We all know folks who identify as “spiritual but not religious.” Do you have compassion, tolerance and understanding for their spiritual journeys? Or do you find them immature, shallow and a little bit boring?
A few weeks ago, a United Church of Christ minister, the Rev. Lillian Daniel of Glen Ellyn, Illinois, wrote a blog post entitled “Spiritual But Not Religious? Please Stop Boring Me.” In it, she vents about a recent flight during which a “spiritual but not religious” person tried to enlighten her about how he can find God in sunsets.
As you can tell, her tone is a bit snide and snarky:
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She apparently hit a nerve, to judge from the reactions online, but not necessarily from “spiritual but not religious” (SBNR) people. Instead, it was the “religious and spiritual” contingent that has been debating whether Daniel’s comments are appropriate.
Some unabashedly agree with Daniel, especially other ministers and church employees who often find themselves on the receiving end of a dumping of grievances not aimed at any sort of reconciliation or even true conversation. Writes the Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein, a Unitarian Universalist:
But others felt Daniel’s comments unfairly paint SBNRs with too broad of a brush and that her tone was not worthy of the community she so strongly defends. Another Unitarian Universalist minister writes:
Not only do many of us know “spiritual but not religious” folks, but we may have even been one. There are good reasons to be frustrated with religious communities and to decide to leave them. On the other hand, broad disdain and intolerance for all religion is ironic coming from people who left religion in part because of its intolerance. (It’s why Bill Maher drives me so crazy.)
I believe in being open to all, but sometimes it’s best to just leave an angry SBNR person alone. I can handle boring, but I won’t allow myself to be emotionally drained and abused. But many who start a conversation with “I’m spiritual but not religious” are really seeking healing and are truly open to real conversation about faith. Perhaps they are even hoping, deep down, that you will prove them wrong.
A longer version of the Daniel’s reflections ran in Christian Century here.
What do you all think?