It’s official the institutional word is in. It may dangerous for people to be spiritual but not religious. I find it amazing how easily the religious in the Christian community can disparage or call dangerous something that Jesus and Paul alike called good thing. Jesus challenged the religious institutions of his day and put those folks on notice as being dangerous which they proved all to well.
Still there are modern day religious types who
“I’m spiritual but not religious.”
It’s a trendy phrase people often use to describe their belief that they don’t need organized religion to live a life of faith.
But for Jesuit priest James Martin, the phrase also hints at something else: egotism.
“Being spiritual but not religious can lead to complacency and self-centeredness,” says Martin, an editor at America, a national Catholic magazine based in New York City. “If it’s just you and God in your room, and a religious community makes no demands on you, why help the poor?”
As I read the article and have to say the writers are missing the point. People who are spiritual but religious are very connected in community, just is not the religious community. They do not trust religious institutions because they a know what we do not want to admit we have not proven ourselves to be trust worthy. I just picked up a book today from a mainline publisher call I’m fine with God it Christians I don’t like. The book Unbinding the gospel written by mainline authors shows statistics that we are looking the statistic and credibility gap in terms of reaching out to those who are unchurched. Greg Kinneman and George Barna showed the same thing in the book unChristian.
It has become a common practice in the church to use a few anecdotal situation to point out the flaws in a situation that it feels threatens its maintenance. 20 years ago my denominational challenged ts churches to move from maintenance to mission. Most churches are still struggling to do just that, which is why we are in dramatic decline.
The facts are irrefutable people are spiritual but not religious and much of the church and certainly most Christians does not know what to do with that, or how to reach these people effectively. So we tend instead denigrate and diminish their perspective and call in self serving or individualistic. We can do that because we are just talking to ourselves and to them. We find ourselves in an echo chamber of our own creation, for our purpose and we end up with these kind of numbers :
55000 churches will close and 60000 will open between 2005 and 2020. We need 103500 just to keep pace with pop growth!
We Christians (I prefer followers of Jesus to eschew any religious connotation) have a choice. We can try to explain this fact by denigrating those who don’t buy into our religiosity, which is absent a passion for the mission of God. Or we can look at ourselves honestly and ask if it is something we have done or not done.
The truth is we don’t have to be religious to be faithful Christians That is what Jesus taught over and over again. Religion as it is practiced in most of the western world and certainly the US is a human construct to make sense out of what Paul calls the foolishness of God.