Animate: Week 2

Religion | Spirituality Is Not Enough • Lillian Daniel
What does it mean to be spiritual? Is it the same as being religious? Lillian Daniel pushes back at this question that has been stirring up the cultural conversation for a while now. She asks us to consider how the seeds of faith to take root and thrive. What role does organized religion play in helping—or hindering—growth? If religion is the problem, why has it held fast for thousands of years? In this age of religious pluralism, is it possible or even desirable to stick with our age-old traditions?

Thanks for a great conversation last week at our Animate Adult Education Class. I’ve been gone this week at a retreat, so just now getting to put up a short post. As I was thinking about our conversation on what religion is, what spirituality is, etc., a few things came to mind:

  1. Sarah, who is getting her PhD in Christian Spirituality has defined spirituality as such: “Spirituality is the reception of, and response to, the Spirit (understood to be God at work in this world).”
  2. The video below went viral on YouTube about a year ago, and currently has over 22 million views. It’s an interesting take on our question – someone who says that he hates religion, but loves Jesus. You might be interested in watching it. For many people, it’s very easy to separate the two. There are a series of books written by an emerging church pastor, Dan Kimball, and one of them is titled: “They Like Jesus but Not the Church.”

I’m interested in seeing if anyone else is comfortable sharing where they placed themselves in that drawing between the religious side and the spiritual side?

One of the questions we didn’t get to was where you would place Jesus on that same drawing. Where do you think Jesus fit if you had to place him between “religious” and “spiritual”?

As I shared during the conversation, I don’t have as many pleasant thoughts about tradition, like Lillian does. I do think that we need to be thinking beyond our own individual selves, I think it does mean something that we believe in something bigger than ourselves. But I think our tradition, and our traditions, have really screwed a lot of things up. We’ve hurt a lot of people. Our opinions, and beliefs, and theologies and doctrines…which have all been a part of our tradition, have caused scores of people to leave the church and not want to have anything to do with God.

So…I think that’s an issue. We are the church reformed and always reforming. I think that Presbyterians spend a bit too much time on the “reformed” side, and not enough on the “always reforming” side.

Anyway – would love to hear some of your thoughts, what have you been thinking about this past week? What questions still linger for you?


3 thoughts on “Animate: Week 2

  1. gayle

    OK, I guess I’ll go first… I have to admit that Lillian’s attitude bugged me. Maybe because I was not raised in ‘The Church,’ so don’t have deep seated traditions to fall back on. I came into the organized religion scene while in college — only because of my boyfriend (and later husband), who had been raised in ‘The Church.’

    Ever since I was very young, I have always felt spiritual and drawn to something bigger than myself. We went camping a lot, and I always had that awe-struck feeling whenever I was out in nature. Still do. To me, nature in its essence is purity, undefiled by man (well, of course, it HAS been defiled by man). When I am around nature, I am able to meditate and contemplate in ways I cannot when I am around man-made surroundings. And this includes church. I guess because I wasn’t brought up in a church, nature was my ‘church’ and the creator of my spirituality.

    I also believed in God from a young age, though I had no training what-so-ever. No one told me about it. I am convinced this was because the holy spirit is in EVERYONE, whether or not you were brought up in or identify with any particular ‘Religious’ community or traditions. And perhaps If you are spiritual, this is easier to recognize.

    As an adult, I have had the opportunity to be a member of several different churches and traditions. To be honest, I mainly went for my kids when they were young, to give them a sense of stability and community. Of course, I found that there, too. But once they were out of the house, I looked at church in a different light. I have worked for several churches and church-affiliated businesses over the years, which has frankly jaded me to ‘organized religion.’ I still think the sense of community is important, but for me, attending church has nothing to do with ‘tradition.’

    To me, the value of church is in building relationships with like-minded people. I can worship God anywhere. Christianity, in my view, is about loving others. So in that sense, you have to be around people to practice Christianity. But you can give and receive love from people who aren’t Christians (my late parents), or who aren’t spiritual OR religious. So to me, love is much more important than religion. And I DO consider myself spiritual, not religious… (So there, Lillian!)

    1. firstpresashland Post author

      I was wondering what folks would think of the way that Lillian came off in the video. It did kind of bug me too, because it does seem like an attitude that would close more conversations than it would open. And like you mentioned Gayle, many people today did not grow up in the faith, and don’t necessarily have a history/memory of those traditions to rely on.

      Thanks so much for sharing where you’re coming from Gayle, and for being so open about where you’d place yourself in that continuum between spiritual & religious…

  2. cmoeglein

    In the video, I liked the definition he gave that religion is Man searching for God, while Christianity is God searching for Man. Religion really is the parameters people put around being followers of their God …. no one religion can ever be the full definition, have the full understanding. Christianity is following the teachings of Jesus – who came down to show a new way to connect with God.


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