Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 1, 2004
Light the way for spiritual seekers
Without batting an eyelash, children's book author Karleen Bradford of Owen Sound, Ont., said, "I was born and baptized a Christian, but I wouldn't call myself a Christian now."
That was her reply when I asked her if she were a Christian after listening to her talk about the Crusades, which are the historical background of most of her novels.
"I followed the Christian faith all my life but I really wouldn't say that I belong to any organized church.
"I've done a lot of research about Buddhism and other religions: I just don't find one that I can follow. But that is not to say I am not a spiritual person and that I don't believe in God."
As she was telling me this, I remembered U2's song entitled, I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. With this song, U2 poignantly articulates the voices of people who are searching for meaning in many different ways, spiritual search included.
It is not the first time that I met someone who seems to be a very nice person essentially say, "I am not religious but that does not mean I am not spiritual or not a believer."
What is the difference between being religious and being spiritual?
For people who grew up and remained all their life in the Christian faith, the two realities are intertwined and almost interchangeable. And they wouldn't find any distinction between the two.
But for most people of today's world, especially the young adult generation, being spiritual is totally different from being religious. Being spiritual, in their definition, is believing in a Supreme Being and doing what is morally right and acceptable.
In saying "I am spiritual but not necessarily religious," what one is saying in essence is that going to Church, praying with the community, and participating in the faith life of others are not necessary to nurture one's personal faith.
In essence, what one is saying is that community is not necessary to grow and mature in faith.
And why does being religious almost seem to sound like a dirty word?
"You mean that going-to-church-on-Sunday crap?" asked one of my friends, who grew up in an evangelical home and who stopped attending church three years ago.
"I'd prefer to be in my own private space praying than being there with a whole bunch of hypocrites and self-righteous churchgoers."
His statement seemed to be strongly worded, but for him what Christ teaches in the Beatitudes no longer finds a real witness in the way most religious people live their lives.
I agree that could be true in some cases, but I also know there are people who exemplify what the Beatitudes are all about.
If we are to minister effectively to the younger generation of people we need to touch on the different aspects of our faith.
We have to tell them how we have evolved as a church and together with them study the Christian story and know it well with all of its moments of light and moments of darkness.
We have to engage them in a dialogue that allows them to ask tough questions.
We must be descriptive in presenting our beliefs. This effort calls for reading the world not primarily as a sociologist, psychologist or political scientist, but combining all these to ask, "Where is God in all of this?"
In pursuing answers to life's deepest questions, we have to approach them knowing what language, what practices, what relationship and models make sense to this generation. We need to show them we are here for them, we know who they are and that we care. And be real when you do that.
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