Are you Religious or Spiritual?

I have been spending the past couple of days in San Diego at the General Minister and President's National Pastor's Conference of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  My friend, Diana Butler Bass, has been the speaker.  On Wednesday morning she laid out the context for the way in which we do ministry in this day and age.  In the afternoon she dealt with perceptions of the church, or religion, and spirituality.  All the polls tell us that there is a growing number of people out there who are uncomfortable with traditional religion.  Many of them describe themselves as spiritual but not religious (apparently about 25% of the population -- and more so among those under 35 and living west of the Rockies!). 

So, as we who are in the "religious profession" must take stock of these trends.  We must ask ourselves about context and perception.  Although a majority (55% in a Newsweek/WP poll) said they were both spiritual and religious, suggesting that for many there are possibilities for renewal in what is loosely defined as "spiritual," the question then is:  What do these terms mean?  If you did word association, what words would you use for each?  Then ask yourself where you stand in the mix.  And finally, as you look at these words, do you see one side of the equation as positive and the other being negative?

And just to get the process going I want to share a YouTube video that Diana shared with us,  It's from a British comedy team called Mitchell and Webb.  It's called the Rude Vicar.  Hopefully, that's not how most of us clergy come off, but the perceptions of the church and religious leaders are rather negative -- and it's not just the media's fault! 


Brian said…
Most of my friends would label themselves "spiritual, not religous". I'm glad this dialogue is taking place.

It hurts when I hear people making the choice to ridicule my friends' position. It is easy to say it is "me-centered" or "there's no cross, no sacrifice". With glee I poo poo such silliness and stand up for my friends. (That was a fun sentence to write.)

I hope that the spirit of the dialogue is such that the Church should seek to understand my friends. Hopefully we will seek to understand them for the sake of loving them better. My fear is that we will seek to understand them for the sake of marketing to them.

(I really appreciate you guys including those of us who are there in Spirit in the conversations!)
David said…
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Anonymous said…
i am both spiritual and religious. spiritual in the sense that i see God in and through all (or at least attempt to) and religious in the sense that i know that there are insights already out there from many others in the faith who may help me find the words to articulate. gotta have both in balance. covenant and autonomy are incredibly important in these matters.

to just be "spiritual" means you can fly off and create your own "cut-and-paste" style of belief that serves only self and doesn't challenge anything one does. to be just "religious" tends to let others do your thinking for you and causes spiritual atrophy. at least, that's what i make of it.
Anonymous said…
i should have read Brian's post before i wrote mine. "It hurts when I hear people making the choice to ridicule my friends' position. It is easy to say it is "me-centered" or "there's no cross, no sacrifice"."

yeah, there's always judgement with those who find their own insights which counter so much of conventional thought. i do enjoy insights from these types, but often they are unaware of those who came before them who made the same insight. like my buddy who was so happy she used physics to get a new understanding of the afterlife. namely that at the speed of light time stops, and there is no past,present, and future, and that when we die, we possible enter the kingdom of God at the exact same "time." i marveled at her brilliance and then read St. Augustine make the same statement that the realm of God is eternal, outside of time, and thus would mean the same thing.

there's things in religion which steers our conversations to places and topics we would naturally avoid. considerations we'd rather no consider. but to buy into the teachings of "the church" or "the tradition" (however we define that)without thinking and challenging is equally, maybe even moreso, spiritually dangerous.
David said…
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