Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Great Reversal

Signing her book for Donna

When I wrote about Christianity After Religion on Monday, I promised my next post would be about what Diana Butler Bass calls "The Great Reversal."  First, let me tell you that on pages 199-200, she quotes this YouTube video:

(If the video quits working, here's the link to the YouTube site.)

Using this same idea, Diana Butler Bass flips our usual way of talking about religion and spirituality on its head.
"For the last few centuries, Western Christianity ordered faith in a particular way.  Catholics and Protestants taught that belief came first, behavior came next, and finally belonging resulted, depending on how you answered the first two questions.  Churches turned this pattern into rituals of catechism, character formation, and confirmation. ... Believe, behave, belong.  It is almost second nature for Western people to read the religious script this way" (p. 201).
But that's not how it has always been.
"About five hundred years ago, Western Christianity divided from a single church into five different major church families:  Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism, Reformed Christianity, Anglicanism, and Anabaptist faith.  Each group felt the need to defend itself against all the others, making clear its interpretation of the Bible and theology" (p. 201).
Aha!  The emphasis shifted, and theologies had to be systematized.  They had to get the teachings straight.  They had to prove their beliefs were more biblical than the others.  They were wrestling with the ideas, the words, the beliefs.  And so that had to come first.

Now things are changing.  At the end of my last post, I wrote about our need for connection, for belonging:
The construction of selfhood has shifted from individualism to asking, Who are my friends?  It's about community.  So today we have social networking, not merely a tool but a way of life.  It's the place where community happens.  The need for connection is powerful, as shown by Twitter, Facebook, and all the rest of the social networks.
The Great Reversal turns things around.  We start with belonging, with our neighbors, with relationships, networks, and communities.  From there, we get to practices that draw participants into crafting a way of life and learning how to behave.  Out of belonging and behaving, we reach conviction and understandings of God through an encounter in the context of life experience — and reach believing.

Believing, Behaving, Belonging
is now
Belonging, Behaving, Believing.

It's reversed.  Instead of focusing of dogma, rules, and membership, the focus is on communities, practices as a way of life, and conviction based on life experience.  Or as she says,
"The current awakening is marked by its insistence on connection, networks, relationship, imagination, and story instead of dualism, individualism, autonomy, techniques, and rules" (p. 237).
So where will we find "communities of belonging" (p. 263)?  Maybe not in our churches, which are seen by many today as "museums of religion" (p. 258).  I don't have an answer, but I'm working on it.

How do I rate this book?  It's an excellent book, and I rate it 9/10.

No comments: