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Fellowship of Saints and Sinners

Fellowship of Saints and Sinners

“Belief Without Borders”—The Importance of Wandering

The older I get the more I’m convinced wandering is essential to rest.  A soul that has come to rest has known what it means to wander.  And, God forbid that our souls should ever only rest and never wander in this life!  This would make us less than human.

Our souls can wander in so many ways:

…We sin by doing what we should not do and failing to do what we should do, and in turn “miss the mark” of God’s best for us.

…We grow distracted, and this distraction may be an extension of our propensity to sin.  “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, go the words of the old hymn.  Distractions are maybe more widespread, endemic and more perniciously marketed in today’s environment of capitalism on steroids than they ever have been in human history.  I can’t help but wonder if the current form of capitalism we’ve come to accept as par for the course, much like we accept that the sun comes up every morning, so extensively and reflexively measures human beings entirely in terms of what they can produce and consume, that today more than ever the challenge to live even just a bit outside of this system, or to refuse the lure of acquisition and material self-fulfillment, seems that much more radically unconventional.  On any given day I can find myself weaving through emails on my iPhone with the best intention of sending a note to someone in need, only to discover that Ann Taylor Loft is having another mind-blowing sale—they seem to have one every day now—and I become distracted.

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…Finally, we test the boundaries of our belief systems where those boundaries have kept us from finding freedom and abundant life and from becoming fully human.  Here Linda Mercadante’s book Belief Without Borders: Inside the Minds of the Spiritual But Not Religious (Oxford University Press) offers precious insights.  The phenomenon that causes church growth gurus to tremble and is putting more and more church ministers out of work gives Mercadante occasion to express a cautious hopefulness that outward appearances are not the full story: between 1990 and 2010, the number of Americans claiming no religious affiliation has more than tripled, from 14 million to 46 million; and this translates as more and more Americans leaving church.  Does this mass departure from organized religion prophesy future generations of faithless, atheistic Americans for whom God, faith and spirituality are simply non-existent?  No, Mercadante maintains, based on more than 80 interviews with self-professed “Nones.”  On the contrary, Mercadante finds, as her reviewer Timothy Renick describes in a recent issue of The Christian Century, “that the typical none is neither a theological novice nor a moral relativist.”  Renick goes on to summarize Mercadante’s view like this: that “the very reason that many nones reject traditional religious affiliations is that they are theologically sophisticated and have a strong commitment to moral principles.”  Nones have rejected traditional religion because of its conflicts with modern science or because of bad versions of the atonement, such as the notion that God is a stern disciplinarian Father whose wrath requires the blood of His own son to be satisfied.

In the end, there is something hopeful here for fellow wanderers in this third category I am writing for.  They–we–are simply looking for the More we haven’t yet found, and the answer is not cleverer church growth tactics.  The answer is Someone who calls Himself The Way, The Truth and The Life and invites us to come along and see.

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