the need to belong

The New York Times is currently running an article about atheist and humanist organizations that are popping up in different locations around the country.

These lines, in particular, struck me:

And now parents were coming out of the woodwork asking for family-oriented programs where they could meet like-minded nonbelievers.

“Is everyone in favor of sponsoring a picnic for humanists with families?” asked the board president, Jonathan Lamb, a 27-year-old meteorologist, eliciting a chorus of “ayes.”

The sociology and psychology of religion have been chewed upon over and over again particularly by critics. These lines remind me that there is also a sociology of non-religion. The non-religious, non-spiritual also have the need to belong, the need to form a collective identity.

As a deeply spiritual, deeply religious person, I hadn't considered the need to belong separate from my faith and practice. For this reason, these groups are fascinating to me. Their gathering practices mimic those of religious organizations.

I'm certainly not excited by this movement in religiosity, but I am intrigued by it.


por fin: YM 3.0

My review of Mark Oestricher's YM 3.0 is a long time in coming. You can check it out on theEsource.
Mark Oestreicher's Youth Ministry 3.0 embodies the conversation model of ministry books. His book is revolutionary not only in content, but also in style.

raising spiritually healthy children

The theme of spiritual development is popping up in my daily reading quite frequently.

Here's an article on Raising Spiritually Healthy Children that I enjoyed for its simplicity and implementability (new word!) outside of the church walls.

via emerging parents


holy listless saturday

My favorite neighborhood run wanders right past a cemetery. I run by it enough, I can do it thoughtlessly. I'm too busy convincing myself that the urge to stop is only in my head. Today, after spending a good part of the day wondering over that first Holy Saturday, the cemetery took hold of my attention in an earth-shattering way.

I don't expect my grandmother to rise from the dead tomorrow morning. I don't expect my brother to join me for a post-sunrise service run in the morning. I don't expect the Normas and Johns and Edwards to rise up from their graves as I run past them on a sunny evening.

The disciples didn't expect Jesus on Sunday. Their grief was real. It was hopeless. It was hot and painful and scary. The women went to cemetery in the listlessness that only sudden grief can bring. Despite her grief, Mary was actually quite rational. It was much more likely that the groundskeeper looked like Jesus than he would be the Risen Jesus.

But reason went wayside with her name, "Mary." Her expectations, her listlessness, her grief, her reason was replaced with surprise, uncontainable joy, and an irrational faith.

It is irrational to believe that the physical bodies of my brother, friends, grandparents will rise up out of their graves. And yet Christ's resurrection is a sure sign of what is to come, the first fruit of many. His resurrection tells us that death, its listless grief, its hopelessness has no victory, no lasting sting.

Holy Saturday is listless. It is waiting for what is to come. But on this side of Christ's resurrection, we know what is to surely come.



question prohibition

Months ago, I was finishing up a Sunday morning’s paperwork as two members came by to visit with me. The topic of global warming came up. One member made a heavily derogatory comment towards anyone who believed in a warming globe, commenting that anyone who believed that also believed that the world was millions of years old and that macro-evolution was verifiably true. They framed the comment in such a way that disagreeing made the person un-Christian. As a young person who cares deeply for the beautiful earth, I was mortified. But as a paid member of our staff and a representative of the church-at-large, I remained silent, wondering when a scientific conversation became a pillar of our faith.

If that were the only example of such an experience, I would label it anecdotal. However, I think representational would be a more fitting description.
If I were to ask questions about science and faith in an open forum, I am afraid of being labeled, of being “blacklisted,” of being ridiculed. As a servant of the church, I shouldn’t be afraid of asking honest questions. I have honest questions about science and faith, questions that my instructors in university sidestepped, or only hinted towards. I wonder if they sidestepped in their own inhibition.

Fear breeds dissatisfaction and anger. As a culture, I worry that one day many will self-exclude because of fear, anger, dissatisfaction. I worry that the inability to properly and safely ask the questions about faith, scripture, life will keep us from engaging spiritually with one another.

Certainly this fear is nothing new. It has been expressed by many over the ages. But it is different when the fear becomes your own.

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anecdotes on spiritual development

In a conversation about religion and faith with a pluralistic group (an Evangelical Christian, a Buddhist, a Jew, a Lutheran, and a few others), we found common ground. We agreed that faith, spirituality, and religion were different things that cannot be judged on the same principles.

When you take away the hang-ups that many of us have on organized religion (can you say Spanish Inquisition ten times fast?), it opens up a whole new realm of more meaningful and productive conversation about the interaction of faith and belief. Instead of anger towards a group or misguided assumptions, you can learn from each other.

This non-scientific experience reminds me that there is much to be shared in the human experience and spirituality has a place it that shared experience. Certainly my understanding of spirituality through Christ differs greatly from the views of a Buddhist and a Jew, but I can find something in common with each of them in how they experience their faith. More than I might expect.


fumbled onus

I once heard a dance spinning instructor once say that if the lead dancer (the guy) doesn't properly lead the spin, it will be impossible for even the most talented follow (the girl) to spin well.

The onus falls to the person in charge.

It is impossible to follow a fumbling leader. But a grounded leader can make a stumbling follower look good.