Saturday 13th February 2016

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:

COMPLETE 3 PART Interview With Cardinal Burke . . . Insights On The State Of The Church In The Aftermath Of The Ordinary Synod On The Family

Cburke3

By DON FIER Part 1 (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, recently traveled from Rome to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wis., a magnificent place of worship which he founded and dedicated. (His Eminence graciously granted an extensive interview to The Wanderer during which he…Continue Reading

Trump: Pope Francis ‘doesn’t understand’ America’s problems

Donald Trump dismissed Pope Francis’s upcoming visit to the U.S.-Mexico border Thursday, arguing the Catholic leader is in the dark on America’s border crisis. “I think that the Pope is a very political person,” he said on Fox Business Network’s…Continue Reading

Washington state Republicans join Democrats to uphold transgender bathroom bill

OLYMPIA, Washington, February 11, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – A bill to reverse a public accommodations law that allows transgender people to use opposite-sex bathrooms and locker rooms was blocked in the state Senate – in part thanks to three Republicans who…Continue Reading

‘Justice has been served’ – Bishop Conley on why he invited Bishop Finn to Lincoln

Lincoln, Neb., Feb 5, 2016 / 11:29 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln defended his decision to allow Bishop Robert Finn, former bishop of Kansas City, Mo., to take a position as chaplain of a community of…Continue Reading

Marco Rubio, David Daleiden; Chi-Town priest ‘outs’ himself

The young investigative journalist and pro-life activist David Daleiden – whom GOP presidential hopeful Marco Rubio recently defended – will present himself before Judge Brock Thomas in Houston on February 4. Peter Breen, special counsel for the Thomas More Society,…Continue Reading

Catholic Italy mobilises as conservatives mount last stand against same-sex unions

It has been 2,000 years since Romans gathered at the Circus Maximus to watch chariots roar around the racetrack, but a new battle was brought to the ancient site on Saturday . Clutching banners reading “We defend our children” and…Continue Reading

New documents prove Planned Parenthood profited from selling aborted body parts: pro-life group

HOUSTON, January 29, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – A pro-life organization has released documents that may show Planned Parenthood illegally profited from the sale of aborted babies’ body parts, furthering a Texas state investigation and possibly triggering a new grand jury in…Continue Reading

TRUMP’S SPOKESWOMAN MUST APOLOGIZE

Bill Donohue comments on a remark made by Donald Trump’s national spokeswoman, Katrina Pierson: On December 18, 2011, Katrina Pierson sent the following tweet: “Just saw a commercial from Catholic Church stating that Catholic Church

Faithful Catholic Education Offers Understanding of True Freedom, Says Archbishop Lucas

Catholic education prepares students to live a life of faith, but also offers students a true understanding of God-given freedom in an environment in which they can grow in virtue, said Archbishop George Lucas of the Archdiocese of Omaha, Neb.,…Continue Reading

NFL star who refused to meet Obama over abortion gives powerful talk at March for Life

WASHINGTON, D.C., January 22, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – All the speakers at the 2016 March for Life play a pivotal role – but only one was regularly called an MVP. Matt Birk, the former center for the Minnesota Vikings and the…Continue Reading

2016 March for Life heats up blizzard-stricken Washington (PHOTOS)

WASHINGTON, D.C., January 22, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – The blizzard snows are falling on the nation’s capital, layering the city in a blanket of frost that could be two to three feet thick by tomorrow morning. But for awhile this afternoon,…Continue Reading

SPECIAL REPORT: Planned Parenthood Offices Located Near Half of Catholic Colleges, Alarming Pro-Life Leaders

Half of all four-year, residential Catholic colleges in the U.S. are within five miles of Planned Parenthood facilities, a study by The Cardinal Newman Society has found. Catholic pro-life leaders warn that the close proximity of these Planned Parenthood centers…Continue Reading

