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In a recent piece on CNN’s Belief Blog, Alan Miller gives a one-two punch to the ever-growing mantra of “spiritual but not religious” taken up especially by younger generations. In recent studies it has been shown that while younger people are fleeing from institutions they are not fleeing from faith altogether. But, why? Miller wonders.
Those in the spiritual-but-not-religious camp are peddling the notion that by being independent – by choosing an “individual relationship” to some concept of “higher power”, energy, oneness or something-or-other – they are in a deeper, more profound relationship than one that is coerced via a large institution like a church.
That attitude fits with the message we are receiving more and more that “feeling” something somehow is more pure and perhaps, more “true” than having to fit in with the doctrine, practices, rules and observations of a formal institution that are handed down to us.
The trouble is that “spiritual but not religious” offers no positive exposition or understanding or explanation of a body of belief or set of principles of any kind.
What is it, this “spiritual” identity as such? What is practiced? What is believed?
Miller points out that Christianity has been intertwined with Western culture for hundreds of years and it’s influence has been vast, from Bach to an impressive catalog of literature. The strong desire to read and understand the Bible created a radical movement when the King James Bible was published.
the spiritual but not religious reflect the “me” generation of self-obsessed, truth-is-whatever-you-feel-it-to-be thinking, where big, historic, demanding institutions that have expectations about behavior, attitudes and observance and rules are jettisoned yet nothing positive is put in replacement.
The idea of sin has always been accompanied by the sense of what one could do to improve oneself and impact the world.
Yet the spiritual-but-not-religious outlook sees the human as one that simply wants to experience “nice things” and “feel better.” There is little of transformation here and nothing that points to any kind of project that can inspire or transform us.
So how is being spiritual but not religious a cop-out? Because it avoids taking any position.
Theirs is a world of fence-sitting, not-knowingess, but not-trying-ness either. Take a stand, I say. Which one is it? A belief in God and Scripture or a commitment to the Enlightenment ideal of human-based knowledge, reason and action? Being spiritual but not religious avoids having to think too hard about having to decide.
What do you think? Is being spiritual but not religious a cop-out? What about the decay of many religious institutions? Is it a good thing? What positives come from removing oneself from an institution? As Christians do we have a duty to the Church as Christ’s Bride?
Share your thoughts below.