The Rise of the “New Normal,” Christianity Explained

It’s no surprise to us that our parents grew up in a very religious time. There were practices that were followed, traditions that were kept, and certain things you did or didn’t do. For some Christians, your parents weren’t allowed to dance, gamble, or play cards. For some Christians, your parents went to church every Sunday morning growing up. For others, your parents might have had a less strict, but still religious upbringing.

There is a phenomenon that is coming, and some see the effects of it coming into effect finally. There will come a time when the religious, firmly founded, and unwavering baby boomer generation of our parents is replaced by the curious, spiritual, and less religious millenial generation in the church. There are a group of people called Nones. When you check “none” in the religious affiliation box, it gives rise to the label, “nones.” With nones on the rise, especially in the millenial age group, the future of the church becomes even more murky.

According to the Pew Research Study from 2007-2014, Nones have risen to 23% of all adults, up 7% from 2007. The nones include two primary groups, both of which might be generally labeled “religiously unaffiliated theists”: (1) The “spiritual but not religious” and (2) the “spiritual and independently religious.” These two groups are what remains after you subtract the smaller subset of atheists and agnostics. The first group, “spiritual but not religious,” are the people who get spiritual nourishment from, let’s say, yoga, foodie excursions, beach-walking, Sufjan Stevens concerts, or extreme sports, etc. They made the front page of USA Today in 2010, with the headline: “72% of Millennials ‘more spiritual than religious.’” They are sometimes known by their nickname: “SBNR.”

In 2007, the SBNR comprised barely half of the nones. The other half of the nones are the second group above, those who identity positively with spirituality but who also practice traditional religious activities (going to church, praying, reading the Bible, etc.). But their religious activity is eclectic, independent, and inconsistent. They might attend a variety of churches or participate in a variety of religious experiences, but do not identify strongly with any single one. They are spiritual and religious, but still unaffiliated. Still, religion is still important to them.

Here are some of the findings regarding the secularizing of the nones from the research article:
-61% of all nones believe in God, down from 70% in 2007.
-20% pray daily, down from 22% in 2007.
-13% believe religion is very important, down from 16% in 2007.
-9% attend services weekly, down from 10% in 2007. (not a big dip, but at this point you can’t get a whole lot lower).

The NEW NORMAL is going to be what the church looks like without our parents generation running it, but with us in leadership positions, teaching positions, mentorship positions, etc. Again, this has already begun in some areas. We are a questioning generation, not quick to believe, and fast to criticize. We are a generation burned by religion and the rule of religious law. We’ve been excommunicated, cast out, scolded, shamed, lectured, and gossiped to by the very people that are supposed to exercise humility, wisdom, patience, forgiveness, love, and Godliness. In our figuring out what we believe, whether in college or afterwards, some now have a loose grip on correct theology, gospel truth, or giftings in the spirit. They make statements like, “The Bible was written by men and can’t really be trusted fully as the, “exact words of God.” or, “I can’t believe that the God I know would let people perish, so I believe everyone will be able to enjoy Heaven.” or, “How do we know that other religions aren’t also speaking truth? How can we assume that we have the only truth? Doesn’t that seem presumptuous?”

Many Millenials have been trying to figure out their spiritual identity for years. According to the Pew Research Center, “The phrase ‘spiritual but not religious’ has become widely used in recent years by some Americans who are trying to describe their religious identity.” According to Pew, religious activities such as attendance to a church, prayer, meeting in small groups, are on a decline. Still, feeling a deep sense of spiritual peace and well-being as well as a deep sense of wonder about the universe is on the rise.

Is this something to be concerned with? Do we find a balance between the popular act of  casting out religion and just following Christ? In our pursuit to find knowledge and know how to truly live out a Christ centered life, have we lost some things along the way? Or are we better off than where we were in our parents generation? Have we corrected the sins of what religion did to our faith? Was the key to loose religion and the law that ruled it?

Progressive Christianity is a form of Christianity which is characterized by a willingness to question tradition, acceptance of human diversity, a strong emphasis on social justice and care for the poor and the oppressed, and environmental stewardship of the Earth.

A definition that encapsulates the point. Progressive…a need to reform, favoring and promoting change or innovation. Yet, arguably, we should have already cared about these things. This shouldn’t be radical. This shouldn’t be Progressive.

