"There's a shift. Some call it being a 'none,' others call it the 'emergent church,' and some others call it something else, I'm sure. And I find myself in the middle: remembering the past and what I loved so much about religion and church life while also looking for what's ahead, knowing that's where I'm being called."
And recently, at an event with leaders who were encouraged to share about their personal life, many said, "I'm a Christian but not the kind that…" as a way to distinguish themselves from the "stereotypical" Christian. They felt there needed to be some disclaimer.
This all got me wondering even more about where Christianity is headed as a religion. Will we all end up more on the "spiritual" side of the spectrum, but at the cost of denying many sacred jewels religion has provided?
Has religion gotten a bad rap or is it truly deeply flawed? When we look at history and present day, we can definitely find fault with religion, religious organizations, and religious people. But isn’t that, to some degree, to be expected? Have we (the "other" Christians) become so judgmental that we believe those who are religious are to blame? Do we have an unexpected view and hope of what religion can accomplish? Do we expect it to be the answer, yet wait to point our finger in blame when it falls short? Have we put our belief in religion instead of God?
And what does it mean to be religious anyway? What does it mean to be spiritual? Can someone be both? I've noticed in my own life that religion and spirituality are important. I need both. I need religion because I need a solid sense of belonging to a community of folks who hold the same hope and beliefs. I need religion for structure and for its rituals. There is a rhythm that comes with religion. Chants and creeds. Songs and rituals.
Yep, you can have all of that by being spiritual without being religious but, for me, one without the other involves some sort of emptiness. Maybe that’s because my spirituality is a little loose. It's a free spirit, go-with-the-flow kind of rhythm. There are no set times for prayer, meditation or reflection. I go with how I feel. That’s God just as much as the religious rituals are (or can be) but there’s something important to me in finding the balance of both.
I am certain that growing up in a religious household has a lot to do with my search for religion. Growing up, I enjoyed going to church -- the connections, being of service, learning as a community. As an adult, not so much. I haven't seemed to find the rhythm of church-life that feeds my adult soul and allows space for me to continue to grow authentically.
That's why I'm thankful to know God -- love, energy, force, guiding light and principle, all that words cannot define or explain -- meets me where I am on my journey, church or not. I don't believe God will punish me for resting on Sunday or not praying at a certain time in a certain way. I'm not religious in those beliefs. Rather, I have found my body desiring religion to support and strengthen – like a backboard - my spiritual practices; and I am embracing that instead of denying my religious desires.
Still, I believe God calls us to get rid of the old ("wine skins") that no longer serves our growth in Him. I wonder how that plays out for us in this in-between space of religion and spirituality. There's a shift. Some call it being a “none,” others call it the "emergent church," and some others call it something else, I'm sure. And I find myself in the middle: remembering the past and what I loved so much about religion and church life while also looking for what's ahead, knowing that's where I'm being called.
I wonder, is it possible to take the best of religion and the best of spirituality to create something new? If we were to create the "church" -- which I believe is happening now -- what would be there? What would it look and feel like? What would you take from the old and bring to the new? What would be its rhythm?