I find this meditation on the whole “spiritual but not religious” thing by Lillian Daniels to be true, but also a bit harsh. (And, I would like to add as a disclaimer that Rev. Daniels serves a church not too far from me, so partly just in case I ever run into her: from everything I’ve heard about her, and from other things I’ve read, she is a lovely person and deep thinker, so if you are really turned off by this piece, I’d say you ought to read more of her stuff before making any quick judgement calls. I also recognize, as a writer, that this sort of short-form meditation is hard to write because you usually have to leave quite a bit out.)
The harshness of it, to a large extent, I understand. I get her frustration as a clergyperson. Because I do find God in nature, but I also find God among the gathered community. So it sort of breaks my heart when people are unable to engage the community as part of their spiritual life. I think they are missing out.
And, I agree that American religious and spiritual practice, both inside and outside of religious institutions, has become too self-centered and individualistic.
If I were her, I would have added the observation that just as a sunset and the mountains and a lovely peaceful deer are parts of nature, so too is the busload of stinky people you are crammed into mass transit. Yes, human beings are part of the natural world. Not always pretty, but there are times when unlovely things happen in the mountains as well.
That said, I wish there were some tiny little attempt in her piece to find a way to express the desire to engage the “spiritual but not religious” person in the community. And I don’t necessarily mean getting them through the door of the church. I’m not even sure myself how to do this, but Daniels mentions the idea that spirituality practiced in community is hard work, and I wish had tipped her hat to the idea that spirituality practiced in community could include the community of the airplane seat-partner.
What do you think? I’m really curious to hear some other reactions to this!