US Religious Landscape


Chris Dierkes

Chris Dierkes (aka CJ Smith). 29 years old, happily married, adroit purveyor and voracious student of all kinds of information, theories, methods of inquiry, and forms of practice. Studying to be a priest in the Anglican Church in Canada. Main interests: military theory, diplomacy, foreign affairs, medieval history, religion & politics (esp. Islam and Christianity), and political grand bargains of all shapes and sizes.

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15 Responses

  1. Avatar H.C. Johns says:

    I wonder if there’s another dimension to the revival option, which would involve the outright rejection of post-modernity in favor of something radically different, a la the benedict option or some of the Radical Orthodoxy stuff in Britain…. Considering how widespread the interest in something as unpostmodern as Greek Orthodoxy or monastic retreat is among young non-denom christians, this isn’t completely unthinkable, and given the likely state of the world scene for the foreseeable future, the whole idea of turning one’s back might start to sound pretty appealing.Report

  2. Avatar Cascadian says:

    Who’s waiting for a revival? There are more maenads about now than any time in recent history.Report

  3. Avatar greginak says:

    hilariously i was watching the Bill Mahar flick Religulous before i checked this post.Report

  4. Avatar Kyle Cupp says:

    We can also find in postmodernism an emphasis on the values of justice, hospitality, alterity, and forgiveness. These were themes in Derrida’s philosophy, for example. While aspects of postmodernism may lead to secularization or to watered-down spirituality, postmodernism might also lead one to embrace a religiosity characterized by self-sacrifice.Report

  5. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I certainly hope the young adopt a deep religiosity characterized by self-sacrifice. More sacrifice, you ruffians! More! Do you want to go to heaven! AH HA HA HA HA!!!!

    Yeah, if we can pull this off, we’ll totally be in clover.Report

  6. Avatar Jaybird says:

    One of the problems Christianity has always faced (and this ties in with your “discipline” point) is that once you get on the path to “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual”, it gets easier, and easier, and easier to say something to the effect of “I can worship God just as much by sleeping in. More!”

    So the places of worship devoted to the whole “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual” thing tend to die off. The ones that say “If you don’t show up, that’s reason to think that you might be straying from the straight and narrow…” tend to have people who either show up once or show up every week.

    The discipline will, 99 times out of 100, manifest itself as (seemingly) arbitrary rules. If you can’t handle the gnat of “get up and get to the Victory Hall at 10AM on Sunday”, how can we expect folks to swallow the camel of “completely ignore this part, this part, and this part of the holy book we read every week, but take this part, this part, and this part completely literally”?Report

  7. Avatar hedn2068 says:

    Very interesting blog…congrats. Actually, Generation Jones is America’s first post-modern generation. Generation Jones (born 1954-1965, between the Boomers and Generation X) fueled, for example, postmodern irony from the margins to the malls. Google Generation Jones, and you’ll see it’s gotten a lot of media attention, and many top commentators from many top publications and networks (Washington Post, Time magazine, NBC, Newsweek, ABC, etc.) now specifically use this term.

    Here is a relatively recent op-ed in USA TODAY about GenJones as the new generation of leadership:

  8. Avatar Chris Dierkes says:

    great comments all. i’ll respond one by one.

    hc–definitely there is the option of a rejection of postmodernity. But with someone like a MacIntyre or Hauerwas I would say it’s a conservative postmodernism. Not exactly what James Poulos means by the term, but it builds a tradition (lost in modernity), focuses on communal norms (again lost in the one story fits all narrative of modernity) and the like. It has trouble I think arguing why it’s just not another version of do your own thing. Why this tradition and not another one. Gadamer, who is very influential in my thought, while brilliant suffers I think from some of that same problem.

    The point about monasteries (like Taize, Greek Orthodox tradition) could be another variant in desire for spiritual experience. The Catholic Church Youth Revivals they have in Europe draw huge numbers. Huge numbers of which never then go to church the next week either. They want something the institutional side isn’t giving.Report

  9. Avatar Chris Dierkes says:


    Nice use of maenads. Bonus points. I’m thinking more of the fact that when historically as happens in the US one dominant form is dying out, another one grows structurally out of a Revival. Methodism came to dominate the 2nd Awakening because of its well disciplined apparatus. But it eventually was bypassed by Pentecostalism and more free form evangelical churches. The Southern Baptist Convention (the so-called Catholic Church of the South) is under the radar bleeding numbers at (if you’re SBC) an alarming rate. It’s still too modernist connected and is having trouble with the move towards authenticity language, self-expression of faith, and the like more characteristic of the postmodern gen. e.g. See the difference in religious attitudes between McCain (classic old style mainline Protestant, quiet, introverted, my faith is personal) and Obama (more contemporary, talks very openly about his faith and its role in his life).Report

  10. Avatar Chris Dierkes says:


    I’m not advocating more discipline so you can go to heaven. Heaven doesn’t factor much in my theology. As someone once said, “I’ll deal with it, if it exists, when I get there.”

    But to your second comment, that’s right, the question of spirituality becomes essentially meaningless and whatever i do in life I’m just saying it’s spiritual. 99/100 the discipline shows up as arbitrary. True. The 1/100 it doesn’t however is where the real action is at and the only reason I’m bothering doing what I’m doing in life. (Check the mystics for this tradition).Report

  11. Avatar Chris Dierkes says:


    You make a good point with Derrida whose work (mostly via John Caputo) is big in the emerging church circles. But in my experience with them—which granted is something but still pretty limited–it’s still fairly heady. Discussing about talking about this kind of stuff. And while I would never want to say that hospitality, justice, and the overturning (dekonstruct) of our problematic ways is to be degraded, it can be very static. And there are ethical questions: what happens if we allow hospitality to those who hurt? Do we have any norms upon people or is it just “all are welcome” as my church often sings. First off it’s pretty well garbage since all are clearly not welcome at my church. Should all be welcome? Is that even (prior to the Age to Come) possible?

    This is back to the discipline/norming question in a postmodern society. A huge one that I don’t have an answer to yet but think about all the time.Report

  12. Avatar Chris Dierkes says:


    ridiculously i still haven’t even seen the flick. Though I watch his (Maher’s) show, er, religiously.Report

  13. Avatar Chris Dierkes says:


    thanks for the headsup. have to give it a look. I’m thinking more of the Gen-Xers maybe as the first self-consciously pomos? You’re right on the Gen Jones thing with say early Steve Martin comedy as the first postmodern stand up act. But I’m not sure it had a name or saw it self as such then? Maybe it did. Maybe this is just a postmodern semantic debate. thnx.Report

  14. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Allow me to say that I am *NOT* accusing you (as in you personally) of any of the whole “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual” slackness that I described in my post.

    I will say, however, that for every person that I, personally, have met that walks through life in a state of wonder, filled to overflowing with a trembling awareness of the numinous, someone that has experienced that which lead Aquinas himself to say “‘All that I have written seems to me like straw compared to what has now been revealed to me”, I have met 99 folks who can worship god just as much by sleeping in on Sunday (more!) than they can by going to church. People who say “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual” as a sort of “Lord’s Prayer” that they know works very well in the public square, rather than as an understanding of, for example, God as Abba.

    You’ve seen these people as well.Report

  15. Avatar greginak says:

    Mahar’s movie was very funny, caustic and spot on. Of course i am a godless heathen, but still. Its nice that us godless can come out of the closet a bit more freely now, so to speak.Report