Saturday, October 27, 2007

Tending to the Spiritually Homeless

In reading the excellent new book by Eric Elnes, Asphalt Jesus (Jossey Bass, 2007), I came across his discussion of the issue of spiritual homelessness. I find this an intriguing idea. Diana Butler Bass speaks of tourists/nomads and pilgrims, but this concept is more troubling. Eric Elnes writes in the context of his walk across America -- a trek that essentially put him and his compatriots in a position of being without their normal abodes for a time.
Noting that the polls say that somewhere around 90% of Americans speak of themselves as being Christian, but on any given Sunday maybe 20 to 30% participate. There is, then, a tremendous disparity between those considering themselves to be Christian and those actually participating. He then writes:

Apparently two-thirds of all Christians in America feel so alienated or so indifferent or see church as so irrelevant that they aren't showing up. I call these Christians the "spiritually homeless." Many of those we met on our walk across America told us they have faith but had found no spiritual community in which they felt at home practicing it. They felt spiritually disconnected and alone. (Asphalt Jesus, p. 105)

The question is -- how interested are we as church in reaching out to the spiritually homeless?

1 comment:

Mystical Seeker said...

This topic came up during a discussion by members of a church at a "Living the Questions" seminar that I attended. No one really had any answers.

The reason it came up was that one person on the DVD pointed out that churches can be caught up in the whole numbers game, as if it were all a competition, and it isn't. You don't "lose" anything if another, less progressive church, ends up with more members than your church does. And yet. The fact that there are a lot of disenfranchised people out there ought to suggest something. Maybe there is a great spiritual longing out there that isn't being fulfilled. So it isn't about increasing membership in "my" church just so we can say that we've somehow "won" the race, but instead about reaching out to people so that their spiritual needs can be fulfilled. And I can't help but wonder if a lot of people just don't know what is available out there, possibly thanks to the way the Religious Right has managed to define what "Christian" means; maybe others don't have the time or inclination to engage in the painful process of church shopping.