Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday Five: Spiritual or Religious?

Mompriest posted this Friday Five that is quite thought provoking:

Yesterday I attended a led conference 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 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?


I have been to one of Diana Butler Bass’ conferences but it wasn’t on this topic per se. And there are a few comments that I have come up with re. Spiritual/Religious that I want to make:
First of all, in my mind the two go together because I am truly a church woman. But, I do not mean that spiritual and the institution of the church are necessarily the same. Growing up in any church means that from the beginning of one’s faith, we confuse our relationship with God with the institution and family. The boundaries between the “do’s and don’ts” of parents get confused with the do’s and don’ts of God. Prayer gets confused with liturgy and ritual. We confuse the mega myths of life with the facts of faith and we often use the boundaries of church as boundaries of faith. As we grow we find those boundaries too confining and we jettison those boundaries for something “more spiritual” when all we are doing is claiming the boundaryless dimensions of God. So I come up with the following list.


1. Prayer—usually meditative, contemplative (non liturgical). Allowing me to empty myself of me and inviting God to enter. Centering on communion with the One I love and who loves me more than I can ask or imagine.

2. Music—listening, singing, playing it over in my heart and mind. Sometimes it is religious music but Mahler’s Seventh is enough to fall on my knees.

3. Spending time with a friend or a parishioner at the heart level. I do not have to look for Christ when people get to me at a heart level. It is like an open door to Christ that emerges.

4. Fishing—standing in the middle of a stream with bugs flying off the water concentrating on casting my line with a lightness of hand. Taking in the glory of creation.

5. Driving—I spend so much time on the road these days that there is a meditative element to driving. Most of my driving is on the interstate so it isn’t in congestion so I get to admire the scenery. Once again the glory of God’s hand in creation envelops me.


1. Liturgy—I love the church when it comes together to worship, listen to the Word and gets into worship. My favorite is Christmas Eve which is so magical with everyone with glistening eyes remembering their childhood, children anticipating Santa and hearing the ancient story once again.

2. Church conferences—I love them. I love being around people who are about the same life I am. The business meetings are a bore, but I am usually interested in the way that we shape how we come together: the policy statements, the canons, etc. (Ok, I know I am weird!)

3. The ethos of the Church—Having worked in another denomination for the past 3 years, I know how much I miss the familiar boundaries of my own denomination. My faith is, I believe, is unbounded, but the world in which I live and move and have my being does have boundaries to keep me sane. I love the givens of my denomination: the things that we laugh about, the ways that we discuss our faith. It has been difficult to be in another denomination because I have not been as facile or as glib in it as I am in my own. It has to do with being home.

4. My faith in God is not dependant on Belief. There are no creeds or statements of faith that I even consider when it comes to my relationship with God. (It is why being an Episcopalian is so right for me) So often Religion means “what we have learned about God”. And I think that about half of the parishioners I have had approach God this way instead of inviting God into one’s life.

5. Ritual—All people have ritual. We in the Church have brought ritual to an art form. One of the problems of the present day is that the rituals are changing: the ways that we live have changed. We are no longer living in small towns where all ritualize relationships the same. We are no longer having sit down dinners so that communion has the same meaning. We are not gathering at the swimming hole in the summers to enjoy the dip in the pond. We are no longer finding solace in coming together to mourn our sinfulness. If the Church is going to survive, we are going to have to find new signs of Christ’s presence in our midst and learn what is powerful in those rituals.


angela said...

Uplifting, beautiful post. Right on. What is the other church that you are at right now? Not Episcopal?

Elaine (aka...Purple) said...

Your preface comments are articulate and spot-on. Thanks for sharing.

Jan said...

So glad you commented on my blog. We feel similar about today's topic.

Are you moving to TX? Where? I live in Corpus Christi.

Mavis said...

Thank you for this inspiring post. I like the positivity in both categorisations

Terri said...

Muthah, you say it so well! Thank you...