Pastor Pat Bailey in front his church


Editor’s note: Reverend Pat Bailey is the pastor of Telluride’s Christ Presbyterian Church. He is currently working on his PhD. These posts are based on themes he is exploring for his advanced degree. For more on Pat, see Our Writers.

For the last couple of posts I have been talking about the Telluride context.  How does that context relate to national and international trends with regard to the spiritual quest?  For the next few posts I will be addressing that question.

The attitudes and sensibilities revealed in my interviews with Telluridians are  indicative of what some from the fields of both religion and the social sciences are calling a spiritual or spirituality revolution that is occurring in Western culture. In a study conducted in Great Britain, Paul Heelas and Linda Woodhead (see “The Spiritual Revolution: Why Religion is Giving Way to Spirituality”) characterize the shift from religion to spirituality as “the subjective turn . . . a turn away from ‘life-as’ (life lived as a dutiful wife, father, husband, strong leader, self-made man etc.) to ‘subjective-life’ (life lived in deep connection with the unique experiences of my self-in-relation).”  The study compares the decline in the number of people participating in “life as” religious or congregational activities and the rise in the numbers of those participating in activities reflecting a subjective-life spirituality.  Their conclusion is that, while the numbers engaged in subjective-life activities have not yet reached the numbers engaged in congregational life-as activities, the trend is the decline of life-as and the rise of subjective-life.  The revolution has not yet occurred, but if current trends continue, it soon will.

Another popular author, Diana Butler Bass (see “Christianity for the Rest of Us; How the Neighborhood Church Is Transforming the Faith”), also asserts a major shift toward spirituality in America and describes well the “life as” religious culture of her upbringing: “We all knew our place in this world.  It was a world of boundaries, rules, and roles.  Social class, race, ethnicity, birth order, and gender determined everything.  We believed that God made it that way.”

Would you describe your own sensibilities as a “life as” outlook or tending more toward the “subjective-life” worldview?  Does this description help to illuminate the shift that we are now experiencing?  Do you see that shift occurring in Telluride culture?  In Western culture?

I would love to hear your opinions and to carry on the conversation.

1 Comment
  • don scott
    Posted at 09:31h, 15 February

    The link to Robert Wuthnow’s book All in Sync might bring it to your attentions if you are not already familiar with it. His thesis seems to be that the arts play a significant role in spirituality, and in turn arts/spirituality result in church growth. I like Wuthnow’s scholarship (he is a Princeton Sociologist) in that his arguments are based on data from myriad surveys. So the thoughts are not just opinion or fantasy. I am about halfway through the book so far and find it applies very directly to my concern for arts, within the church and as a means to develop the human and spiritual side of our culture.