“I don’t need organized religion.”
I hear that now and again. Too often at family get-togethers in friends’ homes.
Or, “I’m not religious. I’m spiritual.”
Sometimes the individual will add that she or he doesn’t see the need of going to church: “I can be spiritual all on my own.”
The Entirely Inadequate Trinity: Me, Myself, & I
It’s hard to argue against being spiritual. But in our increasingly isolated society — where individuals largely communicate with others through electronic devices and spend more time with video images of people than with flesh-and-blood people — I do wonder what sort of spirit the individual is receiving and celebrating and letting direct his or her life.
The spirit of self? Or worse, the spirit of self-orientation? The spirit of self-seeking?
When I was a kid back in the 1960s, I played Freeze Tag and Kick the Can with neighborhood kids. Today, I have to explain to younger folks that these are not video games or cell phone apps.
Many of us go to work alone. We work in cubicles alone. When we get home, we surf the Internet alone. We watch movies alone. Decked out with iPods, we work out on treadmills alone. We find virtual friends on chatlines. We even read books on personal success or personal enlightenment — all by and for oneself.
Many wonder why they’re spiritual, successful or independent — and yet unfulfilled — even achingly lonely.
Reflecting and Meditating Alone is Important. But not enough.
I never try to guilt these individuals into going to church, of course. Nor do I try to best them in an argument.
First of all, they do have a point. It is indeed important to find some time with oneself for meditating, reflecting, praying.
But I do find that argumentation, and certainly shaming, simply reinforces why they avoid gathering with others.
I simply invite. And I explain that – for me and many others – it’s all about
. And not always inside a church. It’s about connecting and building trust with others. It’s about being there for others … and letting others be there for you.
And when the solo-spiritualist disdains “organized religion,” perhaps they’re really expressing that they’ve had bad experiences within intentional communities similar to Jesus’ experience with the Pharisees et al.
My goodness, they’ve certainly read enough headlines on their smart phones to be wary of hanging with and listening to clergy. Or even with a community they rejected as a teen … as they rejected anything else associated with mom and dad.
I suppose it’s possible to drag a teen to, or shame a spouse into going to, church. But if not engaged with others, they remain simply surrounded by hundreds of strangers. And they will find ways to stay away.
The Trinity of Loving Is the Love within the Trinity
Let’s be real: balancing self-interest with other-interest is hard when with a lot of folks. Especially those not pre-selected through Facebook. Especially in a society structured around minimizing inconvenience. Maximizing pleasure. Avoiding the messiness of a life as “we.”
I choose to be “spiritual-plus.” That is, spiritual
others. Spirituality as communion with God — and all others. “Relationship-ing” — and the community that it both comes from and creates — is really the essence of Christ’s teaching on the Kingdom of God:
Loving God, Loving others, and Loving yourself. ~ Mark 12:30-31 (This really should be every church’s mission and vision statement.)
Remember, this teaching on Loving is not the same as our notion of liking. It’s not even an emotion or sentiment. It’s better understood as compassion-in-action. At the very least, respecting the humanity of every person.
Such Loving simply imitates the dynamic within and radiating from the Holy Trinity.
Together We’re More Complete
And not only on Sundays, but in all sorts of ways throughout the week. Again, it’s not just about
going to church
on Sundays. It’s also about
being church the rest of the week
If you know of someone dissatisfied with solo-spirituality, simply invite them into “spirituality-plus-others.” Believe me, when they see how happy and fulfilled you are, they’ll often accept your invitation.
St. Bridget’s Parish Community is worshipping at St. Austin’s Campus – 4050 Upton Avenue N., Mpls – throughout the month of November, and also Dec. 1 & 2. Weekend Masses: 4:30 pm Saturday, 9;30 am Sunday. Weekday liturgies at 8 am.
However, on Thanksgiving, Thursday, Nov. 22, Mass will be at St. Austin’s at 9:30 am.