Candace Chellew-Hodge: You write about some of the reasons people aren’t going to church anymore. Perhaps they’re bored, angry, or they don’t feel church fulfills their needs. What do you think people really want out of religion these days?
Diana Butler Bass: That’s a great question. I think people don’t want to be wounded and bossed around and they don’t want to be treated like children. Instead, I think people want to be part of spiritual communities where they are valued in terms of their life experience and the insight that they bring to the construction of religious life and their understandings of God and neighbor. I think there is a real need for religious institutions to listen to the voice of all of God’s people rather than telling them what to do.
I also think that people want deep ways of trying to connect with who they really are. People want to understand their own inner lives, and insofar as religious institutions can help people make those connections that would be a real step ahead.
People also want connection with God. They want to know how you connect with wonder, awe, transcendence, and how we can connect with our neighbors in meaningful ways. They’re interested in how we can form networks of care, networks of doing justices, and networks of service in which we can make a better world.
I see it happening in many congregations. People tell me they see the church as an institutional bureaucracy going nowhere fast, but not in their congregation. When I hear that I actually know there are thousands of smaller groups of folks in Christian, Jewish, Buddhist and other groups meeting all over the place that are experiencing that. Those are the communities that are beginning to embody the spirit of the new awakening.
This is where women and LGBT folks become very important. Those movements have been liberationist movements and have made tremendous strides to help us all become a better country. But there is something even deeper than the fact of their being liberationist movements—women and LGBT people are saying ‘We are people and our whole personhood is in God. We want to be part of community that hears the wisdom of our experience, that accepts us for who we really are.’
In a very real sense, what the feminist movement and the LGBT movement have become for religious communities is a test of hospitality. Are you really open to accepting and welcoming everyone? Is the personhood of the gay couple as welcome as the personhood of the straight couple? That becomes a test of the awakening. It’s not simply what’s your political position about the rights of these people, but are these people really people? And are they people with their full wisdom, their full experience, their full sense of who they are? Are they really, truly welcomed into the deepest realms of making community?
To read Chellew-Hodge's entire interview with Bass, click here.
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
A Return to the Spirit
Celebrating and Embodying Divine Hospitality
Keeping the Spark Alive: Conversing with “Modern Mystic” Chuck Lofy
The "Underground Church"
A Time to Re-Think the Base and Repair the Damage
Time for a Church for Grown-Ups
Quote of the Day – March 20, 2011
Many Voices, One Church
Compassion, Christian Community and Homosexuality
Of Mustard Seeds and Walled Gardens
The Sufi Way