Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Religion/Spirituality/Theology, All Three

“My parents always told me firmly, You’re not spiritual you’re religious!” a friend told me recently. “They would say Stay away from all that fluff.
I laughed. “What a switch.”
“What’s so funny?” she said.
”Well, the word on the street these days seems to be that it’s bad to be religious and good to be spiritual.”
“Oh right,” she said, “And here I am trying to be both. What exactly is the difference anyway?”

I have no idea really, I thought to myself, but I know there isn’t as much difference and divide as people like to think there is.


My own very shorthand definitions of these categories, including theology as part of a mind/body/spirit trio, are:


Religion is Body, flesh, how you act. It derives from the Latin re + ligare and means to bind back or secure. It has to do with practices—what you do with your body (worship, prayers) when you have the courage and humility to admit there is a power greater than just yourself, a spiritual power embedded in all creation. Religion’s “binding” is not like a corset except in power-hungry minds that seek to oppress and control, but more like a ligament as its derivation suggests. It holds you together and also gives you lots of stretch. Religion gives you structure and community. You worship to say thanks. Then you go out and try to act with as compassion as you can.


Spirituality is soul or spirit within, invisible, how you feel knowing there is a spark of divinity within you and all humanity. Spirituality is a bit fluffy, diffuse and breezy like wind. It’s Spirit, the breath of Love that kindles and fuels compassion in the world. It doesn’t matter how you call it as long as you acknowledge its presence. Most of us know when we’re out of sync with our spirituality. You feel like one of those bumper sticker happenings. Spirituality is like a yogic flow. What you feel, think, say and do are in union.


Theology is Mind, how you think about divinity. It’s study of the Holy, coming to terms with your own reasoned and experienced sense of divinity, God. All of us are theologians, even atheists, so maybe we shouldn’t relegate our personal theological thoughts to the closet or the experts.


Expressing and nurturing deep thoughts and feelings is what a religious/spiritual/theological community at its best does.