81 percent of Americans support dramatically stronger pro-life reforms: Poll

WASHINGTON, D.C., January 19, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – An overwhelmingly majority – including two-thirds of self-described “pro-choice” Americans – would support greatly strengthening laws that protect the unborn, according to a new poll released this morning. In all, 81 percent of…Continue Reading

Newsmax

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 su
bscribe 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

A Powerful Weapon: 15 Quotes on the Holy Rosary

We live in evil times. I hardly need elaborate the multitude of crises that fill the globe. Sadly, many are being swept away by this flood of evil and are succumbing to an overwhelming anxiety and discouragement. But no matter how tempting it is, we must not shrink back. We must pray and fast with a living faith and a firm confidence—and there is no better way to…Continue Reading

12 Ways to Become a Committed Catholic Man

There is a Catholic “man-crisis.” Large numbers of men who were baptized Catholic have left the Church and the majority of those who remain are “Casual Catholic Men”, men who do not know the Catholic faith and don’t practice it. This large-scale failure of Catholic men to commit themselves to Jesus Christ and His Church has contributed to the accelerating…Continue Reading

Today . . .

Cardinal Burke . . .The Great Cardinal Speaks From Krakow

Today we jump back to the Great Cardinal, His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke’s visit to Krakow. The above video is from the Krakow lecture with questions, promoting his book Divine Love made flesh: The Holy Eucharist as the Sacrament of Charity which appeared in Polish. The sponsor of this promotional event and the publisher of the Polish version is Christiana Polonia. Original video see here. The lecture itself was in English so there was no…Continue Reading

INTERVIEW: Leader of US Bishops Expresses His Hopes for Pope’s Mexico Visit

Archbishop Kurtz Tells ZENIT That Welcome to Immigrants Will Enrich America, Its Church February 10, 2016 Deborah Castellano Lubov The president of the US bishops’ conference, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, says Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to Mexico can bear many fruits, but in particular, his welcoming message to immigrants can enrich the whole of America and its Church. In an exclusive interview with ZENIT ahead of the Pope’s highly anticipated trip to Mexico, Feb. 12-18,…Continue Reading

Pope’s Angelus reflection: Trust in the word of the Lord

(Vatican Radio) Do not be afraid but trust in the word of the Lord: that was Pope Francis message to the crowds gathered in a windswept St Peter’s Square on Sunday for the recitation of the Angelus prayer. The Pope based his reflections on the Gospel reading which tells the story of Jesus calling his first disciples by Lake Galilee. After fishing all night without a catch, they are washing their nets when Jesus gets…Continue Reading

Christie and Bush attack Cruz, Rubio for being too pro-life

Fr. Mark Hodges WASHINGTON, D.C., February 5, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Pro-lifers across the nation are scratching their heads and saying, “With friends like Chris Christie and Jeb Bush, who needs enemies?” Their frustration comes from both Christie and Bush attacking other presidential candidates as unelectable because they are pro-life without compromise. This morning on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program, New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie attacked Florida’s Senator Marco Rubio for not favoring aborting children conceived in…Continue Reading

INTERVIEW: Padre Pio In Rome: Saints as Living Icons of Divine Mercy

Stefano Campanella, Director of Padre Pio TV and Author of Publications on the Friar of Pietrelcina, Reflects on Significance of the Historic Transfer •February 4, 2016•Osvaldo Rinaldi• Stefano Campanella, born in 1964 in Putignano, Italy, lives with his family at San Giovanni Rotondo. He has been a parliamentary journalist and Vatican expert. Currently, he serves as director of Padre Pio TV and heads the press office of the religious province of Sant’Angelo and Padre Pio…Continue Reading

Pope Francis Says . . . Lent Is A Time Of Pruning And Reconciliation

By ELISE HARRIS VATICAN CITY (CNA/EWTN News) — In his Ash Wednesday homily, Pope Francis said that Lent is the perfect time to let go of selfish and indifferent attitudes, returning to God with the help of prayer, penance, and acts of charity. “Lent is a beneficial time of pruning from falsity, from worldliness, from…Continue Reading

Bloomberg Vs. Trump?

