Friday, April 20, 2007

Religion without Spirituality?

A discussion at breakfast this morning about religious fundamentalism led me to reflect that what we are facing right now--a peril to civilization that is coming to us wrapped in a cloak of piety--is really the reverse of our secular culture's "spirituality without religion." It is even more insidious and corrupting: religion without spirituality.
What are some of the characteristics of politico-religious fundamentalism as we see it in current events? Prescinding from the specific doctrines that are held, whether it is Islamic fundamentalism or Christian, there seems to be a very this-worldly appreciation of the benefits of religion. The fundamentalism in question tends to "use" what is understood as holy and right in order to wrest control of certain goods--whether political goods or virgins in heaven or "souls for Christ" who can be tallied up on a counter on someone's blog. And God is invoked as the reason or the power behind it all, but there seems to be precious little genuine surrender, trust and abandonment to a God who "thinks not as man thinks."
"Spirituality" is a fuzzy word these days, but for Paul, it meant "thinking according to the Spirit"; "having the mind of Christ." "Spiritual" was one of his favorite adjectives!
I have to admit that these reflections are coming out of my own experience of late, when unexpected news on a completely different level seemed to undermine my trust. I had to recognize that I was trusting in the wrong thing! Not in the God who "makes everything work together for good," but in the "everything" that I was counting on as means to a good end. God can attain the end without our means. Or he may have another end entirely in mind. Fundamentalism of whatever stripe is all the more pitiful to the extent that it keeps shrinking God down to manageable size. But a God that manageable certainly can't be trusted to providentially rule the universe!

(Jesus, I trust in you--yes, I do!)


Anonymous said...

I trust in Jesus, yet I still Ask, Seek and Knock.

Anonymous said...

My views on life differ. I would view fundamentalism as different from a life withour spirituality, as fundamentalists believe they are doing the right thing, and that they feel this as their duty to God. Imagine how much faith it takes to die for a cause.
What they lack is compassion, hope; deeper, simpler things.
I grew up Catholic, but I am not spiritual. I found I could not partake in Confirmation, because if so, I would not see things as they were, and thus not be able to truly help others.
I believe in religion as a social organization that calls us to action, to unify, to be compassionate. But, for me, God is not necessary.
Problems have grown, but the world gets better every decade. Think back to how "civilized" slavery was, how many people died in and because of World War 2. It is slow, but most people are good, and as long as they talk to each other and see things, not as they seem, but as they are (ie anger is not evil, but usually frustration), then it'll end well.

Just have faith in us.

Thank you.