Religion or spirituality?

So… Are you spiritual or religious? Yes, I am.

Wait, what? You’re both? How can someone be both?
My question in return is this: how can one not be both?

We have seen this question come up time and time again, especially recently. The most recent upburst of this great dilemma surrounds the “Why I love Jesus but hate religion” video….wouldn’t life be more fulfilling if we could just live it our way and entertain our own spirituality without the boundaries and rules of a religion? Call me biased, but my answer is no way.

As more and more news comes out about the recent shooting in Colorado, I’m finding more and more people chiming in about it….which I think is awesome. It came to me as I sat in Mass tonight how remarkable it is that this one event will impact so many people differently, especially when it comes to their faith and relationship or view of God and his role in their lives. Some will, undoubtedly, raise the question of how an “all good” God would do this or allow it to happen. Others will turn to Him with open hearts and give these moments to Him with great trust. Both are totally justifiable and make sense…so, who is right?

Those who claim to be mostly “religious” and approach their journeys with God as a rule maker-rule follower relationship will probably be in the first group…since without a relationship with God, how can we expect to understand his loving, merciful ways?

But what of those who are simply spiritual? My guess is that they will turn to God and give these moments to Him but find themselves at a dead end eventually…what to do when you’ve given a situation completely to Him but have no tradition other than what you’ve come up with to provide a logical next step?

My intent here is not to bash those who live their lives in this way. But I am setting forth my opinion that we cannot truly come to know ourselves in the eyes of God and get from our relationship with Him all that he has destined without a healthy combination of spirituality and religion. Our religion must be founded, first of all, on a great faith in the Lord on an individual level; spirituality must provide a base and must inform our religion.
But this goes the other way! Without a religion, without a set of guidelines and a source of tradition to inform and renew our spirituality, those who claim to be only “spiritual” now have absolute freedom to create their own set of rules or guidelines, their own natural law, their own moral code, etc….basically, their own version of God. This isn’t always intentional, but I see it happening more and more. Who are we to invent our God? It is a great disservice to ourselves that we should, of our own accord, steer away and block ourselves from the true God who desires a relationship with us more than we can ever imagine.

Just a thought on this Saturday night. May God give you peace this night.


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