By PATRICK J. BUCHANAN The morning of the New Hampshire primary, Donald Trump, being interviewed on Morning Joe, said that he would welcome his “friend” Michael Bloomberg into the presidential race. Which is probably the understatement of 2016. The three-term mayor of New York and media mogul whose fortune is estimated at $39 billion, making…Continue Reading

A Potpourri . . . To Be Is To Give, And Other Matters

By GEORGE A. KENDALL The most fundamental question for all of is: What are we for? What is life about? What is selfhood about? Are we here to aggrandize ourselves with things like power, wealth, brilliance? Or are we here to give ourselves? We think that by working to add to the self, we increase…Continue Reading

Blessed José Sanchez Del Rio… Miraculous Cure Of A Baby Leads To His Sainthood

MEXICO CITY (CNA/EWTN News) — The miraculous cure of a baby with brain damage through the intercession of Mexican martyr Blessed José Luis Sanchez del Rio has been approved by the Vatican, completing the final step for the teen’s path to sainthood. Pope Francis signed the decree January 21, verifying the inexplicable recovery of a…Continue Reading

Begging For Mercy

By DONALD DeMARCO When we do not hear another person’s words correctly we say, “I beg your pardon.” A moderator appears on stage and apologizes for a momentary inconvenience by saying to the audience, “I beg your indulgence.” These words flow easily from our lips, usually without much reflection. They have become automatic responses, polite…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Catholic Replies

Q. I understand that plenary indulgences are available during this Jubilee Year of Mercy if one passes through the “Holy Door of Mercy” in a Catholic cathedral and meets all the other conditions for an indulgence. But what if one has no opportunity to visit a cathedral? Can the plenary indulgence still be obtained? — P.D., via e-mail. A. Yes.…Continue Reading

Listening To Jesus

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Second Sunday In Lent (YR C) Readings: Gen. 15:-12, 17-18 Phil. 3:1-4:1 Luke 9:28b-36 In the Gospel reading today the apostles were blessed to hear the voice of God speaking about His Son. The first part of the statement, that Jesus is the Son of God, is pretty easy for us to handle. The second part…Continue Reading

The Year Of Consecrated Life Ends . . . Answering God’s Call And Proclaiming His Mercy

By MOST REV. LEO O’REILLY KILMORE, Ireland (ZENIT) — Bishop Leo O’Reilly of Kilmore gave this homily on Sunday, January 31 to mark the closing of the Year of Consecrated Life. The year ended February 2, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, and the World Day of Consecrated Life. Bishop O’Reilly told consecrated persons that they have been…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World . . . Jesus Gave Witness In The Public Square

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK “Seems to me that Jesus wants us to love our neighbors and leave the judging up to Him.” This is a typical response of many people when they encounter the Church and her members witnessing to their faith by speaking out on moral teachings in the public square. Christian witness in a visible, public way…Continue Reading

An Apologetics Course . . . Hostility Against The Church

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 40 Fourth objection: Why do so many people have hostility to the Catholic Church? Reply: Why was Jesus the object of hostility from so many people? In simple terms, the Pharisees may have refused Him as they could not accept His doctrine and felt threatened by His power to perform miracles. The Sadducees may…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Miguel Febres Cordero Munoz

By CAROLE BRESLIN There have been many saints born in Europe who came to the Americas to convert the natives and work among immigrants. These included St. Isaac Jogues, St. Frances Cabrini, and St. Damien of Molokai, to name a few. There were few saints who were born in the Americas and then went to Europe and died there far…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… Blessed Boleslava Maria Lament

By CAROLE BRESLIN The Catholic Church observes the Church Unity Octave from January 18 through January 25. For each day of the octave, we pray for a different form of unity. For example, on January 18, the intention is for the return of separated Eastern Christians to communion with the Holy See. Another day the intention is for the restoration…Continue Reading