Why people are leaving “organized religion,” or the Church, is something I have thought long and hard about over the years. For those of you who follow my blogs with the Huffington Post and the articles I write for the Washington Post and BeliefNet.com, as well as my own books, you know I’ve written extensively about this.
Organized Religion or Why People are Leaving the Church…
While scores have left organized religion, or the church, and scores more will leave in the coming years, I understand their reasons perhaps better than most. Many of their disappointments and frustrations I have felt, too. I have chosen to stay in the church, however, and work inside this world, as I do in the world at large, in order to fulfill what I feel is my life purpose. That purpose is “To create a more conscious, compassionate, and charitable world.”
When it comes to the widespread departure from organized religion, I think one of the reasons for the rapidity of the departure is explained by the Internet itself.
The Internet: The New “Organized Religion”
There is a sense in which the Internet has become the new place of “organized religion,” the only difference being that the organization, such as it is, is fluid and has no official designation. It will be interesting to watch what unfolds around this in the coming years.
While certainly not the primary cause for the widespread departure from the Church, the internet has created a World Wide Web of interconnectedness. This has made it possible for millions of people who have left organized religion to find that what they quietly questioned regarding the madness they experienced in their church was similarly experienced by others as well.
Millions of others.
Consequently, almost suddenly, with the help of the internet, they discovered they are not the only ones who’ve wondered about, as well as quietly resisted, the insanity with so much of what they found in Church, theologically, doctrinally, and communally.
Is this good? Well, it depends on whether you’re and insider or an outsider.
Those inside organized religion are terrified at what’s happening inside their world…to their world. They are scrambling for answers. Most of their conclusions, however, at least heretofore, have been just plain wrong, or misguided, or designed only to lay the blame for the deterioration of the Church on those who have left and are leaving. Consequently, they have only succeeded in making matters worse for themselves. A few of them have been wise enough to ask, “Could there be something that’s wrong with us?” and they have wisely called upon people committed to help them navigate toward a new vision of the church.
If it isn’t clear to you by now, you should become clear about this one thing: the Church within which you and I grew up is not only disappearing but it will never return. Admittedly, remnants of it will remain here and there until the white-haired folks who cling to their memories finally die off. A few young religious zealots, unwise leaders indeed, will try, as many of them are doing even now, to rearrange the deck chairs on the sinking ship, hoping against hope that their resistance will somehow keep the Titanic from going under. But at long last, these zealots will disappear, too.
Float Free, My Friends
Meanwhile, if you’re an outsider, you know this already. But I would caution you not to rejoice in it, although I know what it’s like to feel as if payback is finally coming. In so many ways, however, it is sad to see the ship sink. It is for me, anyway.
But do not any of you forget, there are lifeboats all around. And, inside these little boats all across a sea called the World Wide Web, there are gatherings of the sacred survivors and seekers who are deeply devoted…not to resurrecting the Titanic…but to the preservation of what was once important to them about church – real community, real connectedness – naturally – to God, to each other, real compassion for the poor, and a real desire to help make the world “a more conscious, compassionate, and charitable place.”
This is my dream for the Church, too. And, it is why I work with congregations of all theological persuasions, especially those that share the dream of the rebirth, even a resurrection, of a new kind of Christianity, to borrow Brian McLaren’s words.
Know this, these boat people will remain true to their calling;
They will maintain their relationship to the sacred; and,
They will talk to each other and learn from each other, even from other religions, as they drift along in little lifeboats called “The Internet.”
Float free, my spiritual friends.
You deserve some calm seas of sacredness.
The Sacred is there, too.
If you find the things I write about the spiritual life to be meaningful to you, would you share them with your family and friends? Visit my website www.SteveMcSwain.com too for more like what you’ve just read. Walk with God. But then, of course, you do. How could you not? You were born to do so.