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Less Religious, Less Churched, or Just What?

April 11, 2014

Here (below) is a comment I posted on another blog. The article there was about what’s happening with millennials (and other age groups) with church attendance and religious affiliation… such as the fast growth of the “nones” (unaffiliated).  As the article (here) and comments showed, it’s a complex situation with no easy analysis.  And hard to predict where trends may be leading.

Anyway, I wanted to tie it all to our growing understanding of stages of development.  These are somewhat natural, but also don’t happen the same for everyone, by any means.  Some growth takes an intention to grow, to understand and experience things more deeply.  So here is what I contributed:

 

I’ve long been studying, observing to properly see the interplay of these elements (and more): developmental stages (personal and societal), cultural trends, and evolution of religious thought and practice.  Young adulthood overlaps some with “postmodern” in terms of moral and cognitive development.  “Modern” Christians (and adolescents) see the limitations and inconsistencies of postmodernism (or “Boomeritis Buddhism”).  Older “moderns” (especially of an evangelical-type paradigm) react against such postmodernism, not realizing there are other stages/paradigms just beyond it that may better support the “traditional values” they are into, and have many additional benefits, usefulness.

Young and “pre-middle-age” (often “postmodern” already) adults, in my observation (I’m a father of 2 of them, but look much further) are NOT as afraid of change/progress and not so locked into a modern perspective.  Thus, many of them are moving fairly quickly through postmodern to the “integral” stage (or whatever label one wants).  This “stage” is quite capable of a robust, compassionate and intellectually coherent, consistent faith (see “Integral Christianity” by Paul Smith, e.g., or my review of it, here and here).

I was just with over 100 of such mostly-young (a few older, like me) adults who had a wonderful, joyful time together, from a broad range of denominational and theological backgrounds (TransFORM 2014 in San Diego… summarized on my blog and by Kathy Escobar, perhaps others.)

This view of things helps make sense of some of the seemingly confusing data such as these recent books are presenting.  While I won’t “predict” anything either, I perceive genuine progress and am optimistic overall.

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