Friday, April 29, 2016

"Spiritual But Not Religious"

On Thursday, April 28, 2016 at 4:45 p.m. I posted the following question on Facebook and Twitter: “What do you think it means to say, ‘I’m spiritual but not religious?’”

Fifty-one people responded, and here are their answers, which I found to be absolutely fascinating! I’m compiling them here with the thought that they need to be more widely read than just my social media feeds. There is something really, really cool happening in these responses. Give it a read, and if you have your own answer, feel free to add it in the comments.

- What do you think it means to say, “I’m spiritual but not religious?”

B.W. Freese: I think "spiritual but not religious" means no practices which connect with the holy.

Rob Barringer: I think it means, "I don't go to church."

Elizabeth Perry Wilcox: I tend to hear this from people who believe in God, but do not go to church or participate in organized religion.

Andrew Jones: I love you, but I don't want to marry you. I want all of the benefits of a relationship with God without the responsibility, accountability, or commitment.

Brad Bryan: Means, I'm neither. I'm cynical. But, in my experience, most people I have known that say this are not what I would describe as spiritual. I mean, not really.

Zak McIntyre: Trying to connect with a higher power but not yet seeing how a church fits into that.

Todd Scranton: In my experience it can mean a lot of things. Sometimes it means "I've been burned by the church, but I still have some semblance of my faith left that I'm struggling with." Sometimes it means "I've outgrown the narrow parameters of the faith I was raised with, but I haven't done the work of figuring out what I DO believe." Sometimes it means "I sometimes feel something, but I don't know what it is, and don't have anyone I trust to help me figure it out." And sometimes it means "Get away from me you pushy religious person." The thing I know it DOESN'T mean is "Please, scorn me from the position of your religious community's understanding and treat me like some kind of immature slacker."

June Clark: I have wrestled with this question. As best I can decipher it, this means that the person believes in a higher power of some kind but is not sure how that looks.

Valerie Kistler Miller: A belief in God but not the church as a collective entity.

Susan March: Unsure of what "God" means but still possibly open to seeking. Religion represents 'judgement', so definitely not religious!

Emily Stirewalt: Hurt by organized religion.

Michael Stanfield: It is a statement made by people who feel the pull of God, but are frightened by "Church". Christians, as a collective body, tend treat others as morally inferior. While professing faith in Jesus (a Man who spent his entire ministry preaching tolerance and understanding and dining with prostitutes and lepers) they support agendas that create division, oppression and fear. Christians, as a collective body, tend to be wildly hypocritical and some of the least tolerant humans on the planet. Your statement allows them to say they feel God without having to put that "label" of religion on themselves. Watching how a lot of "Christians" act, I can't blame them.

Bob Maffitt: I think it often means I am afraid to totally deny that God exists, but I do not want to commit my time or money to supporting a church, helping others or learning about Biblical concerns that may be contrary to how I want to live life my life. Just some thoughts.
            Linda Lightner Hobbs: Bob, I think you hit the nail on the head so to speak.

Seth Dylan Hunt: Spiritual is what you own and religion is the construct under which you practice or speech on spirit. That's always been my take.

Owen Smith: Believing in God, but not feeling welcome or comfortable with any local congregation/gathering they know of. May be a cop-out to being active or committed to serve or even attend a church.

Bob Edwards: Not sure. I hope it means that they pray but sometimes spiritual people are not believers.

Mark Hansche: I think it means that they sense the Divine spark that is in all of us, but they have no foundation on which to allow the Holy Spirit to turn that spark into a flame. They're drifting.

Cindy K Day Hauk: I believe when someone says they are spiritual but not religious is they may lack the personal relationship with Christ and His followers.

Joan Cotton DeBoe: Belief in a higher power but uninterested in "being subject to" an organization that expects a particular response.

John Hampton Jr.: I hear "I don't trust the church". Many I've spoken to (so this is just anecdotal) share in their assertion of spiritual, not religious an almost agnostic approach to God; but they share a feeling that the church is corrupt. They'd rather go through life finding God than have some church tell them who God is. I wish I had a better way of telling them that at least we in the UMC are doing the same thing they are.

Dorothy Drago Brucks: They like to hummmmm.

Nathan Cornelius” That is someone whom the church as a business has "turned off"

Ben Mulford: I'm surprised no one has said it means "I'm okay with burning in hell." Not that I think that, but I could imagine a deeply "religious" person responding that way.

