Ritual and Modernity

Irwin Kula meditates on the changing nature of rituals:

We are living in a moment of profound transition in the way many Americans understand and use religious ritual and practice. Not surprisingly, as with any transition in life whether personal, familial, or social, there are fault lines, divisions and serious misunderstandings that arise between people. Stated very simply; for millions of Americans religious rituals and spiritual practices no longer function as they have for millennia. They are no longer sources of identity or behaviors necessarily connected to a particular tribal or creedal identity nor acts embedded in a coherent or larger theological framework.

For people like Sally Quinn, religious rituals and practices are, with the best of intention, resources that can be used to create personal meaning and connection independent of their metaphysical contexts and belief structures. They are personal tools of meaning that one can choose to use as one feels appropriate to deepen one’s own self awareness and one’s own capacity for compassion and empathy. Obviously, from a traditional perspective this transformation of ritual and practice into a personal resource disconnected from any specific religious authority and any particular historic community is offensive and threatening.