Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday Five: Spiritual vs Religious

Mompriest from RevGals writes:
Yesterday I attended a conference led by Diana Butler Bass. She is presenting new ideas on the state of the church and why there is hope for Christianity. One of her premises is a Newsweek/Washington Post poll from 2005 that states that 55% of the people in this country describe themselves as religious AND spiritual.

Without going into detail about her understandings of religious and spiritual (you may want to attend one of her conferences, if you can) share with us five thoughts ideas or practices that you consider to be "religious." Then share with us five thoughts, ideas, or practices that you consider to be "spiritual."

For example one thought about religion might be that it is "salvation" Or an idea about religion might be that it it is an "institution" and a religious practice might be "going to church." An example of spiritual thought might be a phrase from a poem, a spiritual idea might be the inspiration for a piece of art and a spiritual practice might be meditation.

So, five thoughts, ideas, or practices that are religious....and then five thoughts, ideas or practices that are spiritual. OR are they the same thing to you?


This is a great question!

This week I am studying the John 4 passage which covers the Woman of Sychar and her encounter with Jesus. There's several themes in the text which remind me that she had lots of "religious" practices but was not very "spiritual." Jesus was very gentle, yet very direct with her. (...and me...) And considering the fact that this encounter is recorded right after a brouhaha with the Pharisees, it was all the more thought-provoking.

As I ponder this, I have come to the conclusion that I don't necessarily think that "religious" = "spiritual" thoughts, ideas, or practices.

Sometimes a "religious" habit can be "spiritual," and many times it can be devoid of any spiritual meaning at all. Likewise, some of the most "spiritual" moments in my life have had nothing to do with "religious" activities and had EVERYTHING to do with a mighty God at work. I just happened to be there to participate and be a part of it; (one such example, for instance, would be childbirth...)

Here's my attempt at articulating the difference...

RELIGIOUS: Praying because it's "that time of day" or "that place in the liturgy where we always pray."

SPIRITUAL: Praying because it is part of my ongoing conversation with God throughout the day.

2. Worship
RELIGIOUS: Going to a service at church with others, and oh yeah, it's about God.

SPIRITUAL: Going to encounter the Presence of Christ -- not necessarily a service, in a building, or with other people.

3. Giving
RELIGIOUS: Because it's a cause, person, political party or habit.

SPIRITUAL: Because God keeps 10% of what I earn, and I want it spent for heavenly purposes. And there's no litmus test on what that means.

4. Journaling
RELIGIOUS: Because all the cool leaders talk about the importance of doing it -- and because it's great fodder for my next book!

SPIRITUAL: Because without stopping to pray, reflect and articulate the swirl of activity that is "life," I miss the meta-messages from the Holy Spirit

5. Fasting

RELIGIOUS: I need to deprive myself of habitual eating in order to "deny my flesh" and prepare for Holy Week.

SPIRITUAL: I need to remember that all of my compulsions are under God's supernatural control; fasting is a way to reflect and return even the simple practice of consuming food to God.


In some respects, I found today's topic hard... I don't want to fall in a Pharasaical habit of thinking I'm doing better than some other "spiritual" leader I know. I'm surely not. I want to be clear that I wobble all the time between "religious" and "spiritual" -- and it is my prayer that I not be included in the heavenly list of Pharisees - by God's grace...  The Lord knows there are enough "religious" people in the news and on the internet these days!
"Everything they do is done for people to see..."  
- Jesus, about the Pharisees, Matthew 23:5a

Like it or not, the "Church Lady" from Saturday Night Live epitomizes a face of Christianity that is too common and too engrained in our culture. And, quite honestly, in me.


Muthah+ said...

I think when you forget yourself you live your truest self and that is what God wants of us. When I live, not thinking about "how good am I doing? (a bad habit in Lent) and thinking about how can I help others to live? Then I think we get out of worrying about being Pharisees.

The more I can forget myself--rid myself of the "I" that keeps me oriented on me, the more I can truely be God's own.

I liked what you had to say. Today's 5 was a thought provoker, eh?

angela said...

Very thought provoking. I think I understand your definitions by your excellent examples. Not a shaky line at all.

altar ego said...

These are great! You offered a fresh take on a list of 5 and 5, and I found it very meaningful. Ditto what Muthah+ said.

Rev SS said...

Very thoughtful and thought provoking. Thanks.

Hot Cup Lutheran said...

journaling... *sigh* yes indeed if we don't make time for it we do miss some of the meta-messages of the holy spirit... and now you are one of those cool leaders recommending it! hee hee

Mompriest said...

Deb, I think you would really get a lot out of attending one of DBB's are already heading in a similar direction! Thanks for sharing - good play!

Mavis said...

Thought-provoking post. I understand about the stereotype of religious. And I know that there have been times for me when 'going through the motions' has been an important part of the spiritual journey. I'll keep thinking about this all day I think. Thank you.