Thursday, February 18, 2010

Religion vs Spirituality

It is common to find individuals who have a negative attitude toward formal religion, but do have a positive attitude to what they refer to as spirituality. The difference they express is that they see formal religion as an overpowering presence; whereas spirituality is the experience of God as an overpowering presence. In other words, formal religion, instead of being a way to connect with God and others, becomes a barrier to that connectivity. Spirituality is an opening toward the experience of interconnectedness, which forms the world. God is the overpowering presence within us that is reaching toward us through our connectedness.
Many of those who acknowledge their spirituality, while at the same time reject formal religion, are expressing a preference for this empowering sense of the divine presence. They believe that spiritually overcomes the distance that is often established by formal religion, between oneself and God. They believe that spirituality alone encourages an understanding that God is closer to home than we tend to find with traditional religion. God is not out there, but present at the very center of self. We can experience God, not by leaving the human condition behind, but by entering fully into the richness of all that humanity can be. But is individual spirituality enough to be able to experience that richness.
The interdependency, which forms the world, especially our human need for one another opens an aspect of our everyday lives, which we very much take for granted. Religion should work to foster this connectedness and interdependency. We do not realize how interconnected we are, nor how much we rely on each other for care and assistance. Unless you are an auto mechanic, you cannot make your car run when it breaks down. Unless you are a plumber, you cannot fix a faucet when it breaks. Unless you are a pilot, you cannot fly yourself from one place to another. The spiritual dimension of human experience should not only awaken the awareness of the reality of our connectedness, but also demonstrate it by how we interract and care for one another. In the light of that care, the lines, which separate and divide us from one another, from the world, and from God, fade to the point of disappearance. By associating this connectedness and care with the presence of God, we move beyond the dualism which otherwise sets apart God and the world, and sets apart God from humans. Spirituality is our openness to God and the world.
Formal religion should be the expression of our Christian spirituality and openness to God and to our community. Formal religion creates a common language of love both to God and to each other. Our Christian Spirituality is based upon community. We are connected to each other and to God. Religion is just the expression of that love in community. We should not look at religion as the object of love nor the object of our connectedness, but the voice of love and connectedness.
I guess what I am saying, is we should not be afraid of formal religion.
We, as Christians, need formal religion to have a common voice and understanding to be able to share our spirituality with others. Christian spirituality needs to be celebrated within the community. If religion becomes more than the common voice of love for God and others, the purpose of religion has been missed. Jesus loved community and always surrounded himself with people. Jesus continues to share himself in community with us and wants us to be able share of ourselves with each other. Formal religion, when viewed as a voice of love and not an institution or prison, becomes our language of love.
We can pray alone in our rooms, and some of that is good. When we pray together in community, we become the "one body of Christ".

Peace and love,


"Be still and know that I am God"(Psalm 46:10)

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