Diana Butler Bass, in her book Christianity After Religion, discusses the difference between “spirituality” and “religion”. She begins by sharing the opinions of participants in various groups to which she spoke. Depending on people’s experiences, she heard negative and positive statements about each. Religious leaders tended to be more negative toward the idea of “spirituality” as “individualistic,” selfish,” “lacking a moral compass” and “self-centered”. Members of their communities and people who didn’t claim membership in any religious body tended to describe “religious” with words like “rigid”, “narrow”, “outdated”, “cold”, “hurtful”, “narrow”, and “controlling”. I hear the same things as Ms. Bass reported.
Religious leaders also reported blaming those who claim to be “spiritual” as the reason for the decline of church. Well, maybe this is true, but I think the religious leaders have to take some responsibility. Even back when I myself was employed by a church, I felt at times that we were coercing people to attend and take advantage of our programs to justify our jobs.
I am pleased to hear people use the word “spirituality”. It says to me that people are finding something deeper than what churches have offered them. When Jesus said, “Feed my sheep”, I believe that he was talking about feeding their spirits. He was talking giving them “soul food”. To me it doesn’t matter what form a Sunday service takes. I can enjoy beautiful music, symbolic gesture, and a thought provoking sermon. But I wouldn’t waste my time if the church didn’t feed my soul.