Wednesday, November 13, 2013
In Habits of the Heart, written almost thirty years ago, sociologist Robert Bellah and his co-authors came up with a term to describe a new American religion: “Sheilaism.” The phrase comes from an interview Bellah conducted with a woman called Sheila, who described her religion as follows:
I believe in God. I am not a fanatic. I can’t remember the last time I went to church. My faith has carried me a long way. It’s Sheilaism. Just my own little voice. . . . My own Sheilaism . . . is just to try to love yourself and be gentle with yourself. You know, I guess, take care of each other.
You don’t have to be a sociologist to appreciate how well Sheila’s comments reflect the mindset of millions of Americans. You can dismiss that mindset as empty and self-indulgent, but in the land of postmodern individualism, Sheilaism has powerful rhetorical appeal. It is preached relentlessly in advertising, books, movies, music, TV programs, even presidential politics (“We are the ones we’ve been waiting for”). It is the effective religion of the “Nones”—the rapidly increasing cohort of Americans who claim no formal religious affiliation—and, one imagines, many churched people as well.Here's what I wonder. In a church where we are constantly shifting to try and reach the world out there, where instead of elevating we try to come down to, are we not enabling the Sheilas of the world? AT some point is it not necessary tot tell people they are wrong? At some point is it not necessary to tell people what is right.
At some point should we not lead instead of follow?