Sunday, September 30, 2012

God In the Gray Areas: A Defense of the ‘Spiritual But Not Religious’

By Crystal S. Lewis R3 Contributor I was checking my social media accounts this morning when I noticed that an article by author and businessman Alan Miller was getting a fair amount of attention on Facebook. He has written an opinion piece for CNN titled “My Take: ‘I’m spiritual but not religious’ is a cop-out”. The title caught my eye because I’ve been privately working through some of my issues with organized/institutionalized religion.

In that process, I’ve been making peace with leaving my church affiliations behind. Miller’s article ruffled my feathers a bit, because while parts of it speak accurately to the growing sentiments experienced by so many disaffected Christians, for the most part, his beautifully-written article misses the point altogether. I took no issue with his opening observations, which read:

Spiritual but not religious people are especially prevalent in the younger population in the United States, although a recent study has argued that it is not so much that people have stopped believing in God, but rather have drifted from formal institutions. It seems that just being a part of a religious institution is nowadays associated negatively, with everything from the Religious Right to child abuse, back to the Crusades and of course with terrorism today. 

Miller rightly notes that those of us who are joining this growing category are doing so because we feel disgruntled with what it means to be a “Christian” these days. In the past year or so, I’ve joked to myself that I’m a “Christian with Caveats” because it seems that as soon as I tell someone I’m a “Christian,” it becomes necessary to explain exactly what I mean by that word. Note: the need for explanation is not because I feel immediately embarrassed by the label. I feel the need to explain because people openly voice their assumptions about what it means to be a “Christian” (and more recently in my life, a “Christian in Seminary”) when they learn of my religious preference. It’s usually assumed that because I say I’m a Christian, I must automatically be anti-this or pro-that.

The notion of coloring outside the lines from within Christianity is not one that is widely understood by people in our generation. This usually makes for some interesting (and at times, frustrating) conversations.

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