This is the second time within two weeks that I am stealing a great quote from another blogger, in this instance it is from Jason Goroncy (and it is not Goroncy, although there is plenty of Jason worthy to be quoted!, but Lash, whom Jason is quoting); last time I did this I stole a quote from Kait Dugan who was quoting Bruce McCormack on Barth (almost sounds like I’m scholastic or something). But I just couldn’t pass this up, and I wouldn’t want you to pass this up either; and if you don’t read Jason’s blog (and if you don’t you should!), then you would clearly have missed an opportunity to reflect on the difference that is present when someone says ‘I’m not religious, I’m spiritual!’. This is what Nicholas Lash is addressing in the quote that I found from him over at Goroncy’s; here’s what Lash thinks about such sentiment:
‘When people say (as they do, it seems, with increasing frequency) that they are more interested in “spirituality” than in “religion”, they usually seem to mean that they prefer the balm of private fantasy, the aromatherapy of uplifting individual sentiment, to the hard work of thought and action, the common struggle to make sense of things, to redeem and heal the world. When church leaders are exhorted to concentrate on “spiritual” affairs, the implication sometimes seems to be that these things are different from, and loftier than, such mundane matters as proclaiming good news to the poor and setting at liberty those who are oppressed’. – Nicholas Lash, Holiness, Speech and Silence: Reflections on the Question of God (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004), 92–3. [taken from this post at Jason’s]
Jason lives in New Zealand, I think Lash is in the UK, and I am in the USA; it doesn’t matter where one might be in the West, I am sure we have all encountered this kind of sentiment. It reeks of a thinly veiled varnish, it sounds shiny, and it looks finished; but upon further examination it becomes clear that this kind of posture towards life is really just an empty headed admission that these kinds of folk (who employ such verbiage) are full of dead man’s bones. It is an attempt to give an appearance of depth, thought, and dimension; without really counting the cost, without denying self, taking up the cross, and following Jesus. Sometimes, I’m afraid, that when people make the claim that they are Christians, they might as well be claiming to be ‘spiritual’ instead of ‘religious’; since, often, they share the same hollow ring. We are all hypocrites at some level—which is what’s so good about the Good News—but that doesn’t mean we can’t talk about our own hypocrisy, and then repent!