Friday 24th October 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:

Chaldean Catholic patriarch suspends 10 priests, including 1 from El Cajon

SAN DIEGO – The head of the Chaldean Catholic Church has suspended 10 priests, including one from El Cajon. Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako issued a decree a month ago, demanding the priests return to Iraq or be suspended. Wednesday…Continue Reading

Retired Pope Says Interreligious Dialogue No Substitute For Mission

VATICAN CITY – Retired Pope Benedict XVI said dialogue with other religions is no substitute for spreading the Gospel to non-Christian cultures, and warned against relativistic ideas of religious truth as “lethal to faith.” He also said the true motivation…Continue Reading

California Forces Churches to Directly Fund Abortions, Churches Refuse to Comply

To the dismay of California’s people of faith, the California Department of Managed Health Care has reclassified abortion as a “basic health service” under the Affordable Care Act and ordered all insurance plans in the state to begin covering surgical…Continue Reading

Relax. God’s Still In Charge.

It’s an enormous challenge to maintain pristine doctrinal purity while at the same time respond to the experiential, personal, and difficult needs of married couples and families. Behind every arcane discussion of gradualism and natural law there are parents and…Continue Reading

Cardinal Burke: The “Relatio Synodi” Is “A Significant Improvement Over The Text Of The ‘Relatio Post Disceptationem'”

In a third short interview with CWR, conducted by e-mail late yesterday, Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, the Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, offers his impression of the Relatio Synodi, comments on reports that the Synod has…Continue Reading

Synod Final Document Reaffirms Church Teaching

The final document of the Extraordinary Synod was released Saturday as the Synod Fathers voted to approve all 62 paragraphs, but with three paragraphs not receiving the normally required two-thirds majority vote. The three paragraphs, which in the past would…Continue Reading

Catholic Synod: Gay Rights Groups ‘Disappointed’

Catholic gay rights groups say they are disappointed after bishops rejected proposals for wider acceptance of gay people, which had the Pope’s backing. The call to “accept and value” homosexuals was in a draft report, but failed to win the…Continue Reading

">

Cardinal Burke Confirms: Yes, Pope Has Demoted Me.

“Pope has done a lot of harm by not saying openly what his position is” Synod “designed to change Church’s teaching“ We post here for the record of current events all the quotes published by BuzzFeed from their interview with…Continue Reading

Cardinal Burke’s Major Interview to Il Foglio on the Synod

The world likes Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke very little or not at all.  And , if it is possible, the Church likes him even less than does the world.  On the other hand, this 66-year-old American from Richland Center, Wisconsin,…Continue Reading

Pope Paul VI to be beatified Oct. 19, 2014

popep6

Pope Francis will officially declare Pope Paul VI Blessed on Sunday, Oct. 19, during the closing ‎Mass of the 3rd Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family.  Pope Paul VI was cleared for ‎beatification when Pope Francis on May 9…Continue Reading

Church Militant . . . Synod On The Family

Houston, we have a problem

Angry over voter lawsuit, city demands to pick through sermons, other communications from pastors who aren’t involved Monday, October 13, 2014 HOUSTON – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys have filed a motion in a Texas court to stop an attempt by…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: No To Death Penalty And To Inhuman Prison Conditions

pope626

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday called on all men and women of good will to fight for the abolishment of the death penalty in “all of its forms” and for the improvement of prison conditions. The Pope was addressing a group of members of the International Association of Criminal Law whom he received in the Vatican. In his discourse…Continue Reading

Pope At Santa Marta: The Limitless Language Of God’s Love

pope563

(Vatican Radio) “We cannot be Christians without the grace of the Holy Spirit” who gives us the strength to love, said Pope Francis at Mass Thursday morning at Santa Marta. Emer McCarthy reports: Pope Francis centered his homily on St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians in which the Apostle describes his experience of Jesus, an experience “that led him to…Continue Reading

Pope At Audience: The Church, The Body Of Christ

pope625

(Vatican Radio) Divisions, jealousies, misunderstandings and marginalization do not help the Church to grow as the Body of Christ, they shatter it into many pieces, they dismember it. Instead we should remember that we – as the Body of Christ – are called to appreciate the gifts and the quality of others in our communities. The Church as the Body…Continue Reading

Pope To Consistory: We Are Witnessing A Phenomenon Of Terrorism

In Briefing, Fr. Lombardi Says Interventions Reaffirmed That You Cannot Kill in the Name of God Vatican City, October 20, 2014 (Zenit.org) Deborah Castellano Lubov Dedicating this morning’s Consistory of Cardinals to the Middle East, and particularly the region’s Christians, Pope Francis has called on the international community to do their part as well as his fellow prelates to protect…Continue Reading

Culture Of Life 101 . . . “Does Contraception Lead To Abortion?”

