I have noticed quite a few people, in the blogo/facebook/twitter-sphere, linking to an article that appeared in the Huffington Post a few days ago, entitled, Spiritual But Not Religious? Please Stop Boring Me. It's not a bad article and it does address that somewhat overwrought perspective on contemporary faith that sometimes accompanies people who opt for the spiritual side of the religious/spiritual equation. However, I was struck by a similar smugness from the other side in all of this.
There have been two significant developments in late 20th, early 21st century faith dynamics in the West. One is the rise is forms of spirituality that are characterized by hyper-indivudialism. I think it was George Barna in an article in USA Today who noted that there are 310 million people in the US and the danger is that we will wind up with 310 milllion versions of faith. So I understand the resistance in the article--I live in LA, all that is here in spades. What's missed on the spirtitual side of the equation is the debt owed to the institutional religions so easily dismissed--afterall, their spirtituality is often funded and fueled by ideas and practices held preciously throughout the ages by the very religions they dismiss. That said, the other dynamic in the world of faith is the rise and return of religion. I wouldn't want to tie its return completely to 9/11, but it was definitely a turning point and religion is back in the public space. It is undoubtedly a contested issue and new interrogations of religion by mainstream culture are underway--and it is often marked by a negativity and critique that can be withering and at times stupidly naive--but nonetheless, there is a resurgence of both interest in and practice of religion(on this issue I cannot recommend Roland Boer's book, Rescuing the Bible, enough).
But those who are ' bored' by spirituality, should beware of placing too much stock in their own camp. Religion has it's own share of issues and problems which help to fuel the continuing interest in spirituality. The declarations about 'working things out in community' assumes, naively I say that one can't practice personal piety and still be in community--and let's face it, all too often in my experience, what is promoted, and often idealized, as 'community' is as lacking and problematic as it is fulfilling and enriching.
There are benifits and blessings, losses and gains, in both sides of the equation if you ask me, and things to be learned from both. But that is not what prompted me to address this.
What I have found a bit strange is that some who view themselves as somewhat 'radical' would pass this article around. The radical move is not to reject spirituality in favour of religion--it is to reject both. Both are compartmentalized forms of believing, of faith. Robert Capon said this, somewhere, sometime,
“Christianity is not a religion. Christianity is the proclamation of the end of religion, not of a new religion, or even of the best of all religions. If the cross is the sign of anything, it’s the sign that God has gone out of the religion business and solved all of the world’s problems without requiring a single human being to do a single religious thing. What the cross is actually a sign of is the fact that religion can’t do a thing about the world’s problems – that it never did work and it never will.”
This needs a little tweaking because Christianity is a religion, but I get his point. There is something else that needs to be addressed that transcends the spiritual/religious equation. Now I am sure that some will immediately connect my thought with strands of secualr theology that emerged in the 40s and 50s, but I don't make that connection--because I think our framwork for understanding what secular means, and how religion/spirituality/faith/belief/divine/sacred/theistic/atheistic/pagan/anentheist et-fucking etc intersects with it, needs to change, and anything that emerged before the latter part of the 20th century is addressing a decidedly different context.
I am not spiritual or religious--they both bore the fuck out of me right now.