The New Copernicans are modern explorers. Many are Millennials, but other generations are part of this journey as well. They don’t view life in traditional binaries of sacred vs secular or left vs right. They don’t place all their life experiences into clean categories or systems. Instead, they embrace a life lived off the edge of the map.
This blog is about how this social imaginary came to be, and what it means for human society. It is designed for spiritually-oriented millennials who are explorers of a new way of experiencing relationships and reality. It comments on a wide variety of spiritual pilgrimages particularly those that travel through the onramps of social justice, relational love, aesthetic beauty, and spiritual seeking.
I assume that the New Copernican ethos, the perspective that is carried by most millennials, is both different and better than that the status quo. This blog will celebrate this perspective and curate ongoing conversations about it. This site is designed to be a safe place for the spiritually frustrated and homeless to express their confusion and anger as well as their hopes and dreams. The goal here is to provide readers with language that empowers and encouragement that motivates millennials to succeed and assume leadership. The world is waiting for New Copernican leadership.
I am an old guy that lived long enough to become aware of two things: I don’t know much, and my millennial kids are pretty wise. This blog is simply the fruit of listening. First, I’m ticked off by how the millennial generation is so widely misunderstood and put down by the press and people my age. And second, I’m amazed at millennials’ intuitive insights about the nature of relationships and reality. I know you’re not all alike and have divergent experiences and perspectives. But generally I’ve come to the conclusion that your way of thinking and living is different and better. You represent the first generation to be post-Enlightenment and post-secular in their perspective. This is an important corrective to the Boomer generation.
I grew up in Korea, which is where I became interested in culture. I’m what they call a “third-culture-kid”—and I have all the idiosyncrasies that go with the TCK label. Professionally, I’m a cultural sociologist working outside of the academy, though my graduate work was in a field called American Studies. I’ve had lots of trauma in my life relationally, financially, and physically. As a consequence, I metaphorically walk with a limp. A lot of the crap has already been knocked out of me. Spiritually, I’m an apprentice of Jesus seeking to learn from him how to love like him. It doesn’t come easily.
About three years ago, I came to Philadelphia from Boston to work for an organization founded by Sir John Templeton. He was an eccentric billionaire who thought that wisdom and human flourishing came at the intersection of spirituality and science. In exploring these themes in neuroscience, I became aware that millennials were like Sir John, explorers of a new way of thinking and living. From this emerged the New Copernican thesis.
The New Copernican mindset is a rejection of the Enlightenment and its habit of seeing reality through abstract binary categories: sacred vs. secular or left vs. right. New Copernicans assume the priority of experience over abstractions, and consequently do not place their life experiences into clean categories or neat systems. Moreover, they reject the confident atheistic notion of a “world without windows” in favor of openness to multiple possibilities of transcendence. The cultural sources of this perspective are the rejection of modernity, the experience of hyper-pluralism, and the ubiquitous presence and unquestioned acceptance of Internet-based social media.
There are four dominant social imaginaries in society today: closed transcendent, closed immanent, open immanent, and open transcendent. It is the conclusion of the New Copernican thesis that the closed transcendent and close immanent perspectives are passé. This is not where it’s happening. The interesting conversations are not between traditional evangelicals and new atheists, but between neo-pagans millennials and those representing an open transcendent perspective like Richard Rohr, C.S. Lewis, and the Dalai Lama. Binary culture war thinking totally misses the point. The fundamental shift in perspective is between a closed and open mindset or between settlers and explorers. It is both a change in perspective (open) and a change in tone (humble).
Mainly this chapter in my life is a way for me to stay connected to my three millennial children: Annie, David, and Alex. It is also a way to celebrate their insights and honor their pilgrimages. I’m not hip or young. In fact, I’m the last person who you should take seriously when talking about your generation. Nonetheless, I am an ally and keen on learning from you. If this blog can help give you a voice and greater confidence in the midst of the cultural put-downs, then it will have been successful.
I look forward to sharing this journey with you.