A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

On Being Spiritual, Religious, and Secular

It's been difficult to get blogging time in the past few days, so today I will recommend to you a deeply insightful post on the growing trend of embracing amorphous spirituality that the writer, Paul Vanderklay, says is directly connected to the society's growing secularism. Paul quotes John Suk:

I personally became aware of this trend when I was in graduate school and realized that all of my fellow PhD students could define what Aristotle’s concept of "epideictic oratory" was all about, and could explain the importance of social networks for corporate communication, because reason and theories mattered to these people. But the number and variety of faith choices that surrounded me was astonishing. There was a Wiccan, a Muslim or two, atheistic Marxists, and one or two New Age believers in Mother Earth and Gaea. After class was over and I would speak with them about their beliefs, they bristled when I suggested that ultimately only one of the many religions represented could ultimately be correct, or that their version of whatever faith they belonged to wasn't the orthodox version. The kind of rational thinking they brought to their rhetorical studies seemed to have no standing in their spiritual lives. When it came to faith, as far as these PhD candidates were concerned, rationality just didn't matter.

Then Vanderklay himself writes,

One of the most significant causalities in all of this is of course the project of religion itself. Religion is a communal project through which groups of people attempt to come to answer foundational questions about existence. Religion is supposed to put us in better touch with what is real and the task is so important and so large that it requires us to work in community and in all seriousness. This is of course lost in the spiritual salad bar in in the private corner of our agnostic context. There can be no community in spirituality beyond the most superficial and haphazard. It is rude to suggest that one individual's spiritual path might be drawing them away from ultimate reality and once you exert a common experience and an objective reality you entertain the possibility that someone will tell you that you are wrong which for many people is too much of an un-spiritual experience for their tastes.

Demonstration? Look at Oprah, our cultural high priestess. She's famous for being the spiritual pusher to millions in our culture but did you ever notice that her list of gurus never narrows? Religion, which requires community, order, communal discipline and doctrine (yes, all religions have it) will emerge from spiritual conversations once they come out into the light of day. At that point the word we all learned to hate as toddlers gets aired: "no". Once "no" is asserted, you either break community and maintain your "spirituality" or you have religion.

Paul's entire post is worth a read.

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