Saturday, January 12, 2008


A good friend of mine turned me on to the above quote by the enigmatic Kurt Vonnegut. Like many people do today, Vonnegut saw rigid adherence to religious dogma as a negative and destructive force. You need not look far to see countless examples today.

On a related note there was a recent story from the CBC indicating that, according to Statistics Canada, almost half of Canadians between 15 and 29 rarely or never go to religious services, or practice religion privately. It seems younger adults are turning away from traditional religious observances in droves.

I had a great conversation this week with a colleague at work about this. She comes from a Sikh background and indicated that her own observations of hypocrisy and struggles for power in the temples she attended had completely turned her off of being involved further as an adult. In a similar vein I shared how I also observed similar issues in the Christian communities I had been involved with in the past.

Despite coming from completely different faith backgrounds we both shared the same experience; that our respective religious institutions were merely echoing and perpetuating the pitfalls of a larger dysfunctional culture, rather than providing a radical and alternative vision of how to live as people of faith in the world.

Yet rather than deeply examine why people are turned off, many of our religious institutions try to act like the cool hunters hired by ad agencies and corporations, looking for ways to hook young adults in by offering some glitzy contemporary approximation that echoes their personal preferences from the cultural market place.

This is a shallow approach, disconnected from the deeply spiritual longings many young adults have. I believe that authenticity, connectedness and engagement with a larger world is what is desired by many, though is sadly missing from many religious institutions that have become increasingly irrelevant to a sizable segment if the population.

On this note I end with another quote, this time from the prophet Bono, which applies in many ways to my current perspective;

No, nothing makes sense
Nothing seems to fit ...

And I'd join the movement
If there was one I could believe in
Yeah I'd break bread and wine
If there was a church I could receive in
'Cause I need it now

"Acrobat" by U2


jmgb said...

i can so relate.

you may enjoy donald miller's books:
'searching for god knows what' & 'blue like jazz.' he rants about church culture and manages to take the reader to the heart of god...i found enjoyment, connectedness, fellowship, hope--in both.

i would be interested in reading more posts from your faith perspective!

Westcoast Walker said...

Thanks for the recommendation, and as always, I appreciate your thoughtful comments!

midwest watcher said...

Very interesting observations. I have seen and heard of many similar experiences. But what about non MSR (Main Stream Religions) faiths that don't hype their beliefs? They do not parade their 'all inclusive - anything goes' morality on the world stage. They stay true to the core teachings and doctrine and grow.
"For many are called, but few are chosen" Matt 22:14

Westcoast Walker said...

Thanks for dropping by Midwest!

You make a valid point, some non-mainstream religious groups in the west don't need to recruit young people due to their being a shared cultural point of reference attached to their religious expression.

In the Post-Christian West however, there is a profound multi-generational disconnection from an over arching Christian narrative, while at the same time so many churches are still so embedded within Modernity that they cannot think past the old frameworks of delivering propositional teachings, believing that if they just package the message the right way people will come back.

Therefore I don't think it has much to do with staying true to core teachings, but rather a refusal of many churches to see past an outmoded framework that limits how the Christian message is lived out and expressed in a world characterized by rapid and dynamic change.

jmgb said...