Christianity After Religion

Christianity After Religion by Diana Butler Bass

Come gather ’round people

Wherever you roam

And admit that the waters

Around you have grown

And accept it that soon

You’ll be drenched to the bone

If your time to you

Is worth savin’

Then you better start swimmin’

Or you’ll sink like a stone

For the times they are a-changin’.

Come writers and critics

Who prophesy with your pen

And keep your eyes wide

The chance won’t come again

And don’t speak too soon

For the wheel’s still in spin

And there’s no tellin’ who

That it’s namin’

For the loser now

Will be later to win

For the times they are a-changin’.

Come senators, congressmen

Please heed the call

Don’t stand in the doorway

Don’t block up the hall

For he that gets hurt

Will be he who has stalled

There’s a battle outside

And it is ragin’

It’ll soon shake your windows

And rattle your walls

For the times they are a-changin’.

Come mothers and fathers

Throughout the land

And don’t criticize

What you can’t understand

Your sons and your daughters

Are beyond your command

Your old road is

Rapidly agin’

Please get out of the new one

If you can’t lend your hand

For the times they are a-changin’.

The line it is drawn

The curse it is cast

The slow one now

Will later be fast

As the present now

Will later be past

The order is

Rapidly fadin’

And the first one now

Will later be last

For the times they are a-changin’.

I was 6 years old in 1964 when Bob Dylan sang those words and much more concerned about school lunches and my new friends in California than the political or religious climate in America. While I’m reluctant to call Dylan a prophet, he certainly described a situation that was true then and is all the more true now. We live in times that are a-changin’; politically, socially, economically and religiously or spiritually…

In Christianity After Religion author Diana Butler Bass does an eloquent and insightful job of defining those changin’ times, especially the shift from religious to spiritual. While that may seem to be an arbitrary distinction to some, it is, in fact a very important point of demarcation in these changin’ times. Butler Bass believes that, at least here in the U.S., we are in the midst of a fourth awakening. According to Butler Bass this current “tectonic shift” in spirituality began in 1960 and ran until 1980, was then disrupted by a powerful backlash that ran from 1975 to 1995 resuming 1n 95’ and continuing today.

Rather than declare the death of the church as we know it, Butler Bass presents an interesting commentary on the shift in thinking by younger generations towards what spirituality is and how it is defined. Being 55 years old myself and having grown up in Southern California and experiencing at least a bit of the Jesus People Movement, I tend to resonate with many of her conclusions. I’ve long believed that an “us-against-them” mindset is not only an unhealthy and unbiblical approach to faith but also not very fruitful. Who are we to reach if everyone who disagrees with us is our enemy? I’ve also long held the belief that belonging, belonging, behaving, believing is a much more loving and functional approach than the reverse.

I recommend Christianity After Religion to pastors and leaders, especially those who may be experiencing some of the changes described in their own congregations and not fully understanding why. I also recommend it to anyone who has intuitively felt spiritual but not religious. For those, this book will bring some definition and help processing their feelings.