Doug Cannon: I think being spiritual, but not religious, is becoming commonplace. Many people have been spiritually abused in a church, and don't want to be a part of a large group on Sunday morning. These people have a connection with God in their hearts, but don't feel the need to share that connection with others.  As stated before, many are turned off by some church they've visited. Maybe it was the music. Maybe it was what the pastor said. Maybe it was not being made welcome when they walked in. People who have experienced this have chosen to worship their God in different ways. I think this is becoming more & more the norm. "Church" can mean many things. I've had church alone on a forest. I've had church with 5000 others.

Chris Snyder: I don't know but there are days I worry I am religious and spiritual.

Niki Parrish Scott: I think it means someone has been hurt in some way & may be afraid of being hurt further by a "structure" that should actually be doing the opposite.
I fear we underestimate it as a cop out or whatever you'd like to call it. I'd like to see a way to communicate without "the church" becoming defensive.

Joy Perry: I have always thought that it was a comment made by someone who has been hurt by the church or who is fed up with the politics of the church. Another possibility is someone who has seen too many hypocrites there. They believe in God, but don't feel they need organized religion.
            June DeWeese: I agree totally with what Joy wrote. That would be the case with the person whom I know. Except where she wrote " or" I would write "and"......

John Schmalzbauer: Agree with much of what has been said. People hurt by "organized religion" and disaffected with congregations. I think there is also an element of American individualism. Jefferson said "I am my own sect." Saying you're spiritual but not religious is analogous to being political without voting. Many studies show Americans are disaffected with institutions, including the church, the government, business, and the news media. A lot of this is because institutions have let us down.

Megan Hammer Lucy: I agree with all the above, but would also say that while sometimes people are turned off by being treated poorly by church goers but still like the ideas of Christianity, that sometimes it can be the other way around, too. People can be turned off by things like the way the Bible talks about women, or the way church doctrine addresses LGBT people but still feel connected and loved by Christians in a way that makes them feel spiritually connected to the community. At least that's the way I feel sometimes. I find myself frustrated by the "written policies" of the church and even the Bible sometimes, by the goodness and love of God's people draws me back.

Kathryn Smith: And there are those who say they can be closer to God on the golf course or on lake.

Wyn Andrews: I think it's indicative of someone who has been hurt by church. I used to say this about myself. Religion has been deeply problematic throughout human history, and it's not unreasonable to want to separate oneself from that. Of course, as a regular church goer (I used to say that even though I went to church every week. I still do.) I believe in the positives that an open and affirming congregation can offer to members, local communities, and the world. But, I don't think it's helpful to criticize this statement - not that you are, Andy, but I've seen some troubling comments here that, in my experience, will keep people from wanting to embrace going to church.

Dan Bohannon: The "religious" follow rules and people and are usually are viewed as less tolerant of other "religions" or people who follow a different path. The "spiritual" follow a perception of a "higher power" or their own bliss or something, anything they feel doesn't put them in the religious category. They may feel they are less judgmental and more tolerant than their religious friends.

Margie Lutjen Briggs: I think of religious people as Bible thumpers, the rules and regulations, flowing robe kind of people. Spiritual people are deep in faith and trusting with their walk. I guess I feel that being religious one must talk about the rules and see to it everyone follows them like they believe they should be followed. The kind that would use the Bible as weapon. A person who is spiritual tries their best to be full of love and grace.

Julia Essman: I don't know if it's been stated but I know one person I talked to recently said that their definition of their spirituality was listening to the feeling that come to them and in general letting fate take its course type of a thing. The way they described it sounded along the lines of agnostic, but with "following the path that is put before them" thrown in... I don't have a personal definition of "spiritual not religious" because I don't know enough about it. That's just from the conversation I had recently.

Maureen Glynn McNeil: I think it's a copout.

Thomas T. Sanders: Not much. I mean, it doesn't seem to me to be a statement which intends to communicate much, but more likely block or cut off communication about the subject.

Patsy Rhodes: I've been told I answer certain questions the way I do because I'm Spiritual. But to me, I say I'm Spiritual because of experiences I've had and visions I've seen. That's probably not what’s the correct way to describe a Spiritual person, but who is to determine what's correct and what's not.

Andrea Young: This has been a very good question. To me it could be like the chicken and the egg. I feel the spirit of God within me but yet I am not versed well in the religious teachings of the bible. I cannot quote scriptures and I don't know which testament is which sometimes. I cry every time I pray because I am so moved by the spirit of God. Someone might ask how can I know God if I do not know the bible? Which came first, Spirit or Religion? I only know what I feel
            Whispering Pine: So, Andrea, what holds you back from studying more and exploring that which is moving in you? Why not seek understanding and wisdom?
            Patsy Rhodes: Andrea, I understand and respect you for what you so eloquently Posted. You spoke for me too. No one can believe in and love God, Jesus and The Spirit more than me, and I am not well versed, as you stated, in the Bible. I had tears when I read how you cry every time you pray. I know and believe in them because I survived and experienced them and their love in real life.

