Here’s something that’s been on my mind for a while, and it’s become especially important to me after reading an article entitled “More Folks Eschew Organized Religion but Not Spirituality.”
It’s a cultural trend for people to say that they are “spiritual but not religious.” You gotta hand it to this group—this slogan sounds really nifty (if not creative). Who wants to be religious? Spiritual sounds much better. And quite frankly, the word religion is laced with the connotations of empty ritual, pointless façade, and self-righteous indignation at people who don’t live up to an arbitrary standard. Nobody wants that.
But why has the “spirituality” discussed in the article become so popular? Why are we rejecting organized religion, doctrine, and traditional understandings of God?
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the West takes so readily to this mindset. Postmodern “spirituality” is characterized by customization and convenience.
The customization takes place in one’s understanding of God. Does the God of the Bible offend you in certain ways? Do you prefer the teachings of the Dalai Lama to those of the Apostle Paul? Well, why not do a little mix and match, developing your own idea of God? In a sense, even American Christians obsess over customization, demanding churches that cater to their preferred mode of music and entertainment styles. This is the product of an individualistic, consumer-oriented culture. So why not take it to the next level and customize God Himself? “Spirituality” is perfect for our culture because it is self-pleasing and self-centered.
The convenience takes place in one’s understanding of the gospel. Nobody wants to believe something difficult. Why adapt your life to an externally-invented system of beliefs and practices when you can simply adapt them to the life you are already living? Why go to church and have to deal with all those inconvenient, difficult people? Why not just surround yourself with beliefs, practices, and friends which never challenge you or convict you? “Spirituality” is perfect for our culture because it demands no change and expects no sacrifice.
Ultimately, it all comes down to our understanding of God. Is he really so pliable that we can poke and prod him, carefully molding him like so much Play-Do? Is he really so small that we can tell him what he can and can’t demand of us? Is he really so stupid that we must educate him about right and wrong?
Maybe others are content with such a “god”—if such a pitiable being can even be called a god. As for me, I loathe him, and I am weary of thinking he is anything but a poor counterfeit of my Lord.
The only God I can love is the one true God, the triune God of the Bible, holy in all His ways, a God to be feared and a God of love. He alone is good; He alone is worthy of worship. He says to us, “Be still and know that I am God“ (Psalm 46:10).