I have recently found the growth in the number of people who say that they are spiritual and not religious quite fascinating. Many of the people that I know that define them selves as such are quite fascinating. I had dinner with some folks who would identify themselves as such and they were each very creative, compassionate and profound people who were taking their beliefs and practices seriously as they made real differences in people’s lives. These were not flakes but profound people.
So we should be taking their critiques and description of religion seriously. Someone else gave me a list of how some 20-30 somethings described religion: tradition bound, blindly dogmatic, irrelevant, hierarchal and authoritarian, out of touch, institutional, judgmental and hypocritical and my favorite dead or dying. Spirituality on the other hand was defined as being of the heart, experiential, mystical, thoughtful, personal, engaged, progressive, inclusive, transformative. I must say with descriptions like that, and the reality that this description of religion in many way fits with my own experience of the larger church, tempts me to start calling my self spiritual and not religious.
The realty though is that I am spiritual and religious. For religion is not all of those things listed, rather religion comes from a word which means to bind the whole together. Religion is the big picture, and the big questions which give meaning to life and shapes our life. Spirituality (the very term itself is rooted in the Christian tradition) is about how God moves in our life, lives though us and shapes us. The reality is that we have a tradition that that contains 4000+ years of accumulated wisdom. It is a tradition that at its heart is a God who comes down to us, moves in our midst, and transforms us so that we become the image of Christ and are invited to participate in the very life and Love of the Trinity itself.
Our challenge is to once again explore this rich tradition, and allow the spirit present in it to move though us once again.