The Reformation was one of my favorite periods to study when I was an undergraduate. Coming from a staunchly Protestant background (first Lutheran, then Methodist, and finally Episcopalian), guys like Luther and Zwingli and Calvin were heroes. If there had been trading cards for these guys (like these Torah Personalities cards), I would have had a shoebox full. It was the whole cultural upheaval thing that got me. The world was changing and everyone was caught up in it. If I had been around at that time, I could only imagine myself as being on the side of “Veritasiness,” as Stephen Colbert might say. No way I would have been fooled by all that Roman Catholic rigmarole. The truth was pretty plain to see, some 400 years or so after the fact.
But then on further reflection, I realized that I probably would have had a pretty low tolerance for being burned at the stake or boiled in oil. So I was just as glad to be on the tail end of the Reformation thing. Plenty of nice, cozy churches to visit if I wanted to. Lots of books to read about the history of religion and spirituality and what have you. And no one harassing me to believe this or that or the other thing. So after a few years of staying away from churches all together, I took a leisurely stroll over to the Unitarian Universalists, and I’ve been here ever since.
There’s something about all that excitement, though, that I miss. I mean, how often to people get defenestrated these days? The good news is that I’m starting to feel some of that excitement again, and I think it’s because we are, indeed, at the beginning of a new Reformation, a Digital Reformation. What does that mean? Here are a couple of quotes from Elizabeth Drescher, author of Tweet If You ♥ Jesus that might give you some idea of what we’re talking about:
What is the Digital Reformation? A revitalization of the Church driven by the often ad hoc spiritualities of ordinary believers as they integrate practices of access, connection, participation, creativity, and collaboration, encouraged by the widespread use of new digital social media into all aspects of daily life, including the life of faith.
And what will it take to be a Luther or a Zwingli or a Calvin this time around?
Being known as a leader in the Digital Reformation…does not so much depend on whether or not you wear a collar, what color your shirt might be, or what your title is, as much as it does on your ability to effectively participate in or establish wider conversational spaces where others are encouraged to share their own perspectives.
There may be little risk of getting burned at the stake during this Reformation, but there are dangers for our liberal religious tradition. I’m thinking obscurity. Maybe even oblivion.