On Being Spiritual Without Being Religious

“I’m spiritual; not religious.”

This has been a mantra of many for at least 50 years. Maybe much longer, I’m not sure. Seems to me I heard it when I was in college.

This may be a reaction to “organized religion”, that is, belonging to a church or attending a church gathering usually meaning Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Baptist, or other organizations.

It may also be an acknowledgement of lack of total involvement.

It’s easy to be “spiritual” because no one can know what it is. You can’t be held against a standard, because there is no real definition.

You could be in the Desert Fathers tradition of deep contemplation. Or you could be in the New Age movement of crystals, candles, auras. Or maybe it’s just a warm feeling that visits at times.

My latest morning study book is Dallas Willard’s The Spirit of the Disciplines. Willard was a brilliant and wise man. I’ve heard him speak. Such a calm and humble voice. And understandable, a fact that is remarkable given his profession–Professor of Philosophy.

He discusses why it is important to involve our bodies in our worship and spiritual life. It’s not enough to just have a “head” idea of God. A belief that is only that deep. Or just a warm feeling.

To Willard, who uses many examples but you can read the letter of James for a good starter, faith must be lived out in the real world with a real body. Believing and doing are actually two sides of the same coin.

He said, “To withhold our bodies from religion is to exclude religion from our lives.”

Andy Stanley has said that anyone can say they are a Christian, because there exists no good definition. But, to be a Disciple of Jesus, well, that’s hard. It is defined. We can see it in your life.

I’m not religious? It means I’m not committed. So, what good is the spiritual, then?

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