I recently read a blog post by Harv Bishop. The post and the comments were for me a refreshing acknowledgement of what I have observed and wondered about for the past several years. Bishop has a new book coming out in 2018 that is a must-read for anyone who has even a passing interest in the New Thought movement.
My blog has been a similar quest for understanding as I have attempted to reconcile what I was taught from the perspective of late 20th century Religious Science doctrine with the realities of the 21st century.
In my writing I have explored questions/concerns about concepts like giving, tithing, cause and effect – core teachings in 20th century New Thought churches and centers – and for a bit wondered if I was just missing the point.
It is heartwarming to know that many of the questions I’ve had are being asked by much more robust contributors to the New Thought discourse. I’ll be buying Bishop’s book, and would encourage you to give it a read when it comes out, too.
In addition, comments to Bishop’s blog post by Randy Southerland, a writer from Atlanta, hit all the high notes on my personal sheet of music.
Here are a few of them:
- “…even as the principles and teachings are becoming mainstream, corporate New Thought is struggling. Membership is declining and increasingly the denominations are becoming irrelevant— particularly to the young.“
- “…it seems much of the leadership is content to do the same thing the same way they’ve always done it —to smaller and increasing grayer crowds. I’ve repeatedly seen new ideas, new models and new approaches met with overt hostility on line, in print and in conversation.”
- “Where Holmes was fresh and avant-garde, our current organizational leadership and many ministers are rigid and committed to the Sunday Service model of Protestant worship.”
- “We continue to talk at people even as younger generations make it clear they want a conversation. We continue teaching “the basics” until people leave in search of depth.”
- “Too often we present the principles in simplistic and even simple minded forms that ignore both modern science and the intelligence of our membership. (Among others, I never again want to hear the obnoxious question “what was in his consciousness that drew that to him?”)”
I kept saying “Yes!” outloud as I read Mr. Southerland’s comments, as I have been writing about many of the same things.
Millennials – those born in the 1980s and 1990s – are legendary for their power to change society. Research has shown us that they prefer experiences to the acquisition of things (to the point that this has impacted what retailers like IKEA are making and selling) and that they have an acute sensitivity for authenticity. In other words, they can spot B.S. a mile away, and have no time for it.
Millennials are also the first generation to grow up as a digital generation – adept at getting the information they need in ways that work for them. Those in New Thought who continue to cling to the old days as their guiding star seem to forget that in the “old days” there were only a few places to access the teachings: libraries and centers/churches.
Today, you can access New Thought teachings through eBooks, YouTube talks, online webinars and classes, audiobooks and more. Joining a center or church is no longer necessary for the learning so there needs to be more than a weekly lesson and classes. And – programming needs to address what millennials are seeking.
In addition to easy access and the mainstreaming of New Thought principles a la Dyer, Hay and others; organized religion across the board has shown its worst side. From the abuse scandal in the Catholic Church to the intolerance of many Protestant traditions, millennials have seen what their parents bought into and they’re saying “no thanks“.
They don’t buy that you need a supreme leader (minister) to interpret spiritual principles. They don’t buy a purist interpretation and they’ll not be bullied or guilted into attending a service and giving their time and money if they find no value in it. They are more interested in competence than formal credentials and are likely to teach spiritual/moral lessons to their children based on things they pick up from multiple traditions; outside of a formal indoctrination structure.
The centers and churches that survive have learned these lessons and are already moving in the direction of the future. Those that have resisted will eventually learn, but it promises to be a painful lesson and may already be too late for many of them.
The 1990’s are long gone, and a lot has changed in the world. We can’t cling to the things that worked back then if we want to be here and relevant today, and into the future.
I look forward to continuing this conversation.