Thursday, July 26, 2007

Open Source Religion

Forty strangers in a cyber-room talking religion. Wired News has this article about a new development in Do It Yourself Religion, which is going by the name open source religion.
From the article:
"What, exactly, is open source religion? It's the cutting edge of individual spirituality that's thriving outside the walls of organized religion. It's a historic shift in power and authority from religious leadership to the consumer-oriented adherents of religious movements."
The group consisted of Jews, Muslims, Methodists, Agnostics, even Atheists. And they spent a lot of time talking about their deepest religious experiences. As I read the article, I kept thinking, "Judges." Everyone doing what is right in their own eyes. And I thought: "Where did all those people go who had some emotional or intellectual connection to their, um, faith tradition, but rejected the organized version of it?" And here is part of the answer. They are out there, and out there eager to explore Something that is calling to them. And here the language of religion asserts itself:

"...So, faith matters deeply to us -- but the reality of open source religion is that we, as Americans, expect to be able to crack open the doors of religion and chart our own individual meaningful journeys through the resources and traditions we find there."
This is cooking without a recipe. This is reinventing the wheel, except the wheel is not round and doesn't work very well. And there are problems that are gong to smack these people upside the head. The biggest problem is Certainty, the claim to which may have driven them from their religious traditions to begin with.
The article is honest enough to admit as much:

"Team members did point out real dangers in throwing open the doors of religious tradition. For instance, more than a few people asked: If our Ultimate Source is open to everyone's interpretation, then how can we trust that the timeless tradition won't change?"
The truth is, many--even most--Christians indulge in open source religion to some extent. It may not extend to heresy, and it may be born simply of ignorance. But how many of us "tinker" with our faith, adding, subtracting, and editing like some theological Thomas Jefferson until we come up with a designer religion of our own? Yet part of the long , satisfying journey for me has been coming to understand and appreciate what Scripture and the Confessions are actually saying. But to do that took a rather severe humbling of attitude and spirit before I had ears to hear.

It is a thrill for me to meet a faithful Lutheran who knows her catechism, Large and Small. It is a delight to have a conversation with someone I share a Faith Tradition with (I smirk just a little. Ok. I smirk a LOT.) about the Divine Service, the Confessions, or even that day's lectionary readings. It is good that it is a thrill, but it shouldn't be a thrill simply because it is so rare.

HT to dpulliam of GetReligion


Unknown said...

We live in an age of Facebook, MyPage, and many other sites. People want to be known. It is not enough to write a letter to a close friend. One could say that this helps people interact more with photos. However, the images are about "me."
When people have been reared in a negative-free environment—at home and especially at school—so as to not destroy one's self-esteem; no wonder young people think life is about them, that they are wise enough to determine whatever religious ideas they like, without respect to what is truth.
Open source religion is also the fruit of post-modernism with its dogma that no absolute truth exists. They have been taught that spiritual truth must self-determinate, so this movement should not surprize anyone. It may work for a while, one's spirituality will only be a hope, not a certainty.

Bruce Gee said...

Of course, all that you say about those on Facebook can also be said of those who "blog".

I am not sure there is anything new about life being about "me". That's always been with us. It is called the flesh. What is new is the technology. Instead of writing an "all about me" letter to a close friend, we do this group letter thing on the internet.

I question whether many of these folks refuse to believe that absolute truth exists. I think they are idealistic enough to believe there is an absolute truth. I think they simply believe that no one has it or has expressed it yet. I think this is where Postmodernist theory misses the point about Postmodernist seekers: they in fact may believe that absolute truth exists out there somewhere; we just don't have the means to access it. Yet. In the meantime, it is everyone for themselves.

Anonymous said...

I do think absolute truth is an ideal to these people, but it's an ideal they are very afraid to realize.
Seeking that kernel is much more satisfying, more romantic, and besides, it takes up lots of time.
Maybe all this open source stuff is just a way ot put off having to know anything, having to accept anything, having to feel a moment's discomfort about oneself. Kind of like young adults today who put off living away from home until they're 'ready'--until they've accumulated all the stuff they'll need.
The open sourcers are just collecting data, meanwhile receiving that all-important affirmation of the self, hoping that, down the road, they'll be ready for that beautiful absolute when it hits them.
Well, it had better be good, and they better not have expended all this seeking-energy for nothing.
So, then, can the real truth ever be good enough?

Anonymous said...

I've cooked without a recipe.

There wasn't much difference between when I cooked with a recipe.

But on a spiritual level, it's not a good idea.


Unknown said...

When I described Open Source to someone, he said it sounded like Christian Scientist practice, of which Paul writes "Always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" (2 Tim 3:7).

Bruce Gee said...

Cheesehead, "Can you not cook, or can you not cook?". To mangle some famous quote.

Bruce Gee said...

Theodore, or pastor, or what have you: Interesting insight. Isn't Enthusiasm defined as someone cooking without a cookbook?

Unknown said...