Confronted by the rising number of unchurched people with vague or no religious ties, pastor-authors often call out to them, “Come home!” Not Donna Schaper. At 74, she has logged decades of pastoring and written 38 books. And her upcoming title, Marriage After Religion: A Practical and Spiritual Guide (Rowman & Littlefield, Jan. 2023), offers no defense for denominational religion. Instead, she writes, “Tribal religion is in hospice. It is on its way out. Fewer and fewer people will observe traditional religious practices or want to marry inside their tribe. The trend is clear.” Also clear: Schaper still sees a hunger for the divine in choose-your-own-adventure spirituality.

Jonathan Sisk, v-p and senior executive acquisitions editor for Rowman & Littlefield, says Schaper is distinctive: “Rather than seeing marriage outside one’s tribe as a threat to institutions, Donna rolls up her sleeves and helps readers sort through all of the challenges of relationships in a postreligious world.”

Schaper—who is affiliated with both the American Baptist Church and United Church of Christ, is married to a Jewish man, and leads a Congregational church—offers insight on the rise of spirituality and the advent of “postsecularism.”

Why write a book on marriage now?

Since I have done more than 500 weddings, most for people marrying outside their tribe, including people who say they are “nones,” I thought I should write about how I do premarital counseling and what is at stake.

You write about “lighting each other’s candles”—being open to each other’s spiritual practices. Why do you think that God approves of couples who don’t share the same beliefs?

I think the Creator intends for us to be all mixed up, but not in a vanilla way. God wants us to get over ourselves. This mixing is a whole new revelation of the divine. Instead of seeing only the God of your origin, God is saying, “See something new.”

You use the term postsecularism. What does this mean?

It means that even people who are nones are not only over religion; they also are over secularism, which is seen as the default position. People don’t want just to be secular. They want a higher power. They want transcendence. They want to be a part of something larger. It is too easy to become captive to the culture’s individualism when you are secular. But if I don’t trust in God, then I feel like it—life—is all up to me, and I’m terribly alone and afraid.

Couples often tell you not to mention God at their wedding. You do anyway. Why?

I bring the divine into my conversations with couples. I just don’t use parochial or creedal terms. I talk about energy or force or spirit, something larger than we are that guides the values that you share: how you educate your children; how you spend your money and time; how you stay together through conflict. God is going to sneak up on you.

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