Wednesday 30th July 2014

Home » Frontpage » Currently Reading:

Spiritual But Not Religious

January 13, 2014 Frontpage No Comments

By JAMES K. FITZPATRICK

I am not sure why I have been hearing the term “spiritual but not religious” more than I used to. It is not that I am moving in “bad circles” lately. But if that is not the explanation, what is? Let’s use Occam’s razor: The simplest explanation is the best. If I had to guess, I would say that there are more people these days who use the term to describe themselves.
It strikes me that there are different types of individuals who describe themselves as “SBNR.” One group seems motivated by an understandable, even commendable, reason; another seems drawn to the label for shallow and trendy reasons. And there are also those who use the self-designation as a way to excuse self-centered motives. Each of these groups should be approached differently, especially if they are Catholics or ex-Catholics looking for a way to participate in parish life.
The “understandable and commendable” advocates of a SBNR view of life are those who seek to distance themselves from doctrinaire naturalism and its exclusion of the spiritual and supernatural elements from life. These individuals are open to the existence of God, or gods, and an afterlife; they do not dismiss the possibility of miracles or “paranormal” occurrences. Granted, all too often this search leads them to questionable beliefs, everything from astrology to the occult.
Then what is commendable about them? I would argue that we must keep in mind the role of grace in our spiritual lives when dealing with this group. The people searching for “meaning” in Third World religions, modern versions of Druidism, native American shamanism, and one form or another of nature worship, if they are sincere in their search, may be just one spiritual awakening away from conversion. The possibility of such a change in heart should make a difference in the way we interact with them. Successful missionaries know how to nurture this non-Christian spiritual yearning; how to build upon a quest for the divine in life. Ordinary Catholics should seek to replicate that approach when we meet sincere people in our community who tell us they are SBNR. Cut them some slack; listen to them.
There are also what could be called the “trendy” proponents of a spiritual but not religious lifestyle. I have in mind those who define themselves as SBNR to indicate that they enjoy poetry readings and abstract art more than capitalist fat cats and their bourgeois neighbors who spend their time at their children’s hockey games and stock-car races. This form of SBNR is a form of elitism. There is no reason for Catholics to go out of their way to accommodate the complaints of those who find Catholic parish life unworthy of their refined sensibilities. Trying to do so is a fool’s errand. Elitists will always find some way to separate themselves from what they consider the “common folk.”
The third version of a SBNR individual? People in this group present a challenge to Catholics serious about their faith and the Magisterium. These SBNRs hold to views with which there is no room for compromise; an approach to life and moral responsibility that challenges the core of Catholicism. What they are looking for is a religious “experience” without dogma or doctrine, a form of moral relativism. A parish that seeks to make itself open and welcoming — and nonjudgmental — to those who are SBNR in this manner is playing with fire.
When I hear someone who upholds this version of “spiritual but not religious,” I am always reminded of Archbishop Sheen’s quip when confronted by an ex-Catholic who described himself as “raised Catholic, but a nonsectarian Christian now.” Sheen cut to the chase. He bluntly asked the man, “What’s your sin?”
Sheen had seen the phenomenon many times in priestly life. When people leave the Catholic Church, they may complain about money-grabbing pastors, boring sermons, or intolerant priests, but their real objection is to the Church’s refusal to give its blessing to their decision to violate one of the Church’s moral teachings — usually in regard to divorce and remarriage or extramarital sex. In their eyes, because the Church does not agree with their behavior, the Church must be wrong. They do not leave open the possibility that they may be in error or living in sin. They convince themselves that the conflict between themselves and the Church is rooted in a hierarchy that is hidebound, backward, rigid, inflexible, behind the times, and not worthy of their obedience.
It has been my experience that many Catholics and ex-Catholics who define themselves as SBNR fall into the same category. It is not the “lavish” spending by the Popes, the priest sex-abuse scandals, narrow-minded homilists, or the lack of a vibrant Christian community committed to social justice that is at the root of their disaffection.
It is what Archbishop Sheen called “their sin.” They are engaged in a behavior or living a lifestyle that the Church condemns. They find themselves uncomfortable at Mass when they hear divorce, homosexuality, or couples “living together” described as morally unacceptable, as a sin when engaged in with “sufficient reflection and full consent of the will,” in the words of the old Baltimore Catechism. Calling themselves SBNR is their way of making the point that, even if their pastor and the Pope think they are behaving immorally, God the Father and Jesus do not. Jesus would agree with them, they are convinced, if some way could be found to bring Him into a discussion between themselves and the backward leaders of the modern Church.
Their contention is that they are good people, moral people, people who value the supernatural elements of the Church’s mission. They do not want to be cut adrift from the spiritual comfort and consolation that comes from “being Catholic” merely because unimaginative clerics who have not read the writers they find spiritually uplifting, and who insist upon defending old-fashioned moral codes. Defending those “old-fashioned moral codes” is what they mean by being “religious.” The more laid back and nonjudgmental understanding of Christianity they favor is what they mean by being “spiritual.”

