“Spiritual…but not religious”

original

On airplanes, I dread the conversation with the person who finds out I am a minister and wants to use the flight time to explain to me that he is “spiritual but not religious.” Such a person will always share this as if it is some kind of daring insight, unique to him, bold in its rebellion against the religious status quo.

Next thing you know, he’s telling me that he finds God in the sunsets. These people always find God in the sunsets. And in walks on the beach. Sometimes I think these people never leave the beach or the mountains, what with all the communing with God they do on hilltops, hiking trails and . . . did I mention the beach at sunset yet?

Like people who go to church don’t see God in the sunset! Like we are these monastic little hermits who never leave the church building. How lucky we are to have these geniuses inform us that God is in nature. As if we don’t hear that in the psalms, the creation stories and throughout our deep tradition.

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.

Thank you for sharing, spiritual but not religious sunset person. You are now comfortably in the norm for self-centered American culture, right smack in the bland majority of people who find ancient religions dull but find themselves uniquely fascinating. Can I switch seats now and sit next to someone who has been shaped by a mighty cloud of witnesses instead? Can I spend my time talking to someone brave enough to encounter God in a real human community? Because when this flight gets choppy, that’s who I want by my side, holding my hand, saying a prayer and simply putting up with me, just like we try to do in church.

           

                       by Pastor Lillian Daniel, First Congregational Church. Glen Ellyn, IL.

___________________________________________________________________________________

Thank you, Pastor Daniel.

And thanks to Digital Photography.com , for the photo.

Hat tip to Howard Nowlan and Pastor Mark.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

9 Responses

  1. That is fantastic! Great post. Actually they’re all great posts man.

  2. Thank you, Mitch!

    We try, anyway.

  3. I get what you’re saying here and you bring up some very good points to consider. I think it’s easy for us to be overly accepting of people who use nature as a scapegoat for them not being religious. You’re probably right that they’re lazy and truth be told they aren’t communing with God regularly.

    That being said, when I was a missionary, I learned that when speaking with people it is very important to build on common ground and start where they’re at spiritually. These people you’re sitting next to may not have had the benefit of going to church, or perhaps they’ve forgotten. Next time you’re on the plane with someone who is a “sunset” believer, try agreeing with them and sharing your testimony of experiences you’ve had with sunsets. Invite them to share as well. As the Holy Spirit enters from you both sharing testimony, follow promptings of the Spirit and see if it leads you to help the person do something to deepen their commitment. Whether it be going to church, praying regularly, etc.

    From my experience when I build on common ground and follow the Spirit, it goes in a direction I never would have thought and lifts the person up.

  4. Thanks, graceforgrace.

    I guess there are many ways to go about this.

  5. Great post, theoldadam.

    And FYI, graceforgrace is basically quoting from the LDS missionary Guide. To be frank, it’s not Biblical at all.

    • Thanks, Kullervo.

      It didn’t really sound biblical to me.

      We just aren’t too big on “our commitments” around here. And whole our experiences may be good, or valid, in some way…we know that we cannot place our trust in those experiences. Because, as St. Paul warned us, “the devil can come all dressed up as an angel of light.”

      • In my experience, the Mormon missionary strategy of “building on common beliefs” usually translates into “smokescreening genuine fundamental differences.” Even if it’s not intentional (because I think the average Mormon 19yo missionary really believes that Mormonism is “Christianity plus”), it’s still an incredibly dishonest approach, and has nothing to do with clearly preaching the good news.

  6. Thanks for your insight, Kullervo.

    What you say rings true from my less informed (than yours) perspective.

    • Look at what graceforgrace is suggesting:

      Next time you’re on the plane with someone who is a “sunset” believer, try agreeing with them and sharing your testimony of experiences you’ve had with sunsets. Invite them to share as well. As the Holy Spirit enters from you both sharing testimony, follow promptings of the Spirit and see if it leads you to help the person do something to deepen their commitment. Whether it be going to church, praying regularly, etc.

      Essentially, he is saying that you should downplay the scandal of the cross and the good news of Jesus Christ and stick with only broadly spiritual experiences, and then when this discussion about broadly spiritual experiences invites the presence of the Holy Spirit, invite the person do go to church and say their prayers.

      There are so many things wrong with that that I don’t even know where to begin.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: