The Huffington Post has a section it calls “The Blog,” which “features fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost’s signature lineup of contributors.” One such blogger includes provocateur, Lillian Daniel, who lights into anyone silly enough to engage her in a trite airplane conversation about being “Spiritual but not Religious.”
Being privately spiritual but not religious just doesn’t interest me. There is nothing challenging about having deep thoughts all by oneself. What is interesting is doing this work in community, where other people might call you on stuff, or heaven forbid, disagree with you. Where life with God gets rich and provocative is when you dig deeply into a tradition that you did not invent all for yourself.
Thank you for sharing, spiritual-but-not-religious sunset person. You are now comfortably in the norm for self-centered American culture, right smack in the bland majority of people who find ancient religions dull but find themselves uniquely fascinating. Can I switch seats now and sit next to someone who has been shaped by a mighty cloud of witnesses instead? Can I spend my time talking to someone brave enough to encounter God in a real human community? Because when this flight gets choppy, that’s who I want by my side, holding my hand, saying a prayer and simply putting up with me, just like we try to do in church.
Unfortunately there is very little that is spiritual without the Spirit of God. The fact that people express the desire for something spiritual reveals our God-given DNA to seek the One who created us. We were made to be Spiritual, but we live in times fairly ignorant of what that means – thus we have this self-made phenomenon: “I will create my own spirituality in the same way that I will create my own identity.”
The problem is, both are false. One’s identity and one’s Spirituality are to be found in “God the Spirit” of the Triune God. We need God’s own Spiritual initiation into our lives; in the words of Jesus, “we must be born again.” This term may be burdened with various connotations, but to be born again simply and profoundly means God the Father births God the Son in us through God the Spirit.
Seek and you will find.
This is more enigma than dogma. The Scriptures say that no-one comes to Christ unless the Father draws you (John 6:44). As the Experiencing God study puts it, “no one will seek God or pursue spiritual things unless the Spirit of God is at work in your life.” If you are seeking God – this is a clue to how you would know you are becoming spiritual.
In contrast, there is a modern day dogma that can be heard in the airplane passenger’s conversation with Lillian Daniel (referenced above). As Ms. Daniel listens to her companion declare he is spiritual but not religious, she notes:
… Such a person will always share this as if it is some kind of daring insight, unique to him, bold in its rebellion against the religious status quo.
Next thing you know, he’s telling me that he finds God in the sunsets. These people always find God in the sunsets. And in walks on the beach…
… How lucky we are to have these geniuses inform us that God is in nature. As if we don’t hear that in the psalms, the creation stories and throughout our deep tradition.
Spirituality is the subject, object, and centre of the Triune God who has been in joyful communion as Father, Son and Holy Spirit throughout timeless eternity. The truly astounding reality is: God is continually inviting you into this relationship. If you are wanting to be spiritual, hear the words of Jesus, who beckons (Matthew 7:7,8):
Ask and it will be given to you; Seek and you will find; Knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives; everyone who seeks, finds; and to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
May we meet on an airplane one day, and talk about the enigma of what it means to be (become) truly spiritual.