Spiritual, but not religious

Read Mollie Hemingway’s take on the “spiritual but not religious” line in Christianity Today. An excerpt:

The number of people who self-identify using the long-popular phrase “spiritual but not religious” is still growing. In 1998, 9 percent of American adults told the General Social Survey they were spiritual but not religious. By 2008, it had risen to 14 percent. Among those ages 18 to 39, the increase was even more dramatic, and 18 percent now say they are spiritual but not religious.

The growth is not because people are less likely to identify as religious, but because nonreligious people are more likely to say they are spiritual, says Duke sociologist Mark Chaves.

Part of the phrase’s popularity can be attributed to its sex appeal. No, really. A social psychologist at Britain’s Southampton University looked at 57 studies covering 15,000 experiment subjects, and reported in Personality and Social Psychology Review that North Americans find “intrinsically religious” people desirable—but that the desirability decreases if people portray themselves as extrinsically religious.

Elaborate dating scheme or not, if you wonder what the phrase means, you’ll probably get a different answer from each person you ask. That may be the point.

“Spiritual has, in some sense, come to mean ‘my own personal religion with my own individual creed,’ ” Timothy Paul Jones, a Baptist seminary professor, told the Louisville Courier-Journal.

The word religion comes from the Latin religare (re: “back,” and ligare: “to bind”), so the term is associated with being bound. In that sense, defining oneself as “spiritual, not religious” couldn’t be more apt, reflecting a desire to not be bound by any rules, community, or belief. Being spiritual but not religious is the perfect fit for people who don’t like the demands of religion but aren’t quite ready to say they have no soul.

Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft has noted that our culture’s fear “is not the fear of death, as it was for the ancient cultures of Greece and Rome, nor is it the fear of hell,” as found in the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic societies of the medieval period. No, the fear of the age “is the fear of meaninglessness itself.”

Yet those who oppose organized religion may be missing out on some of the best tools for staving off meaninglessness.

via Faith Unbound | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction.

Is it also possible to be religious without being spiritual?  Would that be better–or  at least less  gnostic–than the other way around?

One out of seven is below the poverty line

The recession is officially over, with a quarter showing positive growth after 18 months. Hooray, hooray. Just like the war in Iraq is officially over. So why don’t we feel better? Meanwhile,
we get news like this:

In the second year of a brutal recession, the ranks of the American poor soared to their highest level in half a century and millions more are barely avoiding falling below the poverty line, the Census Bureau reported Thursday.

About 44 million Americans – one in seven – lived last year in homes in which the income was below the poverty level, which is about $22,000 for a family of four. That is the largest number of people since the census began tracking poverty 51 years ago.

The snapshot captured by the census for 2009, the first year of the Obama presidency, shows an America in the throes of economic upheaval.

Since 2007, the year before the recession kicked into gear, the country has almost 4 million fewer wage-earners. There are more children growing up poor. And for the first time since the government began tracking health insurance in 1987, the number of people who have health coverage declined, as people lost jobs with health benefits or employers stopped offering it.

With midterm elections less than two months away, the statistics bare the reality fueling much of the anger toward Washington.

via Poverty stats show the damage.

What the offering and the prayer mean

Next in our ongoing series from The Narrative Commentary on the Divine Service by John Pless:

OFFERING

Having received from the generosity of the Father who is the Author and Giver of every good and perfect gift, we now return of the gifts that we have been given. The offering is accompanied with an offertory from Psalm 51 which teaches us that the highest offering is simply to receive, in faith, the gifts God gives for body and soul.

THE PRAYER OF THE CHURCH

God’s Word is always primary in worship. We speak only as we are spoken to. Gathered in Jesus’ Name, we bring the petitions and thanksgivings before Him that grow out of His Word. This prayer is called the Prayer of the Church for in this prayer, the Royal Priesthood of All Believers does its priestly work of making “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings” for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way.

via Grace Lutheran Church – Pastor’s Letter – March 2010.

Again, it’s called the “Divine Service”–the translation of the German Gottesdienst–because in it God serves US!

