Grace from Within and Without
A couple of years ago I wrote a blog post about the fact that the old "I'm spiritual but not religious" argument is moot simply because there is no such thing as being spiritual and not religious and that people who say so are actually neither. It's not my intention to rehash that argument but this week a colleague offered an explanation (he learned it from a writer named Diana Butler Bass) that made some sense of this tired and semantically problematic phraseology.
Bass' explanation of the difference between being spiritual versus religious has its basis in issues related to authority. These are my words based on my colleague's based on Bass' so take this for what it's worth: People who say that they are "spiritual" tend to rely on an authority from within (a personal creed) and people who say that they are religious tend to rely on an authority from without (a cultic creed). For Christians the authority from without - the authority we aspire to obey (and as such embody) - is revealed outside of ourselves and within the Holy Scriptures, in Creeds (as in the Nicene), and in the doctrine (official teachings) of the church. For the spiritual it's just the opposite - the authority they aspire to obey comes from within themselves and the praxis or rule of life that they live by is one that they write themselves.
At church today we read the parable of the Good Samaritan attributed to Jesus (Luke 10.25-37). Apparently the debate between the religious and the spiritual isn't old. In Jesus' parable a priest and a Levite (both religious and by virtue those whose authority comes from without) ritually avoid a man left for dead on the road to Jericho. A Samaritan (non-religious by Hebraic standards and by virtue one whose authority comes from within) cares for a man left for dead. The parable ends with Jesus asking a question: Who did the right thing?
Let us Pray:
O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may receive the grace and power to accomplish them, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever, Amen.