Share Button

Comment on this Article:

FEARING OBAMA UNILATERAL AMNESTY THREATS, TEA PARTY JAMS CONGRESS’S PHONE LINES

The phone lines are jammed. The American people have risen up in response to a rallying cry from Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), overloading the phone lines on Capitol Hill to pressure their members of Congress to…Continue Reading

Pope acknowledges Catholic complicity in persecution of Italian Pentecostals

Pope Francis has fulfilled a request of the Italian evangelical community by recognising the complicity of some Catholics in the fascist-era persecution of Italian Pentecostals and evangelicals. “Among those who persecuted and denounced the Pentecostals, almost as if they were…Continue Reading

The Church Needs To Stop Taking Government Money

by ELISE HILTON on FRIDAY, JULY 25, 2014 Phil Lawler at CatholicCulture.org voices what should be obvious: that by taking federal money and grants, the Catholic Church has put herself in a very awkward place. Money from the government always comes with strings attached,…Continue Reading

U.S. Considering Refugee Status for Hondurans

By FRANCES ROBLES and MICHAEL D. SHEARJULY 24, 2014 Hoping to stem the recent surge of migrants at the Southwest border, the Obama administration is considering whether to allow hundreds of minors and young adults from Honduras into the United States without making…Continue Reading

Marco Rubio To Take On Abortion and Gay Marriage in Catholic U Speech

Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) plans to take on social and cultural issues in the latest installment of his policy speeches outlining a new conservative agenda. “Senator Rubio will discuss the values needed for economic success in the 21st century: values like…Continue Reading

USCCB Chairmen Respond To ‘Unprecedented and Extreme’ Executive Order

The executive order prohibits “gender identity” discrimination, a prohibition that is previously unknown at the federal level, and that is predicated on the false idea that “gender” is nothing more than a social construct or psychological reality that can be…Continue Reading

Dallas-Fort Worth Catholic leaders appeal for legal help in border crisis

Dallas Bishop Kevin Farrell (center) and Fort Worth Bishop Michael Olson on Monday asked for volunteers to assist with a “humanitarian crisis.” By DIANNE SOLÍS Staff Writer dsolís@dallasnews.com Published: 21 July 2014 10:32 PM Updated: 22 July 2014 12:21 AM Dallas Catholic…Continue Reading

Iraq Catholic leader says Islamic State worse than Genghis Khan

By Dominic Evans and Raheem Salman BAGHDAD (Reuters) – The head of Iraq’s largest church said on Sunday that Islamic State militants who drove Christians out of Mosul were worse than Mongol leader Genghis Khan and his grandson Hulagu who…Continue Reading

CHRISTIAN HOLOCAUST UNDERWAY IN IRAQ, USA AND WORLD LOOK ON

When U.S. troops invaded Iraq in 2003, there were at least 1.5 million Christians in Iraq. Over the last ten years, significantly in the last few months with the emergence of ISIS, that figure has dropped to about 400,000. In a…Continue Reading

