Actually listening to “Religious Nones”

This conversation is so important. We can all learn from each other. One of the things I so enjoy about the ELCA (Lutheran Church) is that it is not only ok to disagree and to doubt, but that you are welcome, and you can even discuss these things!


Some of the comments from the panel:


*A perception that Church is an unsafe space for doubt and questioning. The panelists spoke of their high comfort level with not having “all the answers.”


*A deep desire for authenticity. This commitment to authenticity may mean rejecting a singular religious label because it don’t adequately capture the multiple spiritual traditions someone finds meaningful. They named a fear of “being put in a box.”


*Panelists also spoke of thinking it odd to dress up for Church. As one put it “why should I get up early on a Sunday, get all dressed up, to watch people in weird robes?” This panelist found an easier point of entry with a smaller, Saturday evening service.


*A number of the panelists, though not all, had some religious background. For these people, late teens and early twenties was a turning point in questioning and ultimately, leaving religion.


*A deep, dare I say faithful, commitment to big ideas and values. The panelists had thought a lot about how they wanted to move through the world, how they wanted to live ethically, how they wanted to change their community. They just didn’t feel the need to do it within the bounds of a religious community.


*A fullness to their own life and spirituality. As one panelist said, “I bristle at someone saying ‘I’ve got this thing you are missing.’ as if I’m lacking.”


I really, truly heard it for the first time: “I’m not missing something,” she said. “I don’t want you to see me as lacking. I’m perfectly fine without religion.” For some reason, I finally heard this loud and clear at a panel discussion last Friday night at the New England Synod of the ELCA (video forthcoming: http://www.nesynod.org Mad props for attempting to live stream it!)

The professional religious world has been talking a TON about “Religious nones” since the Pew study came out in October 2012 that documented one in five Americans has no religious affiliation and one in three under 30. We’ve been talking a ton. I’m not sure we’ve been listening to “religious nones” as much as we’ve been talking about “religious nones.”

I attend Church meetings professionally. It’s an occupational hazard. Church annual meetings are mostly insider baseball: committee reports, resolutions, budgets. Church annual meetings are a space…

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7 thoughts on “Actually listening to “Religious Nones”

  1. That made me smile, thank you! I am in the midst of heavy teaching and course loads. I may be back in January but likely not until June when I begin a year of light teaching and finishing at least the first of the Luther novels. But I still catch your posts from time to time.

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