DIY Spirituality

DIY Spirituality February 21, 2013

Joel J. Miller writes good posts, and this clip from a recent one one tweaks some noses:

Believers in largely ritual-less forms of Christianity, for instance, have trouble establishing a healthy sense of self, according to Danish philosopher Matias Møl Dalsgaard of Aarhus University. Rather than getting direction from tradition (including the church calendar, regular periods of fasting and feasting, the discipline of hourly prayer, the counsel of a spiritual father, etc.), the lone Christian is left to work out the faith on their own. It’s liberating on the one hand — no rules! — but it’s also an unmanageable burden, and many buckle under the weight.

Maybe more suggestive of the risks, a recent study found that people who identify as spiritual but not religious — read: untethered from regular, ritualized expressions of faith — are more likely to suffer mental illness. Trying to hack your own path through the tangle of the heart is liable to drive you crazy.

But there’s no point trying to do it on your own. DIY spirituality promises freedom but delivers futility. Others have walked the way before. Others can see into your life from different vantages. Others can give perspective, counsel, encouragement, even rebukes. But a spiritual life that denies access to others gains no such benefits.

Spiritually speaking, we’re often like the stereotypical man driving around lost, refusing to ask for directions, unable to see that our pride only evidences the desperate need we really have. Or in the more frightening picture offered by journalist Mark Vernon, we’re like participants in an extreme sport who take neither safety precautions nor seek coaching.

This is not a blanket defense of religion or all traditions. Not all institutional expressions of the faith are equal. It’s to some people’s credit that they leave some churches. But that only underscores the importance of finding a spiritual home where flourishing is possible.

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