Lent 2016

Losing My Religion (Part 1): everything participates in God

“I’m not religious but I am very spiritual.”

Where have I heard this quote before? Oh, yeah, everywhere! It is a favorite of those who I suppose have a particular view of “religion” and want the listener to do anything but ascribe their view of “spirit” to have anything to do with dark, or oppressive, institutions that claim the same values. In the following posts, I am going to propose a few ideas: 1. One can only be religious and not spiritual, not the other way around. 2. In order to grow, one must lose their religion at least a few times. 3. Claiming to not be religious is another way of guaranteeing a faith that will never go public, thus becoming irrelevant. The first idea is what I plan unveiling here. Onward!

#1: One can only be religious-and-not-spiritual, religious and spiritual, but never spiritual and not religious.

  • The place I want to start is at a very foundational and experiential level. We all feel a calling to devote ourselves to certain ideals and activities on any given day. Sometimes it feels like a firm devotion and sometimes a very loose devotion to whatever it is we find ourselves engaging with. This is what I mean by the word “religion,” wherein it is¬†anything that may be a binding influence in the world around us. This would mean that to say one is not religious is the same as saying one is released from any and all influences, which we know is impossible. The true individualist probably doesn’t exist, and if she does, she might be god. Only God is the objectivist, and all of us — who live in this subjectivist experience — only push and pull into true reality. The question is never about how one could be spiritual and not religious, for all are religious. The real question is how does one become spiritual, given that everyone is religious. There is no choice, because we are all submitted, by nature of belonging, to various bindings and cultural liturgies.
  • When Jesus says that whatever we bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, there is this imagery of tugging and pulling within human nature to take these bindings or “desires” in order to act in the world. In other words, if you bind yourself to certain things, make sure you bind yourself to the right things. for whatever bothers you will become your passion, so make sure the right things bother you. In this case, the thing which Jesus calls us to be “religious” about is the Kingdom of God. And the act of the religious Christian is to desire the Kingdom.
  • The most prominent religion today is secularism. Secularism is the ideology which says that you can be happy, fulfilled, free, through self-actualization apart from any notion or existence of a god or gods or the “religious.” As I have just shown, it is impossible to live without religion, so why bring up secularism as such? Secularism itself promises comfort and status, given that one participates in secularisms rituals of materialism, individualism, and personalism — even nationalism. And it is the idea that one could exhaustively do or speak on anything without the mentioning of the divine that is precisely the crux of secularism. “What does God have to do with what we are talking about?” is the primary question on the minds of the religious who are secular. So to be “religious” is a neutral thing, which says nothing good or bad about the person, only whether they are engaged in the right kind of religion. Secularism crafts for itself a vision of life that is trivial; philosophy as a doctrine of salvation apart from God; science as a quest for knowledge that seeks to render the divine unnecessary; and a government whose sole responsibility is to keep “god” out of the spotlight of human affairs, because this may become “oppressive.” Secularism itself enlists droves of young people into its wars, sweat shops, unquestioning obedience, and is responsible for the bloodiest century in human history — the 20th century, which the naive overlook in favor of all of its innovation. Seeking all the goods of Christianity, without christianity’s moral revolution, secularism flounders in its ability to deal with evil in the world; thus, secularism is forced to turn to its only possible solution (it would seem!): the myth of redemptive violence.
  • I know a lot of people who are religious but are not spiritual. It is within Christianity that the aim is to be like Christ, but this also means that the aim of the Christian is to be truly human. To be like Jesus is to be truly human, or a visible demonstration of humanity restored. And it is this restoration which should inevitably lead to creation restored. But what does it mean to not be “spiritual?” When we gossip, back-bite, put others down, forget the poor, and consciously choose to be disobedient to the call of love, that is not “spiritual,” it is of the flesh. It may even be a religious move to not be spiritual, but it is never the other way around. Everything is spiritual because God is spirit and all of life participates in God. To be “spiritual” is to act out of the divine source, which is God, expressed as love.

So, why am I losing my religion?

To be continued…