Saturday, November 12, 2011

More on Religion and Spirituality

A few posts ago (which was a long, long time ago), I suggested that given a choice between claiming to religious or spiritual, I would choose religious. I admitted in the piece that this was something of a false choice, that I could likely put these two together in a satisfying way. I was commenting more on how the option is often presented with religion as the big, bad wolf and spirituality as the deep choice for deep people.

Harvey, Shannon and others properly pointed out that this should be a both/and. Yes, clearly you are right. And let's not drop our objections to religion gone amuck. And again, I say "amen." Tyler brought up Bonhoeffer and his notion of a religionless Christianity being picked up now by Rollins, asking how I would square what I'm saying with that. So, just a post to respond to Tyler briefly.

I don't know.

I'm not a Bonhoeffer expert. So, I don't want to wade into that blindly. But I would say that he would have to go a ways to convince me that there is such a thing.

I think our lives are irreducibly religious. By this I mean that we are constantly embodying our beliefs in rituals and symbols. Even people who are protesting against religion do this. In fact, I would suggest that their protest would not be visible, recognizable as a protest, apart from some way of routinizing or ritualizing their behavior.

I have visited churches who have a stated a bias against "religion." They are just coming together as "Christ-followers." The irony to me is that I have felt more lost and excluded in their assemblies given the high degree of insider lingo and casual ritual (which favors the insider) than I do in more typically "religious" congregations. I say irony because most of these groups are lowering the formality and enhancing the intimacy all for the sake of being more welcoming, but I have found the opposite to be true.

I know Bonhoeffer and Rollins must have something more specific in mind than my broad, sociological definition of religion. I know both of them well enough to know that they would be both baptismal and eucharistic in their approach to Christianity. So, what do they mean by religion? Maybe they would distinguish between being religious and religion, or even doing religious things and religion. But I think its a terribly difficult distinction to make consistently.

To me the question is not whether or not religion. The question is good religion or bad.

PS, Harvey pointed me to a piece at Huffington Post with a similar rant to the one I wrote.


Bill Boyle said...
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Anonymous said...

Can we really escape religion?

Shelley Neilson said...
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Shelley Neilson said...

Your words bring reminders of Keifert's ideas in Welcoming the Stranger and also the book Mighty Stories, Dangerous Rituals - books you "made" (bah hah :o) Bill and I read when we served on staff together. These perspectives led to the development of meaningful liturgy that still continues as part of the worship and community life of E.C.

Voodoo said...

A wonderful insight shared...and you met Iris Murdoch! I love everything I read on Dreaming Beneath The Spires.Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I'm with you on this one Mark. I'm not sure what Bonhoeffer meant either but I am sure of this.

The Christ in whom we believe and who we follow and who we are all about... was not religionless...

So... we should be?

Nope nope nope.

Balance, as always, is the key and if we foibled followers would fain become fabled followers, we need to remember the pendulum swings fastest over the middle and that's where a leap of faith would do us wonders.

Too easy to always be stepping off at the end of the swing where the pendulum slows to a stop and we can comfortably and safely step off at one far end or the other...

Non-spiritual religion is no healthier or useful for us than religion-less spirituality.

If a sincere and authentic religion is what a deeply spiritual Jesus practiced, then maybe we should be content to following his example in this.

Or... maybe we shouldn't be content until we ARE following his example in this...