I have often heard folks say, “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual.” My response has been and still is “Why aren’t you religious?”
I know that one thing that goes through many people’s mind is the work of Christian denominations that are discriminating. Christian denominations that continue to reject people based on skin color, marital status, sex, physical ability, or sexual orientation (and yes there are many other ways to discriminate). Or maybe one recalls the ways through the ages that Christianity has been used against people: the crusades in the Middle Ages, witch hunts, the Spanish Inquisition and other inquisitions throughout Europe and the Americas, and other processes that have been used to eliminate a group of people who are looked upon as the “other”. We can find horrible acts preformed on people by other faiths too.
Religion is not being Christian or Jewish or any other faith. Nor is religion being a Baptist or a Methodist or Presbyterian, a member of the Metropolitan Community Church denomination, or any other denomination.
As a Christian, I use both the Hebrew Testament and the Christian Testament of the Bible to define what it means to be religious. In the Hebrew testament, Micah 6:8 gives us a definition of religion: “The Lord has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” In the Christian testament, James 1:27 states: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Parent (inclusified), is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”
Religion is not following some dogma of a denomination or faith group. Religion or being religious means helping others. It means fighting for justice when there isn’t any justice for a person or a group of people. It means helping those who are without: feeding and clothing the homeless, visiting those in prison, and helping or curing those who are ill. Religion is about how one lives one’s life in relationship to others, especially to those who lack the means to care for themselves.
So where does the spiritual part come in?
Notice the segments of the definitions above that state that we are to “walking humbly with your God” and “to keep oneself unstained by the world.” This is where one will connect, in a manner that works for an individual, with one’s God or higher power. For some it will mean spending time in prayer. For another it might mean a time of meditation or the reading of holy words. It might mean attending a worship service or spending time in nature or a location that brings one closer to God or higher power. These spiritual practices are what one uses to grow one’s relationship with God and then enable one to perform their religious actions. Our spirituality are the practices one uses to connect oneself with God, while our religion is how one connects with others in the world.
May your spirituality bring you great joy, while your religion changes the world.