SOURCES

Masci, David, and Michael Lipka. “Americans May Be Getting Less Religious, but Feelings of Spirituality Are on the Rise.” Pew Research Center. N.p., 21 Jan. 2016. Web. 14 Mar. 2017.

“The Future of Christianity and the “Nones”: Still Rising, Still Spiritual, More Secular.” Unsystematic Theology. N.p., 04 Nov. 2015. Web. 14 Mar. 2017.

An Old Flame

Sometimes in life, you stumble on something that makes you stop, think, and change. Those “things” in life can be HUGE, or they can be surprisingly small. This morning, after my exceptionally loud alarm reminded me to go for a run, I, for some reason, was drawn to the bottom of my desk drawer. There, underneath my pens, books, and other miscellaneous things, rested a very old notebook. This notebook was originally a notebook I used the first year at Aurora University, the year after I transferred out of Calvin College. Most of my Michigan friends know how hard that was for me. In this notebook, I wrote notes for a class I was taking; the subject of which has escaped my mind. Anyway, the notebook was faded, torn, and wrinkled. The back cardboard had been torn off, leaving the back page exposed to the elements. As I picked it up, I noticed something written on the back page. This is what was written:

photo

All of a sudden, I remember where I was when I wrote this. I was on my bed, and I remember the feeling in my chest now, even as I write this sentence. The feeling was filled with new-found passion and joy. I wrote this 4 years ago, because of something I started to do inside this photo1notebook. I started a project. I began to sift through the Bible thatphoto2 I had owned since coming to know Christ when I was 13 (some of you know this as the Duck-tape Bible), and I searched for all the verses I highlighted over the years that spoke specifically to our relationship with God. This was a challenge of sorts because it meant combing through everything I have read, and reading new pieces that I had yet to discover.

The process awoke something in me that I didn’t know existed. Page after page, I transcribed the verses into my notebook. There was a rush in my heart, I felt SO alive, that I had to document it. And this is when I wrote the little note in the back of the notebook. This is when I immortalized the deep, living, transformative experience that was going onphoto4 inside of me at that very moment. The most helpful by-product of this project has been returning to the notebook whenever I need to be lifted up. Many times I have felt less than amazing and have opened up this notebook to pour over the truth, and beauty within Christ’s promises for us, and afterward…I feel his peace, and joy, and provision for me. It feels awesome.

I have never shared this with anyone in full, but I hope that it can reassure and maybe even give hope to others, and I know there are others, who feel as if there is something missing, or lost. Our fire is never lost, I just think we need reminding once and a while.

So thank you 21 year old, past self. You saw the value and wisdom in trying to reach out to an older, future self, that would one day need a proper reminder of how truly amazing it is when we chase Him with all we are.

[I uploaded a few pictures from the notebook. They are small in the post, but if you click on them, they will open up in a larger size.]

International Developments

Well, I apologize for my last post. Sometimes you just need to do things that are weird and stupid. “Why? That’s retarded Eric.” Okay reading audience, first off, don’t use “retarded,”…ever…for anything. If I catch you using that…in any of your sentences again, you’ll get a pretty bad lecture from me. And second, doing something stupid and weird shows vulnerability and shows that you’re human unlike everyone else trying to act perfect. It also colors up life, so do something stupid today. Cause I said so.

NEXT: So the other day, this guy, skyped me and asked if I wanted to do a blog for his church in New Zealand. Naturally, I said yes without a second thought. Writing internationally? Awesome. So now I am writing some sample sections for their sermon series on LOVE and the different kinds of Love that the Bible shows us.

It is kindof a daily thing that I have to keep up with, so it’s a little intimidating, but it also forces me to be a little more organized and Type A. Hahaha, which if you know me, is just not how I get things done around here. STILLLLL, this is a fun project, that at the same time is helping me get into the word ALOT more. WIN/WIN.

Also, in my Program Evaluation course at AU, I am trying to get an International Social Work Course implemented. Not the easiest thing to do, but that is why I am trying to help them recognize the need for one through research and survey analysis. It is important, that if we are sending out social workers into the field, whether that is domestically, or internationally, that they are trained and capable to represent the name of social work in a positive regard. If students travel overseas, who represent Aurora University School of Social Work, and they are not well prepared for social work on an international level–I feel that is wrong. This is why I take the stand I do. Hopefully it will pan out.