Comparing notes on the dishonest steward

The Gospel reading for yesterday was the parable of the dishonest steward (Luke 16:1-13), the guy who knew he would lose his job for embezzlement and so took the opportunity to forgive the debts of those who owed his boss money, as a way to get in good with them when he would be unemployed. His boss commended his shrewd dealing, as did Jesus, in a way. That’s a fascinating parable, but it’s one of the hardest to interpret and apply.

Churches that follow the three-year-lectionary, not only Lutherans but other denominations as well, will all have read that passage in church yesterday and very likely heard a sermon on it. That means that many of us here heard takes on what that sermon means. Let’s compile what we learned.

My pastor took the part about those who had their debts forgiven and applied it not to money but to sin: We all have a debt we cannot pay. We were forgiven it earlier in the service when we heard the absolution from the pastor.

I heard of another pastor today who observed that the steward, for all of his own problems, was showing mercy.

What aspects of the parable were illuminated for you in yesterday’s sermon? (Pastors, tell us what you did with it. Laypeople, tell us what you got out of it.)

The Tea Party insurgency

Peggy Noonan, no fan of Sarah Palin,  nevertheless sees something happening here with the Tea Parties:

The past few years, a lot of people in politics have wondered about the possibility of a third party. Would it be possible to organize one? While they were wondering, a virtual third party was being born. And nobody organized it.

Here is Jonathan Rauch in National Journal on the tea party’s innovative, broad-based network: “In the expansive dominion of the Tea Party Patriots, which extends to thousands of local groups and literally countless activists,” there is no chain of command, no hierarchy. Individuals “move the movement.” Popular issues gain traction and are emphasized, unpopular ones die. “In American politics, radical decentralization has never been tried on such a large scale.”

Here are pollsters Scott Rasmussen and Doug Schoen in the Washington Examiner: “The Tea Party has become one of the most powerful and extraordinary movements in American political history.” “It is as popular as both the Democratic and Republican parties.” “Over half of the electorate now say they favor the Tea Party movement, around 35 percent say they support the movement, 20 to 25 percent self-identify as members of the movement.”

So far, the tea party is not a wing of the GOP but a critique of it. This was demonstrated in spectacular fashion when GOP operatives dismissed tea party-backed Christine O’Donnell in Delaware. The Republican establishment is “the reason we even have the Tea Party movement,” shot back columnist and tea party enthusiast Andrea Tantaros in the New York Daily News. It was the Bush administration that “ran up deficits” and gave us “open borders” and “Medicare Part D and busted budgets.”

Everyone has an explanation for the tea party that is actually not an explanation but a description. They’re “angry.” They’re “antiestablishment,” “populist,” “anti-elite.” All to varying degrees true. But as a network television executive said this week, “They should be fed up. Our institutions have failed.”

via Peggy Noonan: Why It’s Time for the Tea Party – WSJ.com.

From the Left, Slate’s Jacob Weisberg sees the Tea Partiers as doing what the New Left tried to do.  From The Right’s New Left :

What’s new and most distinctive about the Tea Party is its streak of anarchism—its antagonism toward any authority, its belligerent style of self-expression, and its lack of any coherent program or alternative to the policies it condemns. In this sense, you might think of the Tea Party as the Right’s version of the 1960s New Left. It’s an unorganized and unorganizable community of people coming together to assert their individualism and subvert the established order.

Confessing and Preaching

More from the Narrative Commentary on the Divine Service by John Pless, which some pastors are using to teach what the elements in worship mean:

NICENE CREED

Having heard the Word of God, we confess our faith in His Name. The Creed is our saying back to God what He has first said to us. To same/say about God what He has revealed about Himself. In the Nicene Creed, we acclaim the truth of the Triune God and His work of salvation accomplished for us in His Incarnate Son, Jesus Christ.

– Creed –

THE HYMN OF THE DAY and SERMON

The praise continues in the Hymn of the Day. As the Word of God dwells in us it calls forth songs of faith and love. This hymn refl ects the particular theme of the Scripture Readings which we have heard. Then, in continuity with the Prophets, Apostles, and Evangelists, our Pastor stands in our midst to deliver the Lord’s Law and Gospel in the sermon. He is God’s mouth for the congregation as through him the Good Shepherd’s voice sounds forth to call, gather, and enlighten His flock.

via Grace Lutheran Church – Pastor’s Letter – March 2010.


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