Spiritual But Not Religious – Defended

Kate Blanchard, a religious studies professor, pushes back on Lillian Daniel, whose post about spiritual but not religious became a meme a couple weeks back:

But most Sundays I don’t go to church because, frankly put, it bores me; I am tired and church fails to provide any compelling reason to get out of my pajamas. (Were I living in a large, cosmopolitan city where churches with high liturgy, weekly Eucharist, beautiful architecture, and trained musicians abounded, my story might be quite different.) Although I like the people at church very much and I wish to support them in their hours of need, I am still unwilling to prioritize membership. I have an emotionally demanding job that takes up all of my time and psychic energy during the academic year, and I would honestly rather get work done in my off hours than act as an usher or sit on a church governing body. (via Spiritual But Not Religious? Come Talk to Me | (A)theologies | Religion Dispatches.)

Blanchard makes a good point, I think.  She also points out in the article that Daniel is a UCC minister, a denomination that might fall into the “boring” category for a lot of people.  Blanchard’s post is a good read, and worthy of consideration.

  • jamie

    i haven’t read the whole post. but anyone who goes to church for the “beautiful architecture” or “trained musicians” falls exactly into the lazy spiritual but not religious category that Lillian Daniel criticized. I mean, seriously?

  • jamie

    also, for all her talk about being centered towards others, she sounds really self-absorbed in that article.

  • http://faithincommunity.blogspot.com Diane Roth

    I’m not sure that either Rev. Daniel or Dr. Blanchard come off awfully well in their respective pieces.

    They both have valid critiques and periods of whininess.

    And if I hear the “boring” critique one more time, either by “spiritual” people about church” or about “religious” people about spirituality, I’m gonna scream.

    • Charles

      OK, Diane, I find church boring. I don’t see the religious/spiritual discussion an either/or, but rather a both/and hypothesis – it makes little difference in the end.

      The one thing Tony and his cohorts are trying to do is make religious/spiritual gathering interesting – for that I give them credit. I continue to be drawn to church for the people, the community, and a shared life; certainly not for the doctrine and dogma. I believe what I believe, no one can tell me what, or who, to believe in. The exploration of what it means to believe in a loving G-d, and our response to that concept, is what fuels me. I do not need a church to achieve that … it’s boring.

  • http://www.atone.me Brad

    “I have an emotionally demanding job that takes up all of my time and psychic energy during the academic year, and I would honestly rather get work done in my off hours than act as an usher or sit on a church governing body.”

    Not exactly a “last shall be first” attitude going on here. And Tony, I don’t know how you can call this a point worthy of consideration in the context of faithfully serving Christ. Does Kate even understand that ultimately Jesus is the One who is served when she ushers or sits on a governing body – not the church members per se? I don’t think Kate understands the Gospel at all.

    Brad

  • http://www.atone.me Brad

    “I continue to be drawn to church for the people, the community, and a shared life; certainly not for the doctrine and dogma. ”

    Charles, then why go? You could just as easily join Toastmasters and get the same fulfillment. The point of going to church is going to serve and worship Jesus, not each other – and none of us will ever come to know or understand Jesus through our own imaginations. Doctrinal abuse is certainly a real problem, but the absence of faithful doctrine and dogma is largely the reason why it’s such a problem in the Church because we have no idea what the Scriptures actually say.

    • Charles

      The exploration of what it means to believe in a loving G-d, and our response to that concept, is what fuels me.

      We’re a small group but the depth of discussion is extraordinary – that’s why I go.

  • Robyn

    Agree with comments so far. Rev. Daniel’s argument is much more compelling than Prof. Blanchard. Church is about the messy work of reconciliation and putting one’s own ego aside to serve another. And that actually takes real loads of physic energy and time.

  • http://finalinsurrection.blogspot.com/ Lock Rutledge

    Honor thy father and mother. I am currently burying a dying congregation. I love the worship. The music. The message. And all the elderly people that die about at the rate of one to two a month. Worshiping with those that are close to eternity is a rich experience.

  • Brian

    To quote Marva Dawn regarding Professor Blanchard’s comments, “We weren’t worshipping you.”

  • http://philosophyovercoffee.blogspot.com Coffeepastor

    The author makes many good points, points that I myself have been pondering for years. I hope that people click the link and read the whole thing because it so happens that the quoted portion is, I think, the weakest piece.

    We’re in an age where people are able to experience a multitude of religious and spiritual traditions, many of whom spend time in one before moving to the next, and so on. There are just as many people who do use the “spiritual but not religious” tag out of laziness: they observe no practices even by themselves, yet they do believe something however nominally and are perhaps curious. Blanchard’s insinuation that the mere fact that people choose to use that phrase rather than pop in their earbuds suggest that they do it to seek conversation is well-taken. However, Daniel’s point that just as many may say it without any inclination to know what they’re talking about is also well-taken.

    As another UCCer, like Brian I guess I won’t hold my breath for my invitation to the next “Big Tent Christianity” event.

  • Tony Arens

    I feel for her. She practices yoga, attends zen retreats, and reads of buddism in her spare time – it’s no wonder that she’s confused and unhappy with “church”. As Truth is darkened by universalism – a recipe whipped up by the evil one – darkness disguised as light and sprinkled with tainted spiritual philosophy. These practices will certainly germinate doubt and confusion in anyone – which is why scripture clearly states that we should avoid these practices. If we are called to be children of God, then maybe we who are called should honor our Heavenly Father and be a little more obedient, even though Dad sometimes asks us to do things that are “boring”. Sounds a little like the weining I got from the kids when they were young.

  • Frank

    What an insult to God to say that any church is boring. Are you saying that God cannot speak and work through “boring” people?

    If you have a problem with church, 99.9% of the time the problem is you not the church or God.


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