Tuesday, August 22, 2017

"I am spiritual, but not religious..."

"Spirituality" can be a little abstract when you try your hand at defining it.
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"Religion," we get:  It's tied up in church buildings, prayers, doctrines, and creeds.  Many people (like me) engage with our religions as a reminder of our relationship with God, and as an organized, scheduled opportunity to spend time in His presence.  Our religious practices are strategies, or a kind of path, to keep up our connection with our Creator.  
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Each Sunday when I go to church, I am reminded of God's greatness, as well as His goodness.  I am in the presence of God and in fellowship with other believers.  I am reminded to spend my week loving Him and loving my neighbors.  I benefit from the generations of Christians before me who have traveled the same path that I am on, through the words of their hymns, the texts of the Bible, and the prayers and messages of the church leaders.  For me, church is a reminder, a fellowship, and an opportunity.
In An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith, author Barbara Brown Taylor's message is that religion is only one strategy or path for connecting to God, and that innumerable other strategies exist through the everyday activities, places, people, and interactions of our lives.

IF we are paying attention.

Taylor's spirituality is grounded firmly in the physical:  We experience God via the bodies He has given us.  Taylor doesn't urge us to become "more fully spiritual"; on the contrary, she urges us to become "more fully human."

We do that by paying attention to certain practices we can employ and enjoy because we have bodies.  Our bodies become our vehicle for drawing closer to God.  "In a world where faith is often construed as a way of thinking," Taylor writes, "bodily practices remind the willing that faith is a way of life." And not only that, but holiness surrounds us throughout our world, if we are willing and able to notice it.

From this point of view, Taylor formulates such bodily practices as "wearing skin," "walking on the earth," "getting lost," "encountering others," and "feeling pain," among others.  For her, spiritual treasure is found through the bodily experiences of human life on earth.  We just have to pay attention to these everyday experiences.

This book would appeal to believers who have wandered away from church, feeling that it is no longer a helpful means to grow in their relationship with God, whatever the reason.  But it appeals to me, too, because it helps me find ways to carry what I learn and experience in church on Sunday into my activities during the rest of the week.

As the Living Stones Women's Ministry uses this book for our twice-monthly discussions, I will write blog posts related to the chapters and our discussions.  I recommend this book for your personal library, but even if you choose not to read it for yourself, I invite you to read this series of blog posts to consider key points from Taylor's writing.

For your consideration:

Have you ever heard someone say, "I'm spiritual, but not religious" (or have you said it yourself)?  What does this mean to you, and how do you feel about the thinking behind the statement? How do you define "religious? How do you define "spiritual"?

As you read Taylor's book--and/or these blog posts--try to remain open-minded and attentive to the ways we can connect with God in our lives and our bodies in this world.

Just for fun, type "I am spiritual but not religious" in your browser, then click on "images," and enjoy the quotations, graphics, and opinions on this statement!

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