Vancouver Catholic Schools Adopt Transgender Policy

James Keller, The Canadian Press Published Wednesday, July 16, 2014 7:20PM EDT Last Updated Thursday, July 17, 2014 7:24AM EDT VANCOUVER — Catholic schools in Vancouver have adopted a policy that could allow transgender students to use the pronouns, uniforms…Continue Reading

New Catholic Bishops Say Civil Disobedience OK If For Common Good

Newly appointed auxiliary bishops, two Catholic clergymen suggest Occupy Central could be just, while third weighs in on reform report St Two auxiliary bishops newly appointed by the Vatican have spoken out about the Occupy Central campaign, saying the church supports…Continue Reading

Skeptics And The Claims Of The Catholic Church Seventeen Reasons Scoffers Ought To Rethink Catholicism, If They Really Thought About It

July 11, 2014 05:09 EST By Thomas M. Doran In today’s world, isn’t it crazy to appeal to scoffers to consider Catholicism? Why would a rational modern man or woman in the 21st century be attracted to what the world and…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our new website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for over 145 years in our weekly print edition. Now we are introducing the online daily version of our print journal.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to subscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 145 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.

 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

'From our friends at The Foundry'


Today . . .

Pope Has Casual Q&A With Priests Of Caserta

501

2014-07-28 Vatican Radio (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met with the priests of the Diocese of Caserta on his visit there on Saturday afternoon. The Pope engaged in a question-and-answer period with the priests in the Palatina della Reggia di Caserta Chapel. The Vatican Radio translation of this exchange is offered below. Pope Francis: I prepared a speech but I will…Continue Reading

What If Democracy Is A Fraud?

By ANDREW P. NAPOLITANO What if you were allowed to vote only because it didn’t make a difference? What if no matter how you voted the elites always got their way? What if the concept of one person/one vote was just a fiction created by the government to induce your compliance? What if democracy as…Continue Reading

The Day Of The Hawk

By PATRICK J. BUCHANAN The bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie was premeditated mass murder. Qadhafi was taking revenge for Reagan’s raid on Tripoli in 1986. The downing of KAL 007, flying from Anchorage to Seoul, was mass murder in the second degree. Seeing an aircraft intrude into Russian air space, Soviet officers brutally…Continue Reading

Will John Roberts Decide A “State” Is Not A “State”?

By TERENCE P. JEFFREY The Supreme Court may soon need to decide whether the federal government can be considered a “state” in our federal republic in the same sense that Iowa, Wyoming, and Wisconsin are states. On the face of it, this question may seem absurd. In fact, given any level of reflection, it is…Continue Reading

Assisted Suicide In England… Life And Death Under Debate

By FR. JOHN FLYNN, LC (Editor’s Note: Fr. Flynn is a columnist for ZENIT News Agency, which provided this commentary. All rights reserved.) +    +    + A bill to legalize assisted suicide has been introduced into Britain’s House of Lords by Lord Falconer, previously lord chancellor under Labor Prime Minister Tony Blair, and it is…Continue Reading

Anglican Women Bishops — An Obstacle To Unity?

By FR. DWIGHT LONGENECKER (Editor’s Note: Fr. Dwight Longenecker is an American who has spent most of his life living and working in England. He studied theology at Oxford University. He was eventually ordained as an Anglican priest and served as a curate, a school chaplain in Cambridge, and a country parson on the Isle…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

A Leaven In The World . . . Iraqi Christian Witness In Face Of Genocide Inspires

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK “O Lord, my God, in thee have I put my trust; save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me. Lest at any time he seize upon my soul like a lion, while there is no one to redeem me, nor to save” (Psalm 7). The words of the psalm express the perennial…Continue Reading

Is The Rosary A Prayer Of “Vain Repetitions”?

