I've thought about it, and I'm pretty sure I'd like to join the cool crowd, the growing numbers of folks in our society who are button-bustin' proud of being "spiritual but not religious."
A good friend who reads a lot and, consequently, thinks a lot, pointed me to an interesting book the other day. Written by Lillian Daniel, the book is entitled, _When "Spiritual but Not Religious" Is Not Enough: Seeing God in Surprising Places, Even the Church_.
It's strange, she says, that folks who are so "spiritual" they can hardly stand themselves, but proud as punch of never darkening the door of a church, nowadays feel such a burning need to "witness" to out-dated religious folks, particularly ministers, about the weaknesses of church and organized religion.
Daniels says she's never felt a particular need to educate every teacher she meets with the knowledge that she's always hated math, or to inform cooks in her presence that she can't cook, or to tell clowns she runs across that she's always thought clowns were scary. But, for some reason, folks lock-stepping along to the popular "spiritual but not religious" tune feel a need to evangelize or poke the unenlightened old-fashioned.
Well, except that I'd be unemployed, I might like to try joining the "spiritual but not religious" folks. I've long wondered if I was religious enough to be a preacher anyway. And I think I could be as practically "spiritual" as any of the popular crowd.
I like birdies and sunsets. I like lakes and rivers (even more since ours here are all drying up.) I'm particularly fond of mountains and snow and sliding around in snow on sticks. If you want to find me looking "spiritual" and know it's what passes for the real deal and not just intestinal gas, catch me on top of a mountain in the snow.
I'm sure I'd like sleeping in a good bit more on Sunday mornings than I get to, which is, sadly, almost never.
I'm certain I'd like not giving tithes and offerings. I'd be willing to try mentally assenting that all blessings come from God but never being thankful in a way that involved much painful check-writing.
But I think I'd miss a lot.
I'd miss joining my heart and voice and prayers with others so that faith becomes a river and not just a dried up trickle.
I'd miss being encouraged alongside others of the centrality of Christ and his cross and what his people have always held most deeply meaningful and true and dear.
I'd miss being a genuine part of a fellowship of folks who love me and mine as family and laugh with me, cry with me, live in hope with me.
I'd miss being part of something bigger than me and the flavor or style I happen to like best at this moment. I'd miss the opportunity to follow a crucified Lord by at times crucifying my own desires so that others in his body might be blessed.
I'd miss being a real part of a group called to follow an unchanging Lord and his will rather than being led around the nose by society's latest always-changing opinion polls.
I'd like to try being spiritual but not religious. I just have a really bad feeling that, the more folks who try it, the more we all lose. Come to think of it, it's being religious and not just spiritual that forces me to believe a genuinely inconvenient truth: I need to care about how my decisions affect others and not just me.
Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at