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You might be practicing a vacuous faith

I've chronicled my frustrations (just keep scrolling) with organized religion and I've done the same for my need and desire to stay connected to a faith community.

It's a struggle I project in the sense that if I'm feeling it, I've got to believe others are too.  I have on occasion fallen into the trap of describing myself as being spiritual but not religious.  By this I mean that though I believe my faith is strong, at times I tend to abhor religious trappings.  I think others feel the same thing.

But there are dangers to the mindset.  Watered down theology can be the result.

David Mills explains:

A few years ago a much-reported study of college students' religious practice found that they become more "spiritual" as their observance of their childhood faith declined. The researchers defined "spiritual" as "growth in self-understanding, caring about others, becoming more of a global citizen and accepting others of different faiths." They simply dressed up their favored attitudes by calling them "spiritual." That kind of spirituality, detached from anything specifically religious, is just materialism in a tuxedo.

The word "spiritual" has no useful meaning if it does not refer to a relation to a real spirit, something from a world not our own, something supernatural, something that or someone who tells us things we do not know, judges us for our failures, and gives us ideals to strive for and maybe help in reaching them. It's not a useful word if it means a general inclination or shape of mind or emotional pattern or set of attitudes or collection of values. There is no reason to call any of these spiritual.

Unless, of course, you like that little sense of importance and that comforting sense of social approval that our society still gives to "spiritual things," though not to religious things. It's a warm and fuzzy word. It's a cute cuddly bunny word. It's not like "religion." That's a cold and forbidding word. It's a screeching preacher with bad breath word.

A better definition is not, however, wanted. The moment you acknowledge a real spirit to whom your spirituality is oriented and by whom it is guided, however distant and unengaged that spirit may be, you have a religion. You are bound by something. You have marching orders. You have to ask what the spirit wants and what he requires and what he says.

As the writer Malcolm Muggeridge, himself a convert from a vaporous kind of religion, put it, we crave "a Christianity without tears; . . . an idyll rather than a drama, with a happy ending instead of that gaunt Cross rising so inexorably into the sky." The spirit might turn out to be a Puritan. He might say something about taking up a cross. Better to be "spiritual" without the spirit, and hope no one notices.

If being spiritual but not religious leads to the minimization of the salvific work of Jesus Christ, you might be practicing a vacuous faith.

If being spiritual but not religious leads to an open-mindedness that finds moral relativity to be a strength, you might be practicing a vacuous faith.

If being spiritual but not religious leads to this notion that you need not a Savior, you might be practicing a vacuous faith.

If being spiritual but not religious results in concluding that evil is merely a by-product of environment then you might be practicing a vacuous faith.

If being spiritual but not religious leads to the avoidance of conflict at all costs, you might be practicing a vacuous faith.

I pray that my disdain for that within the church which I see to be roadblocks to Christ will not blind me to the understanding that at times being faithful means enduring unpleasantness and worse.

The Anchoress, who brought us the Mills piece, writes something I'll use to close:

It is a challenge to look past our own comfortable and self-righteous sense that God thinks just as we do, and to let the Word dwell within us, shake us, unsettle us until it has reformed us-re-formed-in the image of God; holy as he is holy, perfect as he is perfect.

Dear God, challenge me... and grant me the wisdom to see it as such and to rise to the occasion.

Crossposted at Brutally Honest.


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Comments (9)

Rick, the Anchoress nailed ... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

Rick, the Anchoress nailed it with that quote. The Germans even have "Gott mit uns" (God is with us) on their belt buckles.

Amen Rick. ... (Below threshold)
Gmyoung:

Amen Rick.

'If being spiritual but not... (Below threshold)
Bill Johnson:

'If being spiritual but not religious leads to the minimization of the salvific work of Jesus Christ, you might be practicing a vacuous faith.

If being spiritual but not religious leads to an open-mindedness that finds moral relativity to be a strength, you might be practicing a vacuous faith.

If being spiritual but not religious leads to this notion that you need not a Savior, you might be practicing a vacuous faith.

If being spiritual but not religious results in concluding that evil is merely a by-product of environment then you might be practicing a vacuous faith.

If being spiritual but not religious leads to the avoidance of conflict at all costs, you might be practicing a vacuous faith.'

If you can't accept someone else's belief structure without belittling it - you may be a liberal.

See, it's too bad that your faith blinds you to the faith of others. Your is not the only way, nor is it the only way to proclaim itself the only way.

Other faiths may be vacuous to you, and yours just as asinine to them. Niether are right or wrong.

If you wish to go practice Religion X (you ID'd your choice) fine. Don't cast aspersions on others - idiocy is everywhere.

If you wish to be an evangelist, fine - but warn me first. I want to shut the door.

"idiocy is everywhere"<br /... (Below threshold)
jim m:

"idiocy is everywhere"
And especially concentrated in post #3.

Rick, you left out:

If being spiritual but not religious means you cannot tolerate challenges to the sincerity of your faith, you might be practicing a vacuous faith.

jim m - on a roll today, ar... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

jim m - on a roll today, aren't we? ;)

It is difficult for me to r... (Below threshold)
Jim Addison:

It is difficult for me to reconcile a rejection of "organized religion" with a strong Christian faith. I don't understand it.

Now, I fully understand the rejection of particular churches or clergy, for many arise for their own benefit, not the gospel, as we were warned.

But didn't Jesus personally task Peter with building His Church, tending and feeding his sheep? Did not the actions of the Apostles following the Pentecost seek to establish the Church? Aren't Paul's letters evidence of his efforts to keep the communities of Christians properly organized?


Is faith about social cohes... (Below threshold)
Mictlantecuhtli:

Is faith about social cohesion, or the nature of the universe? Suppose, for the sake of argument, that it turns out that the Aztec religion was right after all, and that the God Tlaloc is real, and must be appeased.

(This is to try to avoid offending anyone's religious beliefs by talking about them. In the unlikely event that we have any devout Tlaloc-worshippers here, I apologise unreservedly. For everyone else, I'm not talking about you.)

Tlaloc's worship has content, and clearly a vague "spirituality" is not going to be sufficient to satisfy him. There doesn't seem to be any point to agnosticism or half-heartedness about Tlaloc's influence. If you genuinely believe in Tlaloc, then that demands acting on it. It might not fit well with modern society, but if you believe it is true, then the wishes of the Gods obviously trump those of your neighbours.

So when you start tinkering with the religion to make it more acceptable to your neighbours or your modern way of life, can you really be said to believe in it any more? How can you possibly change the theological reality to suit yourselves? What would be the point?

Being "spiritual" about Tlaloc-worship is clearly not the same religion. But it may nevertheless be a religion, if it is your claim that it is based on a new insight into theological truth. It is not a hollow, wishy-washy watering down of Tlaloc-belief, but a vibrant new religion with its own specific and definite beliefs. They might not satisfy the older Tlaloc worshippers - but as a new religion, they're not required to. It's OK, because as a result of our new insight we now know that Tlaloc doesn't actually require all that ritual.

That doesn't mean we can't all still be friends.

I think "spiritual but not ... (Below threshold)
James H:

I think "spiritual but not religious" means "attends church at Easter and Christmas."

... and at the festival of Tlaloc.

jim m - too bad you assume ... (Below threshold)
Bill Johnson:

jim m - too bad you assume I have been offended because of my faith - which of course you have absolutely no knowledge of - thus your assumption put in that cute little you may be a redneck setting.

For the record, I left the Christian church at 16, and have attended no other since.

Good try - but no WEO.




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