I sometimes refer to myself as an expostmodern priest. Many of you asked what that means.
Here is the answer: How to Be ExPoMod
I wrote this thanks to Colin Wright as a feature post for Most Interesting People in the Room and it’s spreading like wildfire on Twitter. More and more people are talking about ExPoMod because it sums up the changes that are happening across our lives right now. Popular attitudes, technology, business trends, the way artists work, even the narrative that resonates most with people in literature (or ad copy) are all changing.
The core of expostmodernism is a culture shift in a direction that is pro-individual. As travel and communication become easier, people don’t have to feel alienated from their work or the people around them. Technology helps people connect with similar thinkers anywhere in the world, instead of feeling like an outcast in their own community.
Postmodern cynicism is giving way, and a lot of factors are making the world a slightly more optimistic place: the uptake in creativity-focused industries, growth of niche markets, ease of travel and communication, and access to high quality information without formal institutions of higher education.
In some ways this shift in culture is a drastic one. A lot of older institutions are having a really tough time adjusting, and some are not going to make it to see the year 2100.
So What About Religion?
One of the points I make in Announcing ExPoMod is this: by understanding expostmodernism we can predict what strategies and ideas will be successful in the next 50 years.
Based on the trend of ExPoMod, strategies that will see the most success include:
- Less required use of physical spaces (use technology to get people out of offices and let them work from anywhere, people in different cities collaborating, etc.)
- Emphasis on individuals managing and marketing their own work (consultants, independent artists, self-employment, etc.)
- Collaborative arrangements where all parties have input, instead of top-down structures
- Anything that helps people to depart from old “modern” structures without endangering their finances or security.
If we take these four basic strategies and apply them to religion, we see something like this:
- Sermons or other routine scheduled meetings will not be effective. Less people will want to commit to a physical meeting on a regular basis. Religious activities will need to be available through other media. Religions that make their services inclusive of digital participation will see a surge of new recruits while those who don’t will lose ground.
- Members will expect more face time with the priest/pastor and expect personal contact. Clergy will be on social media and make themselves available for personal discussion (in person or by Skype). Those who don’t will fail.
- The presentation of multiple voices and viewpoints will be valued. Clergy will be more successful if they ensure access to other teachers and leaders in their tradition (or even from other religions). This can be done with guest blog posts and podcasts rather than with in-person visits.
- Narratives that focus on self-empowerment, personal transformation, and experimentation will inspire people and speak directly to their concerns. Support structures for members who move or travel (maintaining an ongoing relationship with them while they are away) will become a valuable cornerstone of any effective religious organization.
One of the great things about expostmodernism is that, unlike postmodernism, it is not inherently cynical. It hasn’t forgotten that truth is relative and that authority figures are often hypocritical, but that’s beside the point. The individual is capable of acting on their own and forming collectives with like-minded people around the world. Thus, there is no need to rely on so many authority figures or a universal definition of truth, and their value is irrelevant.
This pro-individual spirit, in a world where individualists no longer have to fight against society as lone outcasts, means a new optimism for spiritual growth. People are open to religious ideas and practices. However, they have to adapt to a new form:
Religion has to consist of a personal journey in order to speak to the 21st century.
(You can bet that Walk Like a God will do this in spades.)
Some religions are already geared to encourage a “personal journey” spirituality. Buddhism can expect to continue to grow, and Orthodox Christianity will hold its own. Neopaganism will stumble unless it can more consistently offer support structures and guidance for this kind of “personal journey” approach.
Religions that are highly ritualistic, such as Catholicism, will continue to decline. In fact, any tradition that focuses around a single static practice (Pentecostal Christianity, for example) will decline. Likewise, religions that hold together because of strong community-centric structure will shrink unless they can find a way to empower individuals (and are willing to do so).
These are a few of my predictions for the next 50 years of religion. They’re based on the values of expostmodernism which are becoming dominant. People have new options and unlimited access to other ideas, groups, and practices. They don’t need church to give them ideas anymore. Churches and temples that offer an experience that speaks to the individual will thrive. Personal transformation is the new Jesus.
If this post made you think, please tweet or Facebook share it. I like it when you do that. Thank you.