Lillian Daniel Is Bored with Spiritual People

Lillian Daniel Is Bored with Spiritual People September 2, 2011
Lillian Daniel

My friend, Lillian Daniel, a UCC pastor and advocate for the downtrodden, has written a post that’s become a meme. It is snarkily titled, “Spiritual but Not Religious? Please Stop Boring Me.” Money Quote:

Being privately spiritual but not religious just doesn’t interest me. There is nothing challenging about having deep thoughts all by oneself. What is interesting is doing this work in community, where other people might call you on stuff, or heaven forbid, disagree with you. Where life with God gets rich and provocative is when you dig deeply into a tradition that you did not invent all for yourself. [READ THE REST]

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  • Andrew

    I’m sure Lillian is a lovely person, but I pretty much hated this article, as well as the longer version in Christian Century. It, and the way it was passed around self-righteously by tons of church folk in my circle, seems to me to be a case study in the complacency and irrelevence of dying churches. The longer piece, especially, paints the “spiritual but not religious” as self-centered people who don’t care about the problems of the world and don’t care for the messiness of real community. It places absolutely no responsibility on churches or churchgoers, who I presume are the actual audience of the piece.

    In my experience, for every truly self-centered “spiritual but not religious person” there are just as many who care deeply about the world and accept people with all of their messiness, but don’t go to church because they simply find it irrelevant or have found a more meaningful community elsewhere. That’s a problem, and ranting about how boring “spiritual” people are doesn’t help.

  • Tommy

    She’s welcome to her opinion, but I found it rather snotty and off-putting, and it certainly fails to characterize many of the people I’ve met who aren’t part of a faith community per se, but nevertheless contribute mightily to the health and welfare of both their local community and the world at large. And given the way she apparently views these people I would be loathe to have her as my minister.

  • Well said Andrew. My sentiments exactly.

  • Matt Flinner

    Hmmm. I liked her article. Those who find God in sunsets and beaches are lazy. I know the church has not always been kind, but lone ranger spirituality just doesn’t cut it. We need each other to stir up passion and disagreements and unity. In fact, that’s the reason I read and follow this blog. So often it irritates me (sorry, Tony!) but it causes me to think about my faith, challenge my beliefs and grow in my walk with Christ. Yeah it’s annoying to read some things on here (love you, Tony!) but then I am sure that I am really annoying to people in my own life. So, yeah I see God in sunsets, beaches and lovely Bob Ross trees. But I also see God in the questioning teenagers I try to minister to, the good friend who is dying of cancer and the idiot uncle who is caught up in drugs and alcohol. I want to be a part of congregation/community that is messy and doesn’t always get things right. A community that at least tries to be the church.

  • I had the same reaction as you, Tony. I hope I never get stuck on an airplane next to her. But for someone who *really* flips over those who say they’re “spiritual but not religious” (0:30-0:48)… :

    • Oops: misread: It was Tommy whose reaction I share.

  • Todd

    Well, being religious (mainline-Protestant style) apparently bores more and more people every year…

    • Charles

      Amen, brother, amen.

  • READ THE REST -> 404

  • Stephen Hood

    I am frustrated by the duality. Religious/Spiritual? By implication religious people attend houses of worship and spiritual people hang out in the woods. Where does it say that the God of nature has to be separated from the God of the cult? In the parish where I serve, there are people who listen intently to the music, prayers, and sermon, whereas others doze off, while others stare out the window watching the birds and the trees. While all of this is going on there are people teaching children, making coffee, cleaning out gutters, and tending the garden. There is one woman in the church that only appears in worship twice per year. The rest of the time she is out in the world doing her thing. She comes to weekly Bible studies, participates in church functions, gives her share of the offering, prays without ceasing, and yet finds community worship to be annoying. Is she religious or spiritual? Maybe the church could be less worried about how people meet God and be more welcoming to the varied practices, both religious and spiritual of God’s people.

    • Well said, Stephen. We seem not to have expelled the inner Pharisee in all of us that loves to be either this, or that. Here in Scotland, in my experience, most non-churchgoers are extremely confused by the “spiritual-not-religious” tag – they actually want to know how your spirituality expresses itself in real life. I myself am guilty of describing myself in that way in the past, actually because it was first used by my Dad to try and understand what my unexpected decision to follow Christ was all about. I now see it more as an attempt at conveying oneself as somehow more authentic.

  • James

    Misery loves company, I suppose. Why does community always/only have to be found within an organized religious setting? One of the most enriching relationships in my life is with a post-Christian, athiest friend. Our dialects in the last year have helped me grow in my faith more than years of sitting in a building with people who mostly agreed with me ever did.

  • James

    Dialectics, not dialects. Silly auto-correct.

  • I have yet to meet a pastor, reverend or any other church leader who cared much for that distinction of spiritual vs. religious. I have heard at least five others pitch a fit from pulpits or from speaking platforms at book signings that I can think of right off the top of my head. The snarky defensive reaction just smacks of insecurity, as does the sweeping ugly characterizations of those who feel deeply spiritual, but not so much religious. I agree with German philosopher Novalis when he says: “Nothing is more indispensable to true religiosity than a mediator that links us with divinity.” I bow to those religious communities that are doing just that, linking us with divinity. For many people, organized religion does this, but others find different paths to God. No one need take offense on either side of this distinction. I happen to be spiritual and religious at the moment, I know being religious (churched) is not essential to my spirituality, but it adds more than it takes away. But I have been in religious communities that do take away and drain spirit too.
    The underlying fear I hear in rants like the essay by the pastor is, if people can be spiritual but not religious, does that render me and my profession irrelevant? No. It certainly does not.
    Here’s a saying that came to mind when I read the essay;
    “We add as much strife to the world when we take offense as when we give it.” ~?

    Blessings abound.

  • Pingback: Spiritual But Not Religious – Defended()

  • Turnip Ghost

    Religion and spirituality both bore me so much that I would prefer to have root canal surgery rather than go to any religious service.
    Mainline Protestantism has delusions of relevance. Her “deep tradition” is about as profound as a Hallmark car-and much more expensive.

  • Personally, I find the Spiritual But Not Religious not (just) boring – but actually malign in a range of ways: Its pluralism hacks away at what Truth means, it often leads (via the inner turn of the mystic) away from vital material ethical issues), and it seems to disengage with existential realities in favour of comforting faux-profundity…

  • Sheri

    As UCC interfaces with the peace group I have been part of for years, I thought that maybe, this might be the church for me. Sadly, many churches I have attended have been too tightly prescriptive and judgmental for me to feel comfortable. I thought UCC might offer just what I am looking for. Lillian Daniel’s apparent comfort in labeling spiritual people as “these” people and “these” geniuses, has served to send me running in the opposite direction. The “these people” and the “these geniuses” I have known would never have judged Ms. Daniel so harshly. Is this the way Jesus wants Ms. Daniel’s to welcome his followers? I think NOT!

  • Harold Stassen

    For a group that claims to “Celebrate our growing diversity!”, it’s odd that the UCC (and Mainline Protestantism in general) have somehow remained over 95% White and middle/upper middle class. Maybe people don’t go to church, even “self-centered American people”, because they have no need to run twice as fast to stay in the same place?