Spiritual but not religious?


Prompted by the oft-stated explanation (excuse?) for not joining a worshipping community, “I’m spiritual but not religious,” the Washington Post’s “On Faith” takes on the question:

Spiritual but not religious?

From “On Faith” at the Washington Post online

Author Anne Rice said last week that she was ‘quitting Christianity:’ The once-lapsed Catholic wrote that she was could no longer accept her religion’s teachings on homosexuality, feminism, politics and birth control.

“In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian,” Rice announced on her facebook page.

Can you leave religion and keep Christ? Can you be spiritual without being religious?

. . .

Christian” belongs to Christ

Can Anne Rice be spiritual without religion? Sure. When the church lost its purity under Rome, the ascetics went out into the desert to forge their relationships with God more or less alone. Jesus withdrew in order to pray. However, he did not stay there. And when the people of Jerusalem went astray, Jesus did not forsake the temple. He threw the moneychangers out.

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The real issue is not whether one can be spiritual without being religious -- the real issue is how easy it is to be religious without being spiritual.

The only reason for this recently-noted odd distinction is the fact that the spiritual/mystical dimension of Christianity has almost entirely died out institutionally.

The same problem lies behind the establishment of the New Age movement: they pay (often quirky) attention to the great, ancient, deep mystical traditions of Christianity which have been pretty much forsaken by most of organized religion.

I remember Kenneth Leech's comment from the 1960's when he asked young people why they were following Indian gurus rather than Christian clergy. He said: "Sadly, I found that many priests were quite useless at communicating the deep things of the spirit. The hippies complained that the priests did not seem to know God as the Eastern teachers did. They were into words and activity more than silence and contemplation. Christianity came over as a very head-centered and bourgeois movement ."

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