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The New Copernicans: Millennials and the Survival of the Church Paperback – January 16, 2018
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About the Author
John Seel is a cultural renewal entrepreneur and social impact consultant. He was the former director of cultural engagement at the John Templeton Foundation and is the founder of John Seel Consulting LLC, specializing on millennial research. He has a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Maryland, an M.Div. from Covenant Theological Seminary, and a B.A. from Austin College.
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I’m not prone to be a rebel when it comes to faith. My whole life I’ve found a sense of security in being told what is true by leaders in the church whom I love and admire. But a few years ago I experienced a life event that changed me from a secure-in-my-faith evangelical to a haunted wanderer.
Feelings that felt foreign and scary overwhelmed me, including: Christianity isn’t working out for me. Praying doesn’t seem to help. The Bible doesn’t make sense to me and I’m not motivated to spend the rest of my life trying to decode it. Why are we putting so much trust in what a bunch of old guys are saying about what a bunch of even older guys say about the Bible? How did people have “quiet times” before widespread literacy and the printing press. Should I try reading the mystics? Maybe I’m Catholic. Maybe I’m a Jesuit. Or maybe there’s no God at all.
I stopped going to church regularly, stopped reading my Bible, and stopped praying as I had been taught to do. The hardest part was fending off the guilt that came with giving myself permission to stop doing these things. But the other option was to keep slugging through an inauthentic faith.
I didn’t know anyone with whom I could be honest about what I was experiencing. I’ve wandered through these years finding glimmers of help through people, philosophies and practices including Krista Tippett, Science Mike, Richard Rohr, the Enneagram, Spiral Dynamics, family, filmmaking, storytelling, neuroscience, meditation and entrepreneurship.
And now, Dr. Seel.
Rarely has a non-fiction booked gripped me in the page-turning way this one did. I brought this and Thomas Merton’s “New Seeds of Contemplation” on vacation last week. I began The New Copernicans first. I couldn’t put it down. Each page peeled away a layer of suffocating guilt, doubt and isolation. Feelings that, until now, I’ve been too afraid to talk about because I thought I was crazy.
Don’t let the subtitle of the book throw you off. It’s not just a thesis on understanding millennials. I’m a Gen X-er, but this New Copernicans mindset resonates with me deeply. With this book, Dr. Seel has reframed the long standing hopeless perspective of my faith. He has shifted my mindset from one of a wanderer, to an explorer. He has helped me see that it’s not just me, there’s a cultural shift happening.
(If you’re familiar with Spiral Dynamics, this book paints the picture of a transition of colors happening right in front of us.)
These are a few of the things Dr. Seel points out that explain my “condition.”
“There are some experiences that defy explanation and formula, where silence and wonder are a better response.”
“Since the Enlightenment, the West has distorted the way the brain is supposed to work and thereby adopted a distorted view of reality. This distortion is intrinsic to much of evangelical thinking.”
“Consider the way in which we have been taught to study the Scriptures: observation, interpretation, and application…This is a thoroughly modernist approach to Bible Study. The evangelical church has adopted an “intellectualist model of education,” as evidenced by the evangelical church’s preoccupation with the worldview approach to apologetics and discipleship…The best of neuroscience would tell us that we’ve gotten it just backwards. We learn best from experience that captures our imagination and which we subsequently reflect upon analytically.”
“Those who find themselves in the closed transcendent scale…are in the “telling business” because they are right and others are wrong…Their truth is an either/or category. Reality is a binary universal filled with right and wrong. Faith is primarily a cognitive category…This a view totally reinforced by left-hemisphere Enlightenment thinking.”
“There is something terribly wrong with our churches when we cannot be safe places for unsafe questions…We must be able to give voice to our doubts even as we walk in faith.”
“We are lovers and desirers before we are thinkers and analyzers.”
If you feel spiritually homeless, like a wanderer, read this book. It will leave you with hope and desire to continue exploring. And to invite others along with you on the pilgrimage.
Seel identifies a range of elements driving social change that anyone under age 40 understands intuitively, and gives a chart for navigating them. My pen is running out of ink from all the underlining...