Spirituality is in. Religion? Not so much. Spiritual keeps you safely vague. You can be spiritual without risk of someone revoking your “cool card.” Religious, on the other hand, can sound stodgy, old and cold. Have you noticed that when people use the word religious, what they mean is dead moralism rather than vibrant faith?
Still, the spiritual label can be a bit dishonest. Sometimes it’s more about about P.R. than genuine belief. (How cool is that?) Passionate convictions always need a winsome, relevant spokesman. But you don’t achieve authenticity by compromising the thing itself.
If you’re going to have an influence, you need these four marks of authentic faith:
1) Be clear.
Know where you stand and be FOR it rather than merely against others. Angry people define themselves only by what they are against. Most of them are unaware how much it shows.
2) Be accountable.
Ever heard of “Sheilaism?” It’s the pet term for people whose faith is mainly about them, rather than God. In the 1990’s, some folks at Emory University noticed a trend. American’s beliefs were becoming narcissistic. The most telling quote was from a woman named Sheila who had named her faith after herself. She called it “Her own little voice.” This kind of low accountability is unhealthy. Input from enduring, external voices, is a mark of maturity, not fakery. The villains of history were enamored with their own little voice.
3) Don’t judge the judgers.
My kids tell me: “Whenever you point the finger, three are pointing back at you.” (Literally. Try it.) Cute image, but there’s truth here. The philosopher Nietzsche put it a bit more artfully: “In fighting the dragon, take care that you do not become the dragon.”
4) Be Sustainable.
It’s easy to cast stones at what someone else has built, like a church. I hear, “Churches are full of self-righteous people who believe they are better than everyone else.” Sometimes, yes; but please read #3. If you were to find the perfect church, wouldn’t you be afraid to join it? (Oops, there it went.)
If you’re suspicious of “organized religion,” consider: We organize in order to sustain and even pass on valuable things. Someone said, “Without individuals, nothing gets done; but without institutions, nothing survives. It’s true, you can go a lot faster alone, but you can go a lot further together.
In part, religion means to retie. It’s to become part of something bigger than me, myself and I.
How do you describe yourself? Spiritual, religious, neither?