Religious Faith in Modern America
Suicides, Bill O'Reilly and Blandness
I've been overwhelmed with ideas, experiences and relational encounters in the past 2 weeks of travel, reconnecting with old friends and my brother's wedding. In the midst of that there was the death of a relative, a cousin who went into and out of an unexplained coma, and the seemingly universal experience of divine power and unity as the Chilean miners were delivered from the darkness of their mine prison. The election season is ramping up. I hear more and more people evoke faith for votes, self-preservation, out of fear, or in hope, than I have for a long time. I also hear more and more people reject the faith of other people, from both the left and the right of the spectrum, asserting that their way of believing is the most orthodox or more correct. Two videos that I discovered via Facebook posts this past week highlight the diversity in which we express our faith and also the divisiveness that faith, or religion, seems to be contributing to in our national culture. The first is a youtube video made by Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire in response to the recent flood of suicides of despairing youth. The second is of an episode of the View airing last week with Bill O'Reilly as guest during which the hosts of the show walk off the set.
Last week also saw the airing of a series about faith in America on PBS [Blogged about at Religion Dispatches | LINK HERE] and a review on SF Gate of American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us the latest book by thoughtful author Robert Putnam [REVIEW HERE]. The book says - from my rapid synopsis reading - that faith that is the least militant and most un-in-your-face is what contributes to the unity of our national culture, and builds bridges among the diversity that is not just heralded in Hollywood, but actually lived out in our families. That being said I struggle to understand why it is that we don't just tolerate, but actually feed the extremist and highly polarizing perspectives and persons that characterize so much of our national debate today.
As a clergy person, or a religious person as I was called this weekend, I often find that folks are pleasantly surprised to hear me not call for a pogrom against specific sub-culture groups, or talking incessantly about sexuality or morality. They are touched and seemingly moved by vocabulary about life and making-meaning of it. Maybe I'm a sell-out? Maybe I'm a relativist? Or maybe I'm not alone in my hunger and thirst for an approach to faith that is different than what we seem to see in our market place of ideas today? I'm not convinced that only bland faith can unite us.