By BRIAN CLOWES (Editor’s Note: Brian Clowes has been director of research and training at Human Life International since 1995. For an electronic copy of chapter 21 of The Facts of Life, “Contraception,” e-mail him at bclowes@hli.org.) + + + “No matter how thin you slice it, ladies and gentlemen, family planning is a euphemism.…Continue Reading

The Purpose Of Education

By JAMES K. FITZPATRICK It struck me many times during the 30 years I spent teaching history at a public high school in the suburbs of New York City that my understanding of the purpose of an education was starkly different from that of the education establishment. The establishment stressed the importance of teaching students…Continue Reading

Musings And Concerns On The Synod

By MSGR. CHARLES POPE (Editor’s Note: Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian Parish in Washington, D.C. This October 9 commentary is reprinted with his permission. The Wanderer went to press this week on October 16, prior to the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops’ final report and three days before the synod concluded…Continue Reading

Neither Left Nor Right, But Catholic . . . Is The Church In The U.S. Unwittingly Helping To Promote The Secularist-Leftist Agenda?

By STEPHEN M. KRASON (Editor’s Note: Stephen M. Krason’s Neither Left nor Right, but Catholic column appears monthly [sometimes bimonthly]. He is professor of political science and legal studies and associate director of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University of Steubenville. He is also co-founder and president of the Society…Continue Reading

Our Judicial Dictatorship

By PATRICK J. BUCHANAN Do the states have the right to outlaw same-sex marriage? Not long ago the question would have been seen as absurd. For every state regarded homosexual acts as crimes. Moreover, the laws prohibiting same-sex marriage had all been enacted democratically, by statewide referenda, like Proposition 8 in California, or by Congress…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Catholic Replies

Q. I am certain that there are no inaccuracies in your recent reply about wholesale anointing of the sick. However, I would like to call your attention to an address by Pope Francis last February 26. According to the text reprinted in The Wanderer of March 6, the Holy Father said that “every elderly person, every person over the age…Continue Reading

Purgatory: A Place Of Mercy

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER The Feast Of All Souls Readings: Wisdom 3:1-9 Romans 5:5-11 John 6:37-40 Today we have the great privilege of praying in a special way for those who have died yet still await the fullness of life in Heaven. We remember today the holy souls who are in Purgatory. It is rare that we hear about Purgatory…Continue Reading

Pope’s Message To Bishop Of Avila . . . St. Teresa Tells Everyone: “Do Not Cease To Be Joyful!”

VATICAN CITY (ZENIT) — Here is a translation of the message that Pope Francis sent October 15 to the bishop of Avila, Spain, Jesus Garcia Burillo, on the occasion of the opening of the Teresian Jubilee Year for the fifth centenary of the birth of St. Teresa of Jesus, doctor of the Church. The saint’s liturgical memorial is observed October…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World . . . Being Exposed To Synod’s Deliberations Is Not For The Fainthearted

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK “But the one who peers into the perfect law of liberty and fixes his attention there, and does not become a forgetful listener but one who lives it out — he will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:25). “Peering into freedom’s ideal law,” as St. James’ letter exhorts and as the fathers of…Continue Reading

Debunking The Myth… Sola Scriptura Is Unscriptural

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 3 Evidently, Jesus did not stay with the apostles and disciples for long after the Resurrection. He founded a Church, His Church. Now, did He found it as a visible Church, with authority to guide, teach, and sanctify the people? Or didn’t He? Either He did or He didn’t. It is one or the…Continue Reading

Cast A Gauntlet – Sola Scriptura: Part 1

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Anthony Mary Claret

By CAROLE BRESLIN St. Anthony Mary Claret has something in common with at least three other saints. Like St. Peter Claver, he was born in northeastern Spain — over 200 years later. Like St. Pio of Pietrelcina, when he heard Confessions, he frequently could read the souls of the penitents, asking them about a sin that they had not confessed.…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Ignatius Of Antioch

By CAROLE BRESLIN Who are the fathers of the Church? They were holy men of God; most were bishops, although some were priests and one man, St. Justin the Martyr, was a layman. They lived primarily in the first three centuries of Christianity, but one of the fathers died in 750, generally considered the end of the Church fathers’ era.…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