I'm a committed, staunch atheist (and thank God for that). I truly, genuinely do not believe in a god, any god. I would argue that everyone is an atheist, even the most religious, it's just that I take it one god further than they do. Sure they probably don't believe in Poseidon or Athena or whatever, well I don't believe in any of them.
I would describe my relationship with churches as 'fractured', and that's putting it nicely, so when I came across the reading for my Fellowship Course which was a summary of the Purpose Driven Church I was a little bit... WTF!?
But it works, reading the summary made me realise the following things that we atheist (or at least secular) progressives can steal for our own aims. In fact, I genuinely think that the aims of people of faith and secular progressives probably don't differ very much. Either way:
- Churches draw people in by appealing to their values. Secular progressives try and appeal to people's reason and logic. That's not a bad thing, it's quite the noble goal. We are not just brains on legs though, we make decisions big or small based on our feelings. Churches know this, they try to appeal to people's values, whatever they may be. If all we needed to do to create change is show people facts, figures and, charts then it would have worked by now.
- Churches see the person as a unit and celebrate them, and then they bring them in to the fold. Not only that, they give them tasks and turn them in to (pardon the expression) disciples. We do that too, but I think we're always weary of giving people too much to carry, or over working them. Churches don't have that problem, in fact, the opposite is true. They give, give and give but they also provide support along the way.
- The concentric circles of engagement outlined in the Purpose Driven Church are designed to give everyone a task, from the people at the centre who may be staff members to the people at the end who are just the general community. The expectation is that there will be a constant feed in to the centre from the people at the end, so that more people join and so on. That's what I got from it. I think we do that in the secular progressive space, but we can do that better. We're really good at speaking to those that already agree with us though, because it's easier. Churches speak to anyone, and revel in the challenge.
How am I going to apply the lessons from this book to my campaigning work? Well, as great as I think the ideas are I have a feeling that they won't apply as well in real life, that's because it seems really resource intensive. Sure, that's a criticism that isn't insurmountable but for a small NFP like some of the ones I've worked for, that's a huge undertaking.
I do like the idea of giving people something to do by giving them more to lift, by appealing to their values and making my progress, their progress. Making progress collective. That's what i've got from this book, that we are in this together, we need to act that way.