The Lives of Spiritually Fluid People
An exploration into the lives of people who embrace two or more religious traditions, and what this growing community tells us about change in our society
Named a best book of 2018 by Library Journal
In the United States, we often assume religious and spiritual identity are pure, static, and singular. But some people regularly cross religious boundaries. These “spiritually fluid” people celebrate complex religious bonds, and in the process they blur social categories, evoke prejudice, and complicate religious communities. Their presence sparks questions: How and why do people become spiritually fluid? Are they just confused or unable to commit? How do we make sense of them?
When One Religion Isn’t Enough explores the lives of spiritually fluid people, revealing that while some chose multiple religious belonging, many more inherit it. For many North Americans, the complicated legacies of colonialism are part of their family story, and they may consider themselves both Christian and Hindu, or Buddhist, or Yoruban, or one of the many other religions native to colonized lands.
For some Asian Americans, singular religious identity may seem an alien concept, as many East Asian nations freely mix Buddhist, Confucian, Taoist, and other traditions. Some African American Christians are consciously seeking to reconnect with ancestral spiritualities. And still other people are born into religiously mixed families. Jewish-Christian intermarriage led the way in the US, but religious diversity here is only increasing: almost four in ten Americans (39 percent) who have married since 2010 have a spouse who is in a different religious group.
Through in-depth conversations with spiritually fluid people, renowned scholar Duane Bidwell explores how people come to claim and be claimed by multiple religious traditions, how spiritually fluid people engage radically opposed truth claims, and what this growing population tells us about change within our communities.
““Will appeal to spiritual readers seeking an understanding and affirmation of the growing multireligious movement. Strongly recommended for libraries of all types.” —Library Journal, Starred Review “The book operates with great sensitivity and awareness, addressing the difference between spiritual fluidity and spiritual bypassing or cultural appropriation . . . inspiring reading for anyone interested in enlivened spirituality or seeking permission to embrace their complexities.” —Foreword Reviews “This groundbreaking book is essential for anyone who wants to understand the contemporary religious landscape. Duane Bidwell’s work will now become a touchstone for academics, clergy, therapists, journalists, and all of us who participate in more than one religion. Bidwell offers up richly detailed personal stories told with great sensitivity. In telling these stories, this book documents spiritual fluidity as transgressive yet also life-giving, and as important and surprisingly common rather than marginal and exceptional.” —Susan Katz Miller, author of Being Both “Amid the growing academic, and often dissonant, conversations about multiple religious belonging, Duane Bidwell offers a fresh and clarifying voice. He invites ‘spiritually fluid people’ to speak for themselves. His analysis follows, and is subordinate to, a careful listening to them—and it results in new insights into what multiple belonging feels like, how it happens, and the difference it can make in one’s life. Highly recommended for both academics and seekers.” —Paul F. Knitter, author of Without Buddha I Could Not Be a Christian “For all those who deeply long for an abundant life, and who know such thirst cannot be quenched by the constraints of religious monogamy, this book is a must-read. When One Religion Isn’t Enough speaks not only to those who deeply consider the sociopolitical ramifications of religious openness but to those who feel that being religiously faithful and spiritually deep can mean being open to more than just one religion.” —Isabelle Noth, professor for spiritual care, psychology of religion, and religious education, University of Bern, Switzerland “In this sharply insightful and refreshingly readable work, Bidwell takes us on an absorbing journey into the rapidly expanding world of religious fluidity. Simultaneously, he provides support and guidance to those embarked on this journey, while illuminating the rich potentials. In these times of increasingly fluid identities, the implications are legion.” —Kenneth J. Gergen, author of Relational Being: Beyond Self and Community “Bidwell, who is himself Buddhist-Christian, weaves tenderly crafted narratives and exercises the disciplines of silence and attention, practices that both traditions recognize as holy, in order to listen carefully to those who live with multiple religious belonging. The result: you cannot dismiss what elicits respect and even reverence. He shows that spiritually fluid lives may not have the intellectual consistency required by certain elite theologians fixated on doctrinal consistency, but these are nonetheless deeply considered lives marked by profound faithfulness and integrity. This learned book is the product of decades of intimate living with and listening to the religiously multiple; no one interested in the subject can afford to ignore it.” —John Thatamanil, author of The Immanent Divine: God, Creation, and the Human Predicament “Exploring religious multiplicity through the prism of experience, Duane Bidwell breaks fresh ground in this landmark work. Deeply attentive to the interstitial spaces in which religious multiplicity is shaped, the rarity of this book lies in the intricate, intim”