What does, ‘I am Spiritual, but not Religious!’ Mean Anyway?

I am ‘spiritual, but not religious seems to be the mantra nowadays.  So I did a little research on the subject.  Alan Miller, Special to CNN, expresses some strong opinions in his article, My Take: ‘I’m spiritual but not religious’ is a cop-out.

My niece remarked that she has yet to find a parish that fulfills her needs.  She lamented that the music, liturgy, communication, and activities were all substandard.  She observed that her church consisted of a change-resistant, older congregation that even her pastor could not convince to allow for implementation of new ideas.

My niece admits that she and others of her generation pick and choose the ideas/rules/beliefs that they like about their faiths and disregard the rest.  In Catholicism, we call that being a “cafeteria Catholic.”  Christians also apparently use the term cafeteria Christianity, but whether they’re Catholic, Christian, or neither, they all prefer to call themselves, ‘spiritual, but not religious.’

In my Pastoral Care Integration class, one of my classmates used the term ‘spiritual but not religious’ while presenting her final paper.  She did not like the statement and did not understand how the two (spirituality and religion) can be divorced.  She stated that she is in the leadership of her parish and they are working on increasing membership.  Despite her dislike of the term, she and the others in church leadership try to appeal to that demographic.

Why does someone identify as spiritual but not religious? Perhaps something has turned them off to religion and/or church? As Dr. Rodgerson recounted to us regarding his church adventures, some of the nastiest, pettiest, most flawed people can be found behind those double doors.

We read Congregational Leadership in Anxious Times: Being Calm and Courageous No Matter What by Peter Steinke. He certainly has some church horror tales to tell!  Steinke analyzed church dynamics from a Bowen theory and systems theory standpoint.  He voluntarily goes into troubled churches and attempts to fix their problems.  Talk about a job I would NEVER ever want…

Some of my classmates have expressed their dissatisfaction with church and their ideas of how to facilitate change. They fleshed out these ideas in preparation for writing the Pastoral Care Professional Seminar paper.  As a spiritual director, I understand that people resist change.  It is difficult enough to get an individual to entertain the concept, let alone an entire organization!

My prayers go with all of those visionaries who want to ameliorate church. If we are to believe the ‘spiritual, but not religious’ among us; church needs to do a better job of meeting people’s needs to stay viable now and in years to come.