Tuesday, January 17, 2012

So What?

I know this piece of news is a bit outdated but I just had to share. RNS posted an article over a week ago about how 4 out of 10 Americans just don't care for anything spiritual. Check out the link to read up on all the numbers but to me I still think numbers are well, numbers. But what catches my attention is the question behind the survey. Why are people drifting away from religion and things spiritual? I believe that Barry Kosmin, co-author of the ARIS and director of the Institute for the Study of Secularism at Trinity College hit the nail on the head.

“But a lot of these people are concerned more with the tangible, the real stuff like mortgages or their favorite football team or the everyday world,” Kosmin said.

People are more concerned with the here and now than what may or may not happen in the afterlife or concerned with seeking for the meaning of life. I know to many people religion is their number one priority and there is nothing wrong with that. I'm not saying just because your neighbor has different priorities that you should change yours, but it wouldn't hurt to get to know the why behind your neighbor's priorities. For example, there was an overly cheery, elderly gentleman who joined my family in the hospital elevator down to the ground floor. We were on our way back home from a visit with my wife's grandfather who is still recovering from major surgery when we ran into this elderly gentleman in the elevator. He was smiling from ear to ear and making small talk and joking with another passenger in the elevator when he made an interesting comment.
"I've not much time left in this world, we're all going to a better place."
 Now in the South you run into someone just about everyday who enjoys witnessing and sharing their faith, and at first this comment appeared as another public witnessing. It wasn't until on the ride home that it hit me: the comment was a cry for help. The poor man was probably visiting someone, his wife perhaps, who doesn't have much time left. He is comforted by the fact that his loved one will soon be going to a better place and that the pain will soon be gone. If I had realized his suffering sooner I might have at the very least given him an it's gonna be okay smile than just a hello smile. Believe me there's a difference. I would have gone as far as having a quick 3 minute prayer session with the gentleman in the hospital corridor even though I don't believe in the power of prayer. Why? Because my spirituality is based on my relationship with my fellow man. Our shared suffering and our shared joy is what brings us and binds us to one another. So when Americans in this survey are saying so what to traditional religion and God I don't think for a second they are saying so what to their fellow man. I believe they are redefining the boundaries of their community and identity. I believe they are moving from just loving their neighbor who sits next them in church to also loving their non-Christian neighbor who they pass by in the supermarket.

Does it really matter if more Americans consider themselves as a part of the Nones category or even as far as this subset of So What? I believe our morality flows from our humanity and our interconnectedness with one another than from any outside divine source. In the original article by Cathy Lynn Grossman, Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research, fears that this apathetic mentality and the goodness vs. godliness mindset is a disaster for Christians, "If you're not worried about heaven, you won't notice or care if Jesus is essential your salvation. You're not thinking about any consequences," McConnell says. I believe this fear is more based on the fear of identity erosion than about consequences. Just because you don't believe that Christ is your savior means that all morality gets thrown out with the window. Anyone who has lived in a dormitory understands that even if the dean or the RA is not around doesn't mean you can light firecrackers in the hallway or fail to pay attention where you're "aiming" while using the restroom. We all still live under one global roof and being apathetic to religion and spirituality does not mean we will forget about consequences.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Outcast

I've been watching Star Trek: The Next Generation for the last couple months on Netflix when I came across an incredible scene in the episode entitled "The Outcast" and its commentary on LGBT rights. In this episode Commander Riker falls for a member of an androgynous species called the J'naii who later reveals she is actually female.

Of course when this episode originally aired back in 1992 I had no idea there was anything outside of heterosexuality (I was in the 2nd grade). But I just find it troubling that even nearly 20 years later that we are still debating whether or not these "deviants" should even be understood let alone allow them to equal rights.