I recently took another trip across Southern Wyoming, and at about Wamsutter the heavens opened as I pondered deeply the spiritual state of my friends of the rising generation. I opened my sun-roof to allow my personal “heaven’s gate” to be open to my wandering mind.
I had a couple of passengers, who looked upon me as a little crazy, but unless you’ve channeled your spiritual energy through Wamsutter Wyoming—don’t knock it.
With about 60% of Millennial Christians leaving their church homes within a decade of adulthood (Barna Group Study). PEW research indicates that 26% of Muslim Millennial’s and 32% of Jewish Millennial’s are leaving their customary church homes; making religious continuity a challenge. And yet, all of these groups recognize and yearn for something spiritual in their lives and the younger generations are trying to define this. One can call this conundrum church PTSD or even a form of spiritual hiatus. Whatever you call it, there is an elephant in the room that needs addressing.
Of this conundrum are now born actual businesses focused on establishing bite-sized rituals and spiritual refreshment that fill the void left by traditional experiences. They are partnering with professors of major universities to marry the secular with the new way of spiritual thinking. One Muslim kit being created contains a prayer rug, a compass, water, and a prayer book. Models of ritual bite-sized packets are being developed for Jews and Christians as well.
Why bite-sized? It addresses the nature of obtaining things in an instant with the ability to devour the portion before us quickly so we can be about whatever else might occupy our day, ten minutes at a time. This is not a condemnation; but a reality brought about by living in real time 24-7.
By creating rituals that are a bit light-weight and humorous, it takes the edge off of heavy hierarchal rituals and traditional experiences that put the new generations in spiritual overload. In a way, addressing spiritual needs in this manner avoids the deep dive into spiritual realms that could pull one into a pattern of religiosity that could trap the seeker into unexpected paths. Others are creating self-help mantras, monthly subscription services that address the spiritual hunger that does exists among the youth, whether or not they are proclaimed church-goers or followers of religions.
One model in development is a “prayer kit” where one can find the physical kit in a building posted online, and patrons can simply drop in to a building and access the kit to enter their spiritual realm. People can customize their desired experience and still keep their spiritual yearnings alive.
So why do I point out the changing landscape? It brings me back to one important thread of truth that weaves all of our spiritual tapestries together—-that yearning for a spiritual part of our being that keeps all of our hopes (both explained and unexplained) alive. I think we may be spending too much time on what bugs us about the topics of spirituality and religion than weaving our common denominators together. I understand spiritual PTSD—heck, I’m good for an hour of church on Sunday, and maybe I can stretch it into two hours of meaningful worship, but beyond that my anxiety and angst kick in and I’m ready for a corn dog and chips overlooking a lake in my back yard while pondering the significance of life. I get it, spiritual yearnings must be met, but everyone must address this in their own way.
I obviously believe that when one connects their core values with principles of faith—their lives improve in a way not otherwise possible. Having said that, I also believe that however one accesses the “divine within” that it ought to be as individual as their smile. Never give up or diminish the need for spirituality in our lives, but also, never diminish the journey each must take to bring these threads into the fabric of our faith and spiritual lives. I respect the idea of partaking of bite-sized rituals and spiritual awakenings, as long as “bite-sized” doesn’t turn into spiritual emancipation.
Open your sunroof in Wamsutter; you never know what will come through your own “heaven’s gate.”