Christianity after Religion
By Diana Butler Bass
HarperCollins Publishers, 2012
If someone asks, do you say you are “spiritual but not religious”? Do you go to church but don’t tell people you go to church? Do you hesitate to align yourself with religion because of all the bad press? Do you wish church could connect with spirit more and with rules less? If you answered “Yes” to any of those questions, but still feel that yearning in your solar plexus to connect with “something more,” this book has some ideas for you.
“By 2009, 48 percent of Americans confessed that they had had a mystical encounter with the divine.”
Statistics show (and Butler Bass never met a statistic she didn’t like) that a growing number of people acknowledge mystical experiences. Statistics also show that fewer and fewer people identify themselves with a spiritual community. What’s going on? Spiritual seekers are out there, but faith communities are not meeting the needs.
Butler Bass’s title contains a provocative phrase: the end of church. Does the church need to “end” before it can begin again? The phrase strikes fear in those who hold their doctrinal religion close to the heart. But according to Butler Bass: “These are hard times, not the end times.” In other words churches need not end, but they do need to awaken.
“Does anyone go to a knitting group and ask if the knitters believe in knitting or what they hold to be true about knitting? Do people ask for a knitting doctrinal statement?”
We studied this book in a study group at my church. During our discussions, we drew up a list of words or phrases we considered to be “stumbling blocks”—words that create a negative response. The list contained obvious words like “sin” and “Satan,” but it also contained some not-so-obvious ones: church, God, religion. Our list verified Butler Bass’s point: organizations that should be spiritually connecting people with the Divine have been failing to do that to the point that words associated with them create the opposite effect in people. Something’s got to give.
“Why is it that the choice among churches always seems to be the choice between intelligence on ice and ignorance on fire.”
The early part of this book is so heavy with statistics it takes some persistence to power through. (That was a common opinion in our book study group as well.) The subject of this book is my passion, so I should have been more lit up by it than I was. It has powerful, necessary ideas, but the prose is ponderous. Take your time with it, give it some concentrated effort, and then become part of the new awakening.
“This awakening will not be the last in human history, but it is our awakening. It is up to us to move with the Spirit instead of against it, to participate in making our world more humane, just and loving.”
Posted on December 12, 2012, in Book reviews, Books I bought, Non-fiction and tagged book reviews, Christianity, Church, Diana Butler Bass, faith communities, harpercollins publishers, Jesus, Mystical experiences, religion, Religious experience, solar plexus, spiritual seekers. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.