We have all heard someone claim that they are "spiritual but not religious." I cry inside every time I hear it. At Faithful Democrats, one blogger, Wilson Thomas Payne - interestingly, an Obama Field Organizer - believes this Spiritualism is "detrimental to the future of Christianity." Rebelling against "societal thinking," Spiritualists resist the stigmatism and dogmatism of both organized religion and political ideology. Because of these characteristics, the younger generations are moving away from Christianity and towards spiritualism. Payne concludes that Christianity, in order to sustain and re-grow its membership, must move away from rigid dogmatism and take ownership of scriptural ambivalence, where scripture can be/has been used to argue both sides of a moral issue.
Payne might be on to something here, even though his presentation is both alarmist and anecdotal (show me some stats, please). I, however, don't want to belabor that point. I think that his point about ambivalence is spot on (i.e., the biblical justification for and against slavery), but his point about rigid truth claims provides a soapbox that I cannot pass up.
Deep breath. Begin rant.
Every religion (and non-religion) has truth claims, without which religion (and non-religion) could not provide a coherent existential worldview (a necessity for individual and communal identity formation and a necessity to function, behave, and relate within the world). Whether Christianity, Islam, athiesm, or secular humanism - to name just a few - these worldviews have an organized epistemological framework in which to interpret reality. Truth claims are foundational in this framework; truth claims are necessary and good.
The problem comes when these truth claims are absolutized and held with non-negotiable certainty. Truth then divides the world into right and wrong, and logically, good and evil; those who disagree with the truth claim are wrong, and depending their tenacity, evil. Rigid truth claims transcend the realm of human discussion and argumentation, a retreating and entrenchment from dialogue. This creates a high potential to marginalize dissenters and outsiders. The trampling of human diginity (my definition of violence), on one level or another, is inevitable. Said again, rigid truth claims then increase the likelihood that a religion (or non-religion) will become violent.
Assume for the sake of argument that you could hold Truth in your hand. You have to be very careful, it is fragile. The harder and harder you try to grasp at truth, the more broken and incomprehensible it becomes. As such, you lose Truth when you clinch your fist at an unbeliever. (h/t Tripp Fuller)
So not only does Christianity increase the likelihood of violence when it adheres to rigid truth claims, but it possibly loses membership to the growing "Spiritual but not religious" phenomenon. Sounds lose-lose to me.