“I have to be religious about my spirituality.”

I overheard this statement the other day and found it quite clarifying for two reasons.

First of all, it speaks to the definition of these two terms “religious” and “spirituality.”  For many, these two terms are synonymous, that is, anything having to do with ‘things above’ or that which we cannot explain in scientific terms.  But these terms have evolved even in my lifetime.  Whereas ‘religious’ used to denote spiritually vital, Spirit-filled, devout, morally consistent, ethical, or attuned to the things of God, in the last 20+ years it has gained a much more negative connotation e.g. institutional, rigid, ritualistic, close-minded, or snobbish.  This metamorphosis is consistent with the growing skepticism in the West for organized religion esp. the Christian faith and its dominant role in Western culture.

But there is a non-sectarian definition of ‘religious’ that is maybe more helpful and has remained static.  When someone does something ‘religiously,’ they practice it methodically, consistently, and without interruption.  If I show up to the bowling alley every Monday night “religiously,” it means I have never or at least rarely missed a week.  Nowadays, as our attitude toward religion tilts, this non-sectarian definition may be the safest use of this adjective.

‘Spirituality,’ in my book, has taken the place of ‘religious’ when referring to the vitality of one’s faith in the beyond.  Spirituality refers to matters of the heart, that which cannot be seen but nevertheless has great import.  Spirituality is the realm of attitudes, ambitions, dreams, hopes, fears, resentments, inspiration, conviction, and the like.  The temperament of one’s spirit, as it were.  Needless to say, organized religions of all variety have a lot to say about spirituality and spirituality is certainly the concern of a Deity with any interest whatsoever in the created world.  Spirituality is not bound by organized religion but the two obviously overlap significantly.

The second reason I find this statement clarifying is because it puts these terms in what I believe is their right relationship.  If spirituality pertains to the matters of the heart and what is beyond the empirical, and the adjective that precedes it has to do with how we approach spirituality, then we have before us an excellent and wholesome piece of advice: be religious about your spirituality!  Be methodical, consistent, and un-interrupted in the practice of nurturing, clarifying, monitoring, and lifting up matters of the heart and one’s faith in a Higher Power.

The actions of viruses, hurricanes, and ozone layers can instill fear and chaos in human beings.  The dialogues that ensue among human beings about these topics can exacerbate both.  While the earth is simply doing what it was created to do it is earth’s supposedly most intelligent creatures who interpret and make sense out of what is happening.  Depending on our interpretation, the earth can be in the formative stages of destroying itself or its creatures can be in the formative stages of bringing new life and sense through the process.  It all depends on our attitude.  Our attitude is shaped by our spirituality.  And whether our spirituality has a chance against the whirlwind of fears being whipped up these days depends on how religiously we practice our spirituality.

If you’re going to be anything this Fall . . .

Be spiritual.

Be very spiritual.

Practice spirituality.

Practice it . . . religiously.

How do YOU practice your spirituality?

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