Friday, September 2, 2011

"I'm not religious, I'm spiritual."

This week, a UCC pastor made a splash in the blogosphere with her article, "Spiritual But Not Religious? Please Stop Boring Me." She discusses how she dreads telling her seatmates on airplanes that she's a pastor. She writes,
On airplanes, I dread the conversation with the person who finds out I am a minister and wants to use the flight time to explain to me that he is "spiritual but not religious." Such a person will always share this as if it is some kind of daring insight, unique to him, bold in its rebellion against the religious status quo. Next thing you know, he's telling me that he finds God in the sunsets...

Like people who go to church don't see God in the sunset! Like we are these monastic little hermits who never leave the church building. How lucky we are to have these geniuses inform us that God is in nature. As if we don’t hear that in the psalms, the creation stories and throughout our deep tradition.

Being privately spiritual but not religious just doesn't interest me. There is nothing challenging about having deep thoughts all by oneself. What is interesting is doing this work in community, where other people might call you on stuff, or heaven forbid, disagree with you. Where life with God gets rich and provocative is when you dig deeply into a tradition that you did not invent all for yourself. 
In many ways, I have had the same attitude as Rev. Daniel. As Christians, we are part of a spirituality that happens in community. We don't just go off by ourselves and be spiritual alone. We come together and learn and challenge each other. I have always been annoyed with my family members who refuse to talk about their spiritual lives because they aren't challenged, and as a result, don't grow spiritually. People who don't grow can become boring because they're so predictable.

Well, my friend posted this blog entry on Facebook, and I ended up getting into a long conversation with one of her friends who called out Rev. Daniels. She is spiritual but not religious, and she found the attitude of the post to be condescending. She pointed out that people who are spiritual but not religious struggle too. Maybe I just haven't met anyone who isn't religious and who still grows spiritually- perhaps my experiences have been limited. While Rev. Daniel's blog post was something that didn't challenge me, my interaction with a friend of a friend on Facebook did. Perhaps I can be challenged and encouraged to grow, even by someone who is not religious. Perhaps I can learn from everyone in my life. 

Have you ever learned something unexpected from someone who didn't initially take seriously? How has your attitude toward that person changed?

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