Sunday Morning Musings: I have been pondering the idea of illness and its relationship with religious beliefs and spirituality. Too often I think that we forget the basic differences between considering oneself to be religious and calling oneself spiritual. It is very main stream now that many (increasing by the day, it seems) are not willing to belong to a special religious organization. Thus we have seen the rise in the people belonging to the group that has been named SNBR – Spiritual But Not Religious. I like to think of myself as belonging to this group even though I choose to express my religious beliefs within a community of faith that encourages my spirituality.
Any discussion involving spirituality and religion would cover a great deal of territory but in this week’s musings I want to focus on a couple of positives and negatives of both spirituality and religion. My purposes for doing this are two-fold. Firstly, I don’t think many of us really give a great deal of thought to either our spirituality or religious beliefs until such a time as a “crisis” occurs. By crisis, I mean a major change in our lives such as a major illness or even death.
When we are confronted by any condition that we do not consider normal or appropriate, we may feel as if it is something we don’t deserve, we may fall back on old religious beliefs. Rabbi Harold Kushner discovered these feelings which ended up as his book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People. A very devout Jewish rabbi, Kushner had a son die at an early age and had to deal with his “traditional” religious views. This view was that he must have been a bad person for his son to die. As the title of his book indicates he came to a different conclusion. He did not find God as one who gives good to the good and bad to the bad.
I think sometimes that the teachings of the institutional church have been flawed in some ways and many still have these teachings stuck in their heads. Not wanting to be without some sense of “the other” we describe ourselves as spiritual especially when our world view doesn’t hold with the view presented by the church. Yet sometimes we can go too far. As someone said recently, at times we tend to throw out the baby with the bath water.
The other point I want to make is that our spiritual lives don’t get as much attention as they should. We tend to need a crisis before we think too much about life in all its aspects. That is to say, if we spent as much time focusing on our spiritual lives as we do our physical and even mental well-being the crisis might not be so extreme. Despite being spiritual beings, we shy away from talking about “life’s big questions” until it is forced upon us.
It is my belief that we are all spiritual beings and that we will often experience a spiritual distress and may not even know it as such. We may have ruled out religion as part of our lives, but that doesn’t mean we need to be concerned about loving and being loved, about having lived with a purpose for life that has offered compassion to others. We all need to be more spiritual, even if we don’t want to share in the trappings of organized religion, for whatever reason.