So there’s this tattooed, progressive, vulgar woman making the lefty church rounds spouting her particular message about Jesus Christ in her own distinct way. Minister Nadia Bolz-Weber’s delivery seems to speak to today’s generation of disillusioned youth seeking some kind of spiritual catharsis from an unconventional source.
Her style is really nothing new. But lately she’s been drawing a new audience — regular folk. Turns out that you don’t have to be some violence-desensitized, angst-ridden twenty-something in order to be turned off by traditional, organized religion. It’s a rising trend that shows no sign of slowing. The most rapidly growing religious identity in the U.S.? Athiesm, agnosticism or unafilliated.
People have problems with religion, at least the traditional model be it Catholics, Protestants or Evangelicals. They’re just not filling the pews anymore. Some feel the exodus has to do with the political involvement with conservatives in government. Others blame secularization. Personally I feel there is a bit of hypocrisy in how people act compared to what they profess to believe. I also think too many people use their religion to justify divisiveness, violence and outright avarice.
In the past maybe young people felt obligated to stick with religion despite their reservations but I don’t think that guilt is working anymore.
Movements from unconventional ministers like Bolz-Weber are growing and in different manifestations. Many of these non-denominational churches are centered on a dynamic personality, like Joel Osteen or Joyce Meyer. Others are based on a theme like Cowboy Church. I once went to a service crafted entirely for bikers. People are capitalizing on those seeking God in a nontraditional setting.
It bothers a lot of people. Even Pope Francis, the loose-talking Jesuit recently named pontiff, is facing backlash from traditional Catholics irate that he’s doing such cavalier things like not judging gays and granting interviews to athiest journalists.
I’m a faltering Catholic, a heavily liturgical denomination. The mere presence of a guitar at a Protestant service rubs me the wrong way because the only version of Amazing Grace I’ve ever heard was accompanied by an organ. Sadly, contemporary is just not my cup of tea. I can see why some are repulsed by Francis, Bolz-Weber and Biker Church.
Yet, so what? To me all of those who have been devoutly religious their entire lives should be happy that the prodigal children have found another path to the same destination. Even if they don’t like the way the message is presented, they should at least rejoice that the lost are found.
Some of the deniers are more afraid that the newcomers are changing the message. Legitimate fear, maybe, but I think that fear is usually based on the notion that unless someone’s worshiping the way they worship, then they’re not true believers. Ironically, this is the large part of the reason why people get sour on God in the first place — worshipers look at those who believe different and condemn them for being different. This irks me particularly with Christians because Jesus preached the exact opposite. There’s a certain instance in the Bible when His disciples walked up to Him complaining that there was a man performing miracles in Jesus’ name. He rebuked their intolerance.
“Anyone who is not against us is for us.”