A rising trend for people in the US is that when they are asked about their beliefs about God is to say that they are “spiritual, but not religious.” That’s what all the cool kids are saying anyway. These are people who are making a distinction between religion and spirituality. I’ve always wondered about this – it doesn’t make much sense to me.
In one sense, I get it – “spiritual, but not religious” is saying that someone wants a personal connection with God, but are done with the corporate expression of religion. They are done with the control and rules and propping up the organization behind the religion.
But I wonder, how spiritual can you be when you are all alone? How does your faith grow? How do you practice your spirituality? What do you do when you come across stumbling blocks? Or is it just some abstract thing that exists even though you don’t do anything to support it?
Being spiritual is important. In many ways, I wonder how our Christianity can be more spiritual. How can religion, especially Christian religion, be authentic without spirituality? How does a religious person’s faith grow? How do they experience God? Is their faith just a rote exercise that they do because they’ve always done it? Where is the life in that?
This leaves many looking for answers. And often they look to others for answers and examples of what to do.
Dani Johnson, a speaker and someone interested in spirituality and religion, offered this statement, which I think points to what I am saying:
Our culture today teaches us to depend on other people for our faith. We have been taught to “outsource” our faith. We rely on a man inside a church to read the Bible to us on a Sunday morning, instead of opening the book and diving in ourselves. Or, we read other people’s commentaries, instead of reading His actual Word and discovering what it holds for us.
While I think there is truth in this statement, I also think it’s a bit lacking. While I agree that actually opening a Bible is important if you are a believer, that’s not where it ends. There is more to faith than just opening a Bible and reading.
The value of spirituality is this – it is the the person experiencing God in ways that they might not be able to express to others. Spirituality is the ongoing connection of a person to God. Spirituality is the focus and attention we humans pay to God in our desire to better know God and ourselves. And spirituality is our recognition that the world doesn’t revolved around us and that we must listen to hear God’s voice in our lives.
The value of religion is this – It is the person experiencing God in ways that they might not be able to express to others, but are done corporately. Religion is about community – believers coming together, accompanying each other on the journey of life. Religion is about being reminded that the world doesn’t revolve around us – there is a long history that started well before we were born. Doctrines and creeds are reminders that people have been struggling to understand and experience God for a really long time. Religion is about joining with other people who struggle with belief and faith and can hold each other up when they struggle with a stated belief of the church.
To me, spirituality and religion go hand in hand. Without one, we are missing something important. Without spirituality, religion is hollow and dead. Without religion, a person is alone.