Friday, January 4, 2013

WHEN “SPIRITUAL BUT NOT RELIGIOUS” IS NOT ENOUGH (Lillian Daniel) -- A Review




You’ve all heard about the “spiritual but not religious” revolution.  Growing numbers of people, especially in the United States and Canada (as well as the rest of the so-called “West”) have declared their freedom from religion, which is usually defined in institutional terms.  This group is included in those who’ve been given the name “Nones.”  It’s not that they don’t believe in God, most do, they just don’t like the trappings of religion.  And with all the scandals and such, it’s understandable that people would seek other ways of finding God to be present.  For many in this group, a more eclectic vision of spirituality is sought.  Indeed, many seek to create their own spirituality, picking a little of this and a little of that, combing Western and Eastern forms, and tossing it all together.  You might call it fusion spirituality.  But is such spirituality enough?  Is it sustainable?  Does it change lives? 

As one who lives in the midst of institutional religion – I am after all a pastor – I have something at stake in this conversation.  But perhaps, so do those whose spiritual tastes are “eclectic.”  They, after all, often borrow from the religions they reject. 

                Diana Butler Bass has recently written about what Christianity might look like after religion, and she ultimately concludes that complete abandonment of tradition and institution is probably not wise or workable.  At the same time, things need to loosen up a bit, so that the Spirit can move.  With this conversation going full force, Lillian Daniel, Pastor of First Congregational Church (United Church of Christ) in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, takes up the challenge of responding to the purveyors of this new vision of dereligionized (is this a neologism?) spirituality in an aptly titled book: When “Spiritual but Not Religious” is Not Enough.  Daniel is, you might say, not especially impressed with the “spirituality” offered by many of those who embrace a dereligionized form.  In response she wants us to be more aware of God’s presence in our midst, noting, as the subtitle suggests, that we can find God present in surprising places, “even in the church.”  I realize that many have decided that the church is the last place to look for God, but maybe that’s not really true.

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