decade of the twenty first century.

These are the three things that brought about what Diana Butler Bass called “The Horrible Decade.” I’m going to give it a positive spin and call it “The Decade of Birth pangs.” As she says this is “The End of the Beginning” and the end of pregnancy is the birth of something new. I think that is exactly what I am seeing, after a long time of pregnancy God is giving birth to a new form of Reformation.

That’s all for now… more later!

Grace from Gary