Hector Eduardo Bousson: "I'm confused but I want to sound smart while saying it."

Chris Mixson: Spiritual= Individual / Religious=Part of something bigger than me.

Terry Hammer: There is a mindset which allows a person to believe they can live a Godly life without actually engaging with other people and the broken world. It is a very alluring proposition-much safer and less messy, but it is also a false premise. What if Christ had not engaged with the world?

Marti Fort: I have wondered that many times. Maybe they don't think they fit in to the church establishment.

Bo Tucker: God is moving you to take action outside the walls of the church.

Debby Peebles: My sister - you practice yoga, you read spiritual books, but you don't go to church unless maybe the yoga class is there

Pat Barker Auston: I believe it is possible to be both spiritual and religious. Spiritual - feeling within self, religious - going to a church and becoming an active member of that religion. So can you be religious and not spiritual? Yes, but missing one of the most important parts of religion, spirituality . Can you be spiritual and not religious? Yes, but missing fellowship.

Sonseeahray Hodge: A "personal walk with God" is just that. Personal. You don't have to be hurt by a church community, or follow a daily doctrine to have that relationship. When someone says that they are spiritual, it means that they have not found a church community that regularly adheres to values that they believe reflect their vision of what God wants. People within church communities don't realize that they truly speak another language, "church talk" that is very isolating and at times even appears ridiculous to people that are not within that community. When those outside the church community see this language, the hierarchy of members and see church members failing to follow their own doctrine...they ask themselves why would they want to be a part of that and why would they need that in their personal relationship with God? Religion is a practice, if that practice does not entirely reflect your spiritual belief then you do not need to be a part of it.

Lawrence Kyle Hern: I think it means that God's location has changed.

Ashley Hicks: I am actually one of those people. I'm sure the definition is different for each of us so I will only speak for myself. I believe in God, I pray, I was raised in the church which was a wonderful experience and shaped who I am as a person. That being said, my personal beliefs as I've grown don't really fit into one specific religion so I don't feel right identifying with one. Many of my beliefs overlap with a variety of religions so I tell people I'm spiritual because I guess I don't really know how to define it. Life = love for me.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

My Plan to Fix the UMC - "The DIRT"

This is what we need to do, United Methodist Church. Not that you asked me. But I can fix it. I call my plan “The DIRT.”

Here’s how it goes: No new petitions will be allowed at the 2020 General Conference. The Book of Discipline and Book of Resolutions will be “paused” for four years. The entire General Conference of 2020 will be devoted to the formation of a 24 person “Discipline Rewrite Team,” known as the DIRT.

We will meet people, get to know them, hear their ideas, nominate those we think would be good to serve on the DIRT, and at the end of our Conference, we would elect them and they would get to work. General Conference 2020 would be devoted exclusively to this purpose. And, most importantly, the election of the DIRT would imply approval of the work they would do.

Their task would be to start from a blank slate and write a brand new Book of Discipline, and here are the only guidelines we would give them.
- They would have four years to do it.
- The final product should be as simple and succinct as possible, like 50 pages max.
- They would be instructed to create  a book of policy that
1) empowers the local church to accomplish the mission,
2) redefines connectionalism for the 21st century, and
3) articulates that which comprises a distinct United Methodist ethos.

So then, in 2024 we would vote to abolish the old Book of Discipline and approve the new one without debate or motions to amend. We would be able to do this with confidence because of all the relational work we would have done in 2020. And then the rest of General Conference 2024 would be devoted to training on the new Discipline, which the DIRT would facilitate.

Here’s the motivation for my proposal: The structure of the United Methodist Church has become a hot sticky tar pit in which our ecclesial dinosaur has become stuck and is slowly being engulfed. The Book of Discipline is a document filled with unnecessary complexity that nobody actually understands fully. It has been amended and tweaked and adjusted and added to little by little over the years to the point where now it is almost completely useless for meaningful governance. The UMC needs a massive change, and the DIRT plan is the only way it can happen. Otherwise we’re just adding another layer of tar to the pit.

Frankly, I cannot find a single flaw in this plan. Other than, you know, it will never actually happen. Other than that though, I’m pretty sure I have just fixed the United Methodist Church! You’re welcome.