Spiritual Fluidity

I was very interested when I learned that the book club of my area’s interfaith organization was reading When One Religion Isn’t Enough: the Lives of Spiritually Fluid People by Duane R. Bidwell. I hadn’t heard of this book, even though it was published in 2018. But I was intrigued because in my book, The INTRAfaith Conversation, I have a chapter entitled “New Voices.” And one of those voices is “Hybrid Spirituality: Multiple Belonging.” In it I quoted Francis X. Clooney, SJ:

The phenomenon of “multiple religious belonging” is now deeply engrained in American culture. We can no longer imagine simply the prospect of well-established religions and their members deciding whether to dialogue or not. People, younger people in particular, find themselves in the position of having multiple religious attractions, and experiences and commitments which cannot easily be fit into any given religious system.
For such people, it is unlikely that even upon ecclesial insistence they could give up strands of identity not easily reducible to a single tradition or church. 

This obviously has huge implications for the church in the 21st century and we would be wise to pay attention to it.

I did learn (or relearn)some things from Bidwell’s book, beyond enjoying the stories he told of people living out their hybrid spirituality and resonating with his experience as an ordained pastor navigating the ecclesiastical institution as a hybrid.

First, was his statement “I do not believe that God is one or that all paths reach the same mountain.” This reminded me of Stephen Prothero’s book God Is Not One: the eight rival religions that run the world– and why their differences matter. I squirm when I hear interfaith friendly people declaring that “it’s all the same God” and “we’re all clinging the same mountain on different paths.” Even at a session of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, I was surprised when a speaker declared that we all worshipped the same God – especially when we’re also including people of no faith.

But I realized that I have preached about the one-ness of the Divine myself. A few weeks ago, when John’s gospel’s Jesus prayed “that we might all be one,” I played the music video “One” by Billy Jonas. It’s really a very cool video, but now I can see the problem in some of the lyrics.

One plus one
Plus one plus one
Makes ONE 
One likes Jesus
One likes Judah
Yogananda, Allah, Goddess, 
the Buddha!
Says ‘wait how do you pick a path?’
Solution: NEW new math
One plus one
Plus one plus one
Makes ONE 
ONE-der where its leading to.
One-derful, wondrous thing 
One way – the way we’re going.
One plus one
Plus one plus one
Makes ONE 

It might not make a big difference when watching a video, but it’s something to think about.

The second thing I found interesting was Bidwell’s section called “Names Matter.” It reminded me of the explanation in my book of the dilemma of what to call the interfaith movement:

There is much ongoing discussion about what to call the movement.  The Rev. Dr. Andrew Kille, executive director of the Silicon Valley Interreligious Council (SiVIC) writes that “interfaith carries some muddy implications that can be confusing – ‘interfaith’ organizations in the past meant ‘ecumenical’- all Christian, or, at best, Christian/ Jewish. It has also come to describe traditions that blend two or more religious observances into some whole. We chose ‘interreligious’ partly because the term is less familiar, partly because it suggests relationships between distinct traditions, rather than a blending of them. Multi-faith has much the same kind of sense about it. ‘Interreligious’ is also a term that hopes to include traditions for whom ‘faith’ is not really a meaningful concept- Buddhists, Wiccans, etc.” 
Interfaith? Multi-faith? Interreligious? Multi religious? Pan-spiritual? Religio-pluralistic?
For the purpose of this book, I will usually use ‘interfaith.’

Now, Bidwell has added multiple religious belonging, dual religious practice, religious hybridity, to the list of problematic names and the challenge they entail. He chooses instead to use spiritual fluidity, religious multiplicity, and multiple (or complex) religious bonds.

For those of us who care about such things, it just goes to show the ongoing complexity of our religious/spiritual landscape.

And for those who don’t, there’s always
One plus one
Plus one plus one
Makes ONE 

And maybe that’s OK.

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