In his book Doubt after Faith: Why Your Beliefs Stopped Working and What to Do About It, Brian McLaren notes that sixty-five million US adults have quit going to Church, and this number grows by 2.7 million every year. These numbers should serve as a wake-up call for churches, indicating that something is not connecting with people.
We can no longer shift blame and gaslight the culture. It is long past due that the Church takes a long hard look in the mirror at a potentially outdated understanding of the world (physics/cosmology) and an often flat and literal understanding and application of sacred texts. These and other factors contribute to a growing sense of cultural irrelevance and indifference.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, scientist and Jesuit, suggested that atheism (and secularism) is not the issue. Instead, he posits, the issue is unsatisfied theism. For many, their inherited religion (if they have one) and the ancient stories simply do not make sense with how they experience their life and what they know to be true about the world. People often wrestle with their inherited and often outdated, inflexible ideas of God, the bible, and their Church's required doctrines and practices. As such the inherited/cultural-religious stories do not provide the hope and meaning-making significance they long for.
Even with these doubts, disagreements, and disappointments with static OEM religion, there is a deep well of faith independent of Big-Box religion. Many intuitively know that there has to be more but do not believe they can find it in the Church (and Christianity). Therefore, many conclude that they must leave the institution of the Church (and Christianity) for the sake of their faith and well-being.
On the other side of the same coin, some adherents of a more naturalistic/materialistic worldview struggle as they too question the ability of a purely epistemological worldview to help them live well day to day. While science can provide awe-inspiring insights about various phenomena, it has blind spots. For example, while science provides valuable insight into human neurology, it doesn't help us with what it's like to be awed by a sunset, to be in love or to have to sit in the shadow of tragedy. It struggles to help meaning-making creatures create meaning and find significance in who they are, what they do and their part in the grand story. Many adherents to a naturalistic worldview long for more.
We need an updated story. We need a whole-making story. Stories that liberate us from the ditches of fundamentalism, be it scientific reductionism or religious, and help us grow past the ill-fitting cultural myths, structures and immature stewardship of power, retributive violence, and scapegoat mechanisms.
Good stories inspire and equip people to become truly human, both spiritual and physical. Healing and whole-making stories restore the profound relationship between humanity and the planet along with our responsibility for its good care. Hopeful stories that inspire and equip, calling forth the best of humankind towards something transcendently beautiful.
Stories that can help us situate ourselves in the story of the cosmos and contribute towards a grand and cohesive vision for humanity and the planet.
Stories that are faithful to constitutive Christianity and that are genuinely good news for all people. We need stories that bridge the best of faith and science, that are not only thoughtful but also soulful.
Stories that can contribute to and support the best of science while tenaciously contending for a deep sense of significance and meaning rooted in the transcendent. Significance and purpose that inspires and motivates us to recognize and grow toward deeper consciousness, unity, and love.
Unfortunately, for too long, love has been obscured under the cultural graffiti of romanticism, dismissed as quaint and impotent. Even in the Church, the scandalous, outrageous unconditional love of God has been tamed and, in many ways, neutered, instead preferring violent, retributive, and coercive use of power stories.
People could benefit from a refreshed exploration and cultivated experience of love and the role of such at the very foundation of existence. To rediscover love in a deeper and transformative way. A transcendent love that anchors us and liberates us from the fickle winds of emotionalism and consumerism. We need stories that will help us recapture the beauty and the ferocity of love characterized by the self-giving love of the cross.
 Brian D. McLaren, Faith After Doubt: Why Your Beliefs Stopped Working and What to Do About It. Forward. (MacMillian Audio, 2021), Audiobook, 11 hrs., 11 min.
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