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.

A Letter to Three Mothers

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This year, I have been extra aware of the mother figures in my life. Reason being, my mother is over 8,000 miles away by sea and by land. In addition to my mother, my two beautiful sisters, who really have this whole motherhood thing down, are also in Chicago. (Seriously, I know no cooler moms). Other than Debbie Elliott, who has been my surrogate mother while being in New Zealand, the three coolest women in my life have been the best, most accurate examples of what God’s love for others truly means. Continue reading “A Letter to Three Mothers”

Allow Me to Pop Your Bubble

In case you were under the impression that I am living the good life over here, sipping cocktails, kicking my feet back in the warm, dwindling rays of the New Zealand sunset every week, allow me to pop your bubble. No I’m not donning a hobbit costume, herding sheep through the exquisite mountainside, going on wine tours, vacationing on the weekends, hitting the beach whenever I can, eating at highly rated establishments, or adopting a general “take it easy” mentality.

Let me take you on an eye opening journey through what my life looks like up here and what the reality of the situation looks like.

I wake up. I figure out how I am going to eat, pay for gas, and where I’m gong to live next week. I worry. Yeah, I worry a lot. I pray for continued reliance on God. I pray for peace amidst the chaos. I hope that tomorrow is the day I can stop worrying about finances. I swallow my pride (admission: this is my newest addition to the “things Eric loathes to do”) and asking for help when I can’t do it. I keep myself busy filling out job applications and watching tv shows, reading books, or writing because if I stop for one second, I will think about my family and how much I miss them. I constantly remind myself why I’m here, my calling, and what I sacrificed to get here.

Sound familiar? NZ is no different than any other part of the world when it comes to daily struggles. Pretty mountainsides and golden sunsets don’t buy you food, close a mortgage, resolve a fight with your spouse, keep kids off the street, end injustice, create equality, or stop a kid from putting a gun in his mouth.

imagescamgs1nzYou want to know the sad thing? I haven’t seen anything yet. I’m still VERY green to this country, and I will be shocked. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon. New Zealand is filled with sadness, pain, suffering, damage, grief, and wrongdoing…And if you thought I came here to escape the problems of America to go and live in a paradise…then you are so far outside of reality, that I can’t help you. It doesn’t matter if you live in Fiji, Hawaii, or Jamaica…brokenness will follow you, because there isn’t a place on this Earth that doesn’t have any.

I realize that I have perpetuated this in the past with only showing photos of the good thingsAmnestyInternationalfashion3 TBWA France I’ve been exposed to in this country. I have since stopped doing that on facebook, but the truth is I can’t even properly display in photo, video, or even text…as I am doing now…the true horrors I am exposed to in New Zealand. Nor would you want to hear about them. The truth exposes things and forces you to step out of what is comfortable. We like comfortability. We like it so much that we have fallen in love with “talking” about things that matter, yet rarely do anything of personal sacrifice. Rarely acting towards “otherness”, rarely REALLY believing in what we talk about.

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Still, even someone like myself, who left everything behind to live-out my calling, I found myself asking the important questions, “What am I doing for these people I came here for? How am I living in “otherness?” How am I actually living how Christ called us? Christ became a human being, talked to whores, touched lepers, broke the sabbath and had Sunday lunches with sinners. To live like Christ? This means: Otherness. Pay attention to “others” and love them. Actually DO those things.

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Living in New Zealand is not easy, let me make that very clear, and I hope I have. This was not an easy decision to move here, and life here is not glamorous. Let me also make clear that I do not hate living here. The reason I don’t hate living here is that I truly believe in this country and I believe in making a change here. I have committed to New Zealand, and I’m not giving up on her. And though it’s not comfortable, I will continue to force myself to consider the “other” and to love them in my work. This is seeking the kingdom of God. (Matt 6:33), and if anyone does this, God will take care of the rest.

This I needed you to know.

Father’s Day: The Legacy We Hope For

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Father’s day. It’s a ridiculous day every time I celebrate it…because it reminds me of how I should be living each of my days. It’s the age old critique of any holiday, “Why don’t we act this way all year round?” This especially comes up during Christmas. And yet, whenever Father’s day, or Mother’s Day rolls around, I feel the same way. I ask reflect on myself and say, “Why haven’t I been appreciating him/her every day? Why hasn’t that been a priority?”

I think it’s because we forget easily. I think that it becomes too hard, or too difficult, or perhaps it wouldn’t even be true. Let’s not forget those fathers that beat their kids, talk down to their wives, and are all around last on the “Father of the Year” podium. Those children wont be feeling the same amount of admiration that I have for my father. No. They will not.
 
201178_1940668633596_138621237_oI am blessed. Russ Peterson, married my mother, Sharon, and made me, so that I could grow up in a household that didn’t conform to the ‘Father’ my father saw when he was a child. My father made a choice, to be different. To be compassionate, yet firm. Honest, and maybe a little blunt, ha. To be loving, and to make sure he said it. To make sure, he said, “I love you.” I grew up knowing that. I grew up with a deeply Christ-centered man. A man with more layers than is seen, more emotions than are always expressed, and more “Father” than he was shown. He sacrificed for me and my sisters. So much sacrifice.I love my Father, because he points up and says, “That’s my example.” And I want to someday be able to do the same thing.
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Happy Father’s Day today Dad. I love you so much, and it physically pains me to be away from you. I miss you so much. I hope you know that, and I hope you are surrounded today with everyone who loves you.
 
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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:

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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.]