Friday, March 1, 2013

Christian conference critiques organized religion

By Reland Tuomi, Guest Writer
A new trend indicates that young people are becoming less involved in organized religion with every generation, yet individual spiritual life is growing.

Author Diana Butler Bass, who holds a doctorate in religious studies and politics, noticed this trend and said she wanted to know why.

Bass presented her findings last Friday, giving a 30-minute lecture at Trinity Lutheran Church to a group of local Protestant parishioners. This was only a brief preview of what was to come on Saturday, the main event day for the Associated Ministries Second Annual Conference.

Bass presented her keynote speech on Saturday, giving two presentations during the day with the audience breaking up into group discussion between the presentations.

Bass’ lectures were based on her latest book, "Christianity After Religion: The End of the Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening."

She emphasized the difference between religion and spirituality, and how younger people — age 18-25 — are becoming more spiritual and leaning away from organized religion.

"The top three negatives are … religious institutions are overly concerned with money and power, religious institutions focus too much on their rules and they are too involved in politics," Bass said, explaining why she thinks people who are atheist or agnostic do not associate themselves with a religion.

Bass also said that older churchgoers need to look at the big picture of religion to see the future of their parish. She used the metaphor of global warming to stress the importance of the big picture, rather than just looking at the weather, an isolated problem only occurring in a local area.

"Bass has a lot of good insights on a lot of good information," the Rev. Martin Yabroff, pastor at St. Andrew’s Episcopal in Tacoma, said. "We need to look beyond our own experience to say what’s the larger context in which we live in."

Chris Morton, executive director for Associated Ministries, also had praise for Bass. "She has her finger on the pulse of the religious life and does a wonderful job of presenting what that picture looks like for the rest of us," Morton said. "She makes it clear and approachable."

Morton said the conference took place at Pacific Lutheran University because the school is a good partner, and he said he wants to encourage students to "keep wrestling with faith and spirituality."