By RAYMOND de SOUZA, KM Part 4 The Pharisee and the publican — improvised prayer and repetitive prayer: “Two men went up to the Temple to pray, the one a Pharisee and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and began to pray thus within himself: ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of men,…Continue Reading

The Characteristics Of Faith

By DON FIER Faith, or the obedience of faith, was characterized in last week’s installment on the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) as man’s most fitting and proper response to God’s self-revelation. Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ, concisely defines this assent to all God has revealed as “the free submission to God’s Word because its truth is guaranteed by…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Q. Jesus says that we are to learn from Him, He who is meek and humble of heart. But Jesus was not always meek and humble of heart. He talked back to the Scribes and Pharisees, He drove the moneychangers out of the Temple, He talked back to the Sanhedrin, He wasn’t bashful about claiming to be the Son of…Continue Reading

Jesus Walks Through Trials With Us

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Eighteenth Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR A) Readings: Isaiah 55:1-3 Romans 8:35, 37-39 Matt. 14:13-21 In the second reading today St. Paul asks the question of what can separate us from the love of Christ. He then gives a few examples of what people might think will separate us from God; anguish, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness,…Continue Reading

Cast A Gauntlet – Sola Scriptura: Part 1

Catholic Heroes… St. Alphonsus Liguori

By CAROLE BRESLIN Part 2 After establishing the house at Villa degli Schiavi, Alphonsus stayed there, conducting many of his missions from this site. For the previous five years he had become widely known for his missions and sermons, bringing many Catholics back to the Catholic faith. While Alphonsus is well known as a moral theologian and for his writings,…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Alphonsus Liguori

By CAROLE BRESLIN Part 1 Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ, having read the works of St. Alphonsus Liguori, took him as a mentor. It is not surprising, then, that Fr. Hardon taught his students, “If you are not encountering the cross, you are not doing God’s work.” Such were the lives of saints such as St. Teresa of Avila, St.…Continue Reading

What to Do If Your Boyfriend Wants You to Get an Abortion?

by Krisi Burton Brown | Washington, DC | LifeNews.com | 2/20/14 4:00 PM Washington, DC (LiveActionNews) — Note: This article is for any girl or woman who is feeling pressured into having an abortion. If you are a guy who is trying to find out how to stop an abortion, please see this article written for dads. 1.  Stand your…Continue Reading

It’s Time to Build Schools, from the Ground Up

February 13, 2014 by Anthony Esolen   It might have been worth repairing, if it had once been noble and beautiful, or at least conceived in an orderly way, for ordinary human purposes. But it wasn’t. It was constructed upon false principles. Its walls looked like those of a bad factory. It smelled like a warehouse. It could be terribly…Continue Reading

Why I am Pro-Life

February 4, 2014   Pro-Lifers   By Therese Recinella   Editor’s note. This tribute was posted on Therese Recinella’s Facebook account. She is graciously allowing us to reprint it in NRL News Today.   There are many things that I could say about my Dad, but what I want people to know is this: My parents faithfully raised 8 children…Continue Reading

Fathers . . . The Essential Role of the Father

Posted on February 10, 2014 by The Catholic Gentleman 13 Comments   Divorce rates skyrocketing; adultery rampant; non-married cohabitating couples; children abandoned by their fathers or mothers; “same-sex unions” adopting children and calling this the “modern family”; pornography invading homes, leading to powerful addictions and total alienation from other members of the family: all of this is a bird’s eye view…Continue Reading

How Much is One Billion Dollars?

This article appeared in the March 20, 1941 issue of The Wanderer. (Well, 70 years later we can add 15 trillion into the example.) Here’s a simple and homely illustration of what one billion dollars amounts to: Suppose we take an imaginary boy, aged 15 years, and assign to him the task of counting one billion dollars in one-dollar bills.…Continue Reading

Planned Parenthood

This article appeared in The Wanderer, April 3, 1941.  (WOW, Look what we have 70 years later.) A group which calls itself the National Committee for Planned Parenthood has begun a nationwide campaign to have the promotion of birth control included in State and national health programs. The committee—which, according to propaganda sheets reaching our desk has a branch in…Continue Reading

Questions of Non-Catholics . . . Answered by Father Richard Felix, O.S.B.

Reprinted from The Wanderer April 10, 1941 Why Does God allow us to be tempted? God allows us to be tempted so that we may prove our attachment to him and merit a higher place in heaven. Temptations are the lot of all men; they are the battle ground upon which heaven is won or lost. “The kingdom of heaven…Continue Reading