Tuesday, March 30, 2010

emerging from? emerging to? nature religions

A few weeks ago I attended the commissioning of chaplains at Flinders University. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to get out of my office, to support a friend and to hear the Vice chancellor speaking on the place of chaplaincy in the university strategic plan.

Oasis includes chaplains for a range of groups including Uniting, Lutheran, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist and Pagan.

Seeing the pagan chaplain being welcomed, made me think of the Australian census results and the fact that between 1996 and 2001, people associated with nature religions (for example Wicca and paganism) grew 140%. While numerically that figure totalled fewer than 25,000 people, that still pretty good growth by anyone’s standards!

Phil Hughes makes the following comment on the data:

“Many of the people who have moved into the nature religions are people who wish to protest against what they have seen as the restrictiveness of Christianity.” (Philip J Hughes, “Religious Trends in Australia,” in Reimagining God and Mission: Perspectives from Australia, 28)


One of the criticisms made of the emerging church is that they are a protest movement, a reaction to something. Hughes essentially places nature religions in the same category – a protest against a patriarchal, nature hating expression of faith.

Really? Is Hughes right? Is that what others are finding in their dialogue with, or experience among, those converting to nature religions?

Posted by steve at 03:13 PM


  1. I think these religions are anti-Christian to start with. But people, who get into them don’t do it out of any kind of protest, rather they have not got much of an idea about anything and in their search for something spiritual come across some book or people that seem to have answers.

    Comment by Ingrid — March 30, 2010 @ 6:04 pm

  2. Ingrid, I wasn’t actually asking for a judgement on which box people want to place things in.

    I was simply asking what people where hearing as they listened to these people’s stories. Real people, real stories,


    Comment by steve — March 30, 2010 @ 8:03 pm

  3. Our local Steiner School is one community of spiritually curious people who are disenchanted with churches and their failure to engage in a more holistic expression of faith, for example around the preparation, serving and appreciation of food, and around the birth of children. A surprisingly high percentage of people in the community have a churched background so they are not judging from a distance.

    Comment by kerry — March 31, 2010 @ 9:05 am

  4. I’m not judging from a distance. In fact I once was a student with Dr. Hauschka herself.

    Comment by Ingrid — March 31, 2010 @ 1:45 pm

  5. Also I’m probably talking more about what things are like in Europe, rather than an island like NZ, where churches had a more intense role than the Protestant and Catholic church in Europe.

    Comment by Ingrid — March 31, 2010 @ 1:57 pm

  6. Steve, I understood your question to be: DO PEOPLE CONVERT TO NATURE RELIGIONS OUT OF PROTEST………I for one, once having been seriously interested in Anthroposophy in Europe did not have protest in mind.

    Comment by Ingrid — March 31, 2010 @ 2:07 pm

  7. appreciate the clarification, and the drawing from your own story, Ingrid. that’s really helpful,


    Comment by steve — March 31, 2010 @ 2:57 pm

  8. Philip is making that up I reckon. I’ll try to ask him when I’m in Melbourne.

    Comment by craig mitchell — April 1, 2010 @ 12:00 am

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