A Difficult Path Home Thoughts on being 'spiritual' vs being 'religious'
A few weeks ago, I heard a church sermon referring to the idea of being spiritual but not religious (or SBNR). In this particular sermon, the text cited was Hebrews 10 - which in my NIV Study Bible has the heading of "persevering in the faith" [link in Bible Gateway]. One of the ideas advanced was that the independent path is an easier road to travel. It is easier to 'not follow the faith' but instead travel one's own road.
Another article I read recently stated that people who describe themselves as spiritual but not religious had statistically more instances of mental illness such as anxiety, depression, etc. [ref to CNN articcle]. It stated that, while there was no cause/effect relationship established, there did seem to be a correlation. So, is this the sign of 'the easier road' - higher anxiety? depression? etc... To me, it sounds like this is the more difficult path.
In recent months, I have done a lot of hypnotherapy work with clients who have been on very powerful (and difficult) spiritual roads of seeking, questioning and discovery. Many have described themselves as formerly members of various mainstream church denominations. Yet, for one reason or another, they have left. And while diverse, most of those reasons for departure have boiled down to one - for them, the mainstream didn't work.
The road each has traveled instead has often been a difficult one. While many and varied, it is often a road with fewer answers. For most, it has not offered the comfort of easy interpretation. On it, there has often been less comfort, less companionship, less of the ready-made fellowship that comes with membership in an established church. There has been less ability to apply scripture and/or readily-stated belief to the problems of life. And thus, for many, there are only questions - unanswered questions along with the challenges of daily life.
In many cases, the challenges confronting people have been significant. Many of their difficulties come from events early in life - often abuse, trauma or some health event that later resulted in the problems that eventually brought them to the healer's doorway. And in so many of these cases, the traditional church could not provide answers. The questions they asked could not be answered within the walls of their parish. For many, they have not rejected the church, the church has rejected them. And as a result, they have had to look elsewhere.
For those who believe in the possibility of reincarnation, multiple lifetimes, and/or karmic influences in the present life, I often see the path lead in this direction. Yet the traditional church often denies this possibility. Thus, it closes the door on one of the more powerful avenues of healing and understanding and isolates these parishioners from a rich source of answers. Yet if one is open to the possibility, the history of (non-traditional) Christianity is very compatible with this rich set of paths.
While I have maintained my allegiance to the church, I have found myself disagreeing with many of the details of the orthodoxy involved. I have found many elements of eastern beliefs attractive, and their relationship to Christianity (both traditional and otherwise) fascinating. Thus, in many ways, I, too, am one of those SBNR types that the sermon referred to. I have explored beyond the traditional teachings of the church, studying eastern teachings, non-canonical scripture, etc. And for me, the result has been that my allegiance to the Christian faith has been strengthened, rather than reduced. Yet each of us has to follow their own path and many find their paths to God traveling very different ways. And for many of those, the path can be difficult.
No, the "SBNR" path is not the easy path. It is the path of the searcher, the seeker, the one who tries to find their own spiritual place in the universe along one of an infinity of possible roads. The 'SBNR' path is often a lonely one. Yet I have found that it can once again lead you home. And, in the words of T.S.Eliot, you can "know the place for the very first time."
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