Thursday, June 4, 2009

Who is Spiritual?

Many Americans claim to be spiritual, but not religious. Have you ever heard someone say (or said yourself) “I’m not involved in organized religion, but I am a very spiritual person.”? So what does it meant to be spiritual?

Over at Wikipedia they define the difference between religion and spirituality as follows:
While the words religion and spirituality are often incorrectly used interchangeably, an important distinction exists between spirituality in religion and spirituality as opposed to religion....

Those who speak of spirituality as opposed to religion generally believe in the existence of many "spiritual paths" and deny any objective truth about the best path to follow. Rather, adherents of this definition of the term emphasize the importance of finding one's own path to whatever-god-there-is, rather than following what others say works. In summary: the path which makes the most coherent sense becomes the correct one (for oneself).
(Yes, I know that Wikipedia is not always reliable when it comes to facts. However, it is a good source for information on cultural trends like this.)

In the common thought of our culture, religious people are those who are involved in organized religion (esp. Christianity), who have laws and rules, who try to obtain and keep God’s favor by obeying those rules, and who judge everyone else and look down their noses at everyone else not in their group. Spiritual people, on the other hand, may or may not have a specific creed or belong to any organized group. They are interested in experience of the numinous, contact with the supernatural, and if possible power over the forces of nature. “Spiritual” people usually consider themselves to be less judgmental and more accepting than the religious, and then prove to be just as judgmental in the their attitude toward religious people.

I’ve been thinking a lot on this subject, inspired in part some by messages by Tim Keller which I have been listening too on the subject of idolatry and religion. I’m actually planning on preaching on this subject next Sunday at my home church. My proposition for the message is that these two options (the common connotations of religion and spirituality), which are held by most people to be contradictory opposites, are actually two versions of the same approach to religion, each to be contrasted to the one true alternative which is radically different from both.

(Continued tomorrow).