Spiritual but not Religious?

by Richelle Thompson on September 7, 2011

You bore me.

That’s the conclusion of a UCC pastor in her superb, pointed commentary.

I’m not normally a Facebook re-poster, but her blog was so compelling that I thought it was worth sharing. Who knew that it would ignite?

Friends and acquaintances from various points on my personal timeline chimed in. Some lauded the author: Preach it, sister. But others took her to task, calling her snarky and judgmental.

I’m not surprised that people had such varying, visceral reactions. What the author says touches a delicate nerve – and I happen to agree with her. People often say they’re “spiritual but not religious” to avoid involvement in community, to escape any of the responsibility that comes with being accountable to something bigger than themselves. I tried to address the same issue in one of my earlier blogs here -- but not nearly to the success of this author. 

I find it fascinating that the two most vocal responders in this lively Facebook discussion would probably be fast friends. I suspect they share many of the same values as social justice advocates, speaking out on behalf of immigrants, the GLBT community, the homeless and the mentally ill. They are both diminutive in physical stature but with outsized hearts and courage. I imagine they would picket City Hall together and go door-to-door to gain petition signatures. 

But somehow, almost unimaginably, the spiritual but not religious person doesn’t put any of these convictions within the context of faith, within the messy, joy-filled, difficult work of being in a community of faith. 

Our job: to figure out a way to invite her in, to invite all of those who proclaim spirituality without being religious. We must strive to be a community that is not judgmental or snarky but at the same time requires accountability and compromise and mutual respect. These two women belong in the same room together, living out faithful, religious and spirit-filled lives. How can we help? What must we change within our religious life to more boldly be followers of Jesus? 

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