Saturday, November 21, 2009

Spiritual but not religious?

People who consider themselves deep have a bad habit of saying, "I'm spiritual, not religious." And their words drip scorn as they say it. But if you ask them to tell you about the details of their spirituality, those details are usually (at the best) the same details shared by religious people. Or (at the worst) a kind of vague panentheistic worship and buffet spirituality -- light empty fare, not heavy deep stuff. 

Am not gonna get mad at those spiritual-but-not-religious people who have a good religious background...except to tell them to quit lying and saying they aren't religious when it's obvious their spirituality was born in religion. Why not admit you're religious? Why not admit that your religion -- which you no longer practice-- created all that is good in your spirituality?

No this is for the folks who think that all religions are fundamentally the same, that the core of all religions are the same: love neighbor, live a good life, etc. And that they have found the right syncretist blend of every truth. First, all religions are not fundamentally the same. They are fundamentally different. Yes, itt's the externals that seem the same, the core of all the religions are totally different.  And only folks who don't understand the depth and details of any religion is going to say they are alike. Allah is not like Yahweh. Submission in Buddhism is nothing at all like submission in Christianity. The notion of self, the idea of being born again are utterly different concepts in Hinduism, Christianity, Bahai. The definition of human in Islam is utterly different from the definition in Christianity.

Truth is in the details and religion deals in details. For instance, the Christian God created man to be loved and to be loved by him. Allah is far above such notions of love. It insults a true Muslim when Christians talk about God being a Father or God being Love. Humans in the Christianity religion are a strange creation that God made because he wanted spirit and flesh to meet -- thus Jesus is the ultimate perfect human because in him spirit and flesh have met. And he is the perfect emanation of God because He is a God humans can touch.

So when spiritual-but-not-religious folks see the Bible I'd like them to refrain from sneering and assuming that we religious people are stupid dogmatic people who just haven't arrived to the level of spirituality that they have. A psalm might seem to spiritual folks as too religious when they see words such as king - which might offend those who dislike the patriarchal god.
Or when they see words such as praise -- which might offend folks who say such things as "I praise myself because I am god."
Or when they see such words such as "wicked"-- folks might be offended because they think "religious" people have stupid old-fashioned ideas about what goodness and evil is.

But please -- if you're so spiritual-- try to believe in us. Try to believe that there is nothing so wrong with being spiritual and religious. We religious people understand the details, that's all. We understand the specifics of a religions. Try-- if you can-- to even be humble when you say that "spiritual but not religious" comment. If you're as spiritual as all that, you could lose the sneer and your great spiritual soul wouldn't feel the urge to make other folks feel small. (Am just saying.)

If you want to say that you're free from all dogma -- because you've evolved past the rituals and doctrines of Christianity-- try not to be so smug about this freedom. Remember that you haven't really studied them. Oh, you may have thought you have...but if you haven't healed the sick or raised the dead or battled with a haven't begun to understand the power of Christian sacrament, dogma, ritual, and doctrine. Simply say: "It was not for me. I didn't understand its riches and its depths. Some part of it offended me. And it is quite possible that what is most spiritually true in Christianity offended me because of my own issues, or because of the tacky behavior of certain so-called Christians. After all, one of your great theologians have said, 'Christianity hasn't been tried and proven wrong. It has be attempted and found difficult.' So that is probably my problem. I stopped because loving my neighbor is difficult, loving judgmental Christians is not something I want to do, giving up something the religion considers a sin is just not in me." That seems more honest to me. Say that -- or something like that-- rather than go about scornfully sneering at religious people.

We understand that all the religions -- even those we don't believe in-- have at least made a committment to a particular view of God and are sticking with some well-tried rules. They aren't wimping out with this vague "spiritual" label. And honestly, many of the folks I know who call themselves "spiritual-but-not-religious" are often so shallow. Why? Because they have not committed to going deep into any particular religion, and because they are walking around judging religious people. How can you be spiritual if you're going around judging religious people as not being spiritual?

Heck, I'm spiritual and religious. My spirit is alive. Jesus brought it to birth after it had died. During the night, during the day, God leads us. We are often saved from heartache and trouble. We have seen demons and angels. We've prayed for sick people and many have gotten better. This is the heritage of those who trust in the Lord. We are more alive than we can even describe...and more than some of the spiritual folks we know.

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