People just don’t like the Church.
There are many contemporary slogans that reflect this dislike and even hatred of the Church:
“I’m against organized religion.”
“Christianity is a relationship, not a religion.”
And the ever-popular meme of the day: “I’m spiritual but not religious.”
Now who wouldn’t want to be “spiritual”? Even many atheists and agnostics think of themselves as spiritual.
While being “spiritual” is very fuzzy these days, the meme, “I’m spiritual but not religious,” does, in fact, have an important meaning.
I’m sure there is a diversity of what people mean when they think or say things like this, but the essence seems to be this: “I want to transcend myself and get in touch the spiritual dimension of life on my own terms, without anybody else telling me what to do!”
How American this is! But also how individualistic and self-centered.
It’s safe to be spiritual because when I claim to be spiritual I can think of myself as a good person without necessarily having to confront my own sins and faults. It’s safe to be spiritual because it doesn’t demand anything of me except what I already want.
By being “spiritual,” we mean that we can choose whatever god we desire, worship Him in any way we want, and that no one can bind or obligate us in any way. We mean that God comes to us individually and not corporately; privately but not publicly.
“Religion,” on the other hand, has taken on a negative connotation among Americans, especially the dreaded “organized religion.” My first question (always subvocalized and never articulated) is: “Do you prefer disorganized religion?”
The reason for this negative attitude is this: religion comes from a Latin word meaning “to bind.” And religion is all about binding: binding oneself to God and binding oneself to others. But we assume that binding means slavery and tyranny and that independence from others means freedom and liberty. And we don’t want anyone else limiting our desires and actions.
The truth is that Christianity is a religion but also that spirituality (which I have yet to define) is vitally important.
Next time, I’ll wrestle with another meme: “Christianity is a relationship, not a religion.”
In the meantime, what do you think of the saying: “I’m spiritual but not religious?”
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