Spiritual but Not Religious – Perspectives

What an interesting couple of days!

Last Thursday’s blog entry Spiritual But Not Religious got a lot of traffic, in part because it was shared a lot on Facebook (though Facebook declines to indicate who shared it).  It was also picked up by the UU World’sweekly roundup of blogs where you can see other perspectives.  And, certainly, there has been a lot of interest regarding the original article and its topic.

All of this, along with the comments I received, caused me to look around a little on the web.  A couple of things are worth noting.

I came across a comment that the short article was a condensation of a longer article.  Once I knew that, it was easy to find.  If you are interested, you can read the original piece (which was itself based on a sermon) on the Christian Century website.

I’m sympathetic to the challenge of shortening a piece in this way and I do think this one lost a lot on the editing room floor.  While I still find there to be unfortunate generalizations, the longer piece does have more context that takes some of the sting out of it. Part of that context is that the author is making a case, not just against isolated spirituality and for community, but specifically for Christian community and a divine savior. This, of course, is appropriate as she is a Christian minister.  I still think she is over-generalizing the “Spiritual But Not Religious” folks.  However, in the longer article it comes off, at least for me, as a bit more of a “sermon example” and a little less like disrespecting people on a different path than her own.

So, I find myself playing with the assumption that she had her original message in her head as she proofed her shortened article and so did not see how it read without the context.  Making this assumption causes me to understand how the article could have come to be.  It does not, however, help me understand why so many other people responded positively to the shortened article alone.

One thing I have realized from my poking about is that we have a lot of different levels of tolerance about what is and is not appropriate for public discourse.  So far, I have not been persuaded to change my mind, but I look forward to further conversation.  There are people who I have seen or heard bemoaning words of religious intolerance in our congregations and in our world.  I would like to know how these folks, who I respect greatly, decide who or what gets a pass, because clearly a lot of people gave Rev. Daniel’s article a pass.  I am also interested in what people think makes for appropriate and constructive dialog.  Where do you draw your lines?  Why?  In a world where intolerance, religious and otherwise, is rampant, the conversation about how we are in conversation is important.  I’m glad to be part of it.

The other thing that has became clear to me is that I have a very different perspective than some of my colleagues on the expression “Spiritual But Not Religious” and a very different experience of the people who claim the label.  I think this is making for interesting conversation, as well.  However, my perspective on that will have to wait for a post all its own – hopefully soon.

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2 Responses to Spiritual but Not Religious – Perspectives

  1. PamBG says:

    The question of appropriate and constructive dialog is an interesting one, isn’t it?

    Generally, I’m in favor of honesty. Saying “No, no, I don’t mind” when you clearly do mind sets up a cognitive dissonance that people perceive. Far better to admit honestly that you are not up to a conversation on the topic than to try to deceive your conversational partner or, even worse, yourself. But I honestly don’t see why this has to be done in either an aggressive manner or a hostile one.

  2. It has been incredibly difficult for me to split the two issues at work, here. The initial question that seems to pop up is along the lines of simple spiritual practices. The second issue (one of communication and respectful dialogue in our faith community) which you, as clergy and a systems person have so expertly tapped in to, is, I think, the more important one and the one that the first can not thrive or even exist without.

    I maintain that one of the strongest adult pulls for me (even as a life long UU, I needed a grownup incentive) to our faith is an emphasis on Free and Responsible Search for Truth and Meaning. This, of course, ties in to the democratic process, inherent worth and dignity and web of life ideas but in terms of the argument at hand and WHY or HOW we come to our own individual places and modes of worship, it is essential that we maintain this key piece of honor and respect in our neighbors’ spiritual journeys.

    Thank you for committing your voice to healthy and constructive restructuring of the conversation on this piece.

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