Monday: Catching up...

It's been too long since I've written - since Wednesday! Time flies.

I've got a series of booklets I want to introduce to you. I signed on recently with Trip Fuller at with dozens of other bloggers, to tackle new theological publications through a project called Transforming Theology (

But I won't go there quite yet. Last night I had a great conversation with a college buddy, one of my best friends - Portland actor Chris Murray. We were talking about my blog and he said, "You know, I could give a f*ck about the theologians you quote. That's all way over my head. But when you break it down and talk about what you think about it, that's what I always look for. I want to hear your voice."

I appreciated the comment, and know that for the last week or so I haven't taken as much time to articulate why I'm posting some of the things I am (e.g. a quotation from the Buddha, or N.T. Wright on Biblical Authority, etc...). There are so many theologians and academics who are light years beyond me. One of the things I really try to do here is put philophical, theological and spiritual ideas into common, accessible language. Sometimes my attempts are sorry, lazy, hasty or just plain ignorant. But how do we synthesize and digest without conversation? Thanks for the reminder, Chris.

Earlier in the weekend, on Friday night (before I drank too much wine and killed myself with a headache the next day... hadn't done that in awhile... won't again anytime soon) Jen and I had dinner with two couples I've met through my day job. All of them are middle aged, fantastically intelligent, wildly liberal, and "spiritual, but not religious." In fact, one of the reasons I think they have wanted to get to know Jen and me is because they find Christianity in any form beyond conservative evangelicalism to be a curious oddity. Knowning we are both in seminary intrigued them.

Over the course of the night, we endeavored through a wide range of subject matter, but one thing I heard articulated by everyone there at one time or another was, "I'm spiritual, but not religious." With a brief testimonial why.

As Christians, we've sort of made a stereotype about the "secular world" (there's a misnomer if there ever was!) being "spiritual but not religious." We've laughed it off as lazy or ambivalent heretical or downright dangerous. But it isn't just a seeker-sensitive cliche. We live in a world where "spiritual but not religious" is the dominant paradigm. In fact, I think I would argue that most of Gen-X and Gen-Y Christians in our churches today are "spiritual but not religious," and just don't know it yet.

I think this matters when it comes to how the church looks at self-differentiation, conversion, salvation, ritual, and membership/affiliation. Not that any of those things are necessarily wrong, but that we keep using the same words out of religious-habit, but they don't mean the same things anymore. In fact, they can't mean the same things anymore - the old, 18th-mid-19th-Century meanings don't resonate today. Like so many things we've talked about here, the answer (in my view) is not trying to get BACK to what those old meanings were (grasping at a Past already out of reach) but instead pushing FORWARD (bravely) to understand how meanings may evolve in new (current/emerging/future) contexts.

Here's what I feel convicted of, and it may be counterintuitive: I want to be MORE religious, as I become more spiritual. I want to be religious in a way that matters - and in a way that feeds me. I want rituals and liturgies that feed my soul (not my nostalgia). I haven't read Brian McLaren's Finding Our Way Again but from what I've read about it, I think this is the track he's on...

A few days ago my friend's wife went on a Native American sweat house retreat. For hours, in blistering humidity, they meditated on Creator, self, spirit and earth. These practices fill a sacred need some corners of Christianity once knew how to feed.


Brent said...

I’ll comment since no one else has.

I think left to his own, a human will become religious, Christian or non-Christian. As observed in history every civilization has had a form of religion. So my pondering is what religion do those who hold to the “spiritual but not religious” phrase follow. Or is it just their instinct, directing them to what feels correct. And how do they know if there instinct is a truthful test.

I think going green might be the new religion. But it’s probably just a revamp version of the old pagan religions of worshiping things in the universe. No, I’m serious, think about it, if you don’t believe, don’t participate, don’t etc, or if you do drive a SUV or etc. you are sinning. There are so many similarity between this green thing and religion it’s a little disturbing.

Has our society just pushed religions of a god out and ignorantly setup a savage religion that under any other circumstances would be laugh at. Like when all of us laugh at those uneducated savages who actually worshiped the sun or water. This thought works with my previous thought that humans always setup religions for themselves.

I agree with the becoming more religious in the ways that feed me, even though I would change the word religious to discipline. Because, I think that word more accurately describes the thought. To me the word religious and discipline are very similar except religious carries the meaning of working for acceptance through following rules.

Peter said...

Brent, good points. I think you're right - many "causes" become religions for people, in absence of actual spiritually-oriented religion. Hippies had a kind of religion. Today, the Peace Movement, the Green Movement, the continued Civil Rights Movement(s)... they all claim adherents who demonstrate the same passion, dedication and action that many religions PRAY to see exhibited.

And I would bet you could make a very interesting case that many atheists even exhibit a sort of spirituality - not just "religion" (that's been said before) - but even a spiritualism that is itself unique to atheism. Good food for thought.

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