Why is it that so many today feel comfortable identifying themselves with spirituality rather than religion? This question is particularly relevant for those concerned about the diminishing presence and influence of Christianity in the Western world.
Yes, the term spirituality has taken on a self-centered meaning for many. As described in Wikipedia, it can refer to “personal growth, blissful experience, or an encounter with one’s own ‘inner dimension.’” The Christian typically feels uncomfortable with such a definition because it is self-centered. But clearly, today there is a persistent yearning for something beyond the material or physical.
Why are so many not finding it in Christian churches? Here is my take:
If we consider the history of Western Civilization, in the 1700s, we find the introduction of empiricism, reality defined by the physical senses, a philosophy that became increasingly prominent, so that today it rules! If you cannot prove something scientifically, based upon empirical evidence, then it is not considered real. Prior to this, the things of Spirit were considered reality.
Over the years, the Christian churches have done what any successful organization must do, ensure their perpetuity, which inevitably means drawing people into the flock and holding on to them. But the path of spirituality, cultivating our relationship with God is entirely individual and involves change (after all, the subject of infinity is hard to nail down!), which, unless it is encouraged by the church organization, it is suppressed by it! As was addressed in a past blog, God has become peripheral, and the yearning for something beyond the material is not being met for an increasing number who do not see joining a church group as a stepping stone to spirituality.
Here is statement about Christianity followed by an observation made by Mary Baker Glover in 1875, more relevant than ever:
Spirituality is the only Christianity; and its basis is, “to be absent from the body and present with the Lord;” sensuality is personality ever present with the body. We have already sufficient professions of goodness without the Spirit: too many religions and not enough Christianity is the genius of the age... What we want is, “Christ and Him crucified,” in other words, Truth and the cross-bearing that attends it, to make mankind better.
Sensuality is personality ever present with the body - is another way of saying: "The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." (Romans) But how many Christians make this practical on the road to spiritualizing thought.
We have already sufficient professions of goodness without the Spirit is addressed in a recent blog Good Intentions Pave the Way to Hell.
The following are examples from the Bible that further support the premise "Spirituality is the only Christianity:"
It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: (Jesus)
But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. (Jesus)
Those sincerely seeking spirituality are hungering for the genuine Christian message as here expressed.