Predictions for the Future

Dawn Cooley made a general prediction that 50 years from now, a majority of people will be conducting their spiritual and religious life outside the structures of congregations. I don't think it was the point of her article, but it was interesting to think about.

I think 50 year predictions are pretty dicey. While 1965 can seem like yesterday to me some days, it's actually quite a long time ago. No one then would have predicted the present to be as it is.

But five and ten years are more predicatable.

I think that in the next decade, we will see more of what we see going on now. The line between the spiritual/religious life and ordinary life will continue to blur. The distinction between "spiritual" and "secular" is becoming obsolete.

The secular has become spiritualized. In the words of songwriter Peter Mayer, "Everything is Holy Now." As we become conscious of the incredible series of chances that make the natural and human worlds what they are that consciousness fills us with awe and gratitude. We are amazed at the intricate patterns of interdependence in all realities.

On the other hand, the ordinary workings of the secular world, markets, trade, the production of food, the acquisition of the energy to make human life bearable, have brought us a global existential crisis, which places upon on all of us, even the most devoted atheist, an infinite demand.

In our present context, what is the "spiritual?" How does one find balance in an human order so out of balance that it is threatening communal human life altogether? How do you save yourself from God's world-destroying wrath, when it is human error that will destroy the world? No individual will "get right" with God, or the Universe, except through common human work, done in solidarity with all the others.

If, in the next decade, religious institutions assume the distinction between the spiritual and the secular as their reason for being, I predict they will become institutions of escape and enclosure: escape into a stress-free zone of personal life, and enclosure in a small safe community.

For religious institutions to survive, I believe that they must be the places that connect people to the larger realities: the global crisis, the lack of justice, the ideologies that oppress and exploit. For religious institutions to survive, they must challenge people with an infinite demand that is appropriate to the times: Can you summon up and live out the universal solidarity that is necessary for our future, when all shall be saved, or none?


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