If the term “casual spirituality” makes you pause, odds are good you are either appalled or intrigued. Appalled because spirituality is a sacred subject that requires devotion and dedication and commitment; intrigued because, in today’s culture, spirituality has a lot of different meanings and you are, at the very least, curious.
Casual spirituality goes beyond wearing jeans to church (or even in the pulpit), or offering a coffee stand in the foyer. It’s not really about being “casual” at all. Casual spirituality, according to the evidence we are seeing, is about trying to get at the core of spirituality rather than accepting the trappings that seem to go with it. In other words, those who are practicing casual spirituality are really taking their faith seriously.
Think about it in terms of how we now look at a brand. Younger generations are at the forefront of those taking a more casual approach to religion and spirituality, treating them the same way they treat brands—if they don’t like what they see, they leave for something else. As our Q4-2018 Report spells out, “Millennials, specifically, are leaving behind organized religion as ‘traditional’ religious values clash with modern cultural values.”
Here’s some of the evidence we see:
- The Catholic church has created a mobile augmented reality game similar to Pokémon Go—except, instead of pocket monsters, you discover Catholic Saints who give you fun facts about Catholicism and their lives.
- The fastest growing religion in the U.S. is “none.” One in four Americans now declare themselves unaffiliated with any kind of organized religion; the main reason seems to be the disconnect between what they consider religion to be personally, and the reputation organized religion has come to garner in popular culture.
- In many places across the U.S., based on declining attendance, empty church buildings are being repurposed into restaurants, eSports complexes, homeless shelters and other various community needs as people decide what to do with the former places of worship.
- Shows such as The Good Place, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and Preacher are casting religion in a more casual light, often for comedic effect. These shows have succeeded in breaking into pop culture, and are making it easier for younger generations to relate to and discuss topics (outside of the boundaries of denominational doctrine) that previous generations thought of as mildly “taboo”—like the afterlife, alternative religions, death, and morality.
While this casual approach to spirituality is condemned by some as going too far the “other direction,” it is most likely a response to the Millennial generation’s more casual response to, well, everything.