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Friday, January 27, 2006

In Search of the Spiritual

In Search of the Spiritual
by Jerry Adler

This is a very interesting article from Newsweek on the current state of spirituality and religion in America.

Remember the Time article on the death of God? Adler writes:

“History records that the vanguard of angst-ridden intellectuals in Time, struggling to imagine God as a cloud of gas in the far reaches of the galaxy, never did sweep the nation. What was dying in 1966 was a well-meaning but arid theology born of rationalism: a wavering trumpet call for ethical behavior, a search for meaning in a letter to the editor in favor of civil rights. What would be born in its stead, in a cycle of renewal that has played itself out many times since the Temple of Solomon, was a passion for an immediate, transcendent experience of God. And a uniquely American acceptance of the amazingly diverse paths people have taken to find it.”

A definite trend is a search for spirituality, religion, and God outside of the doors of the church. Many reasons for this, but here is Adler’s comment:
“Whatever is going on here, it's not an explosion of people going to church. The great public manifestations of religiosity in America today—the megachurches seating 8,000 worshipers at one service, the emergence of evangelical preachers as political power brokers—haven't been reflected in increased attendance at services.”

The article also reflects on the general search for “spirituality” in the vague sense:
“The fastest-growing category on surveys that ask people to give their religious affiliation, says Patricia O'Connell Killen of Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash., is "none." But "spirituality," the impulse to seek communion with the Divine, is thriving. The NEWSWEEK/Beliefnet Poll found that more Americans, especially those younger than 60, described themselves as "spiritual" (79 percent) than "religious" (64 percent). Almost two thirds of Americans say they pray every day, and nearly a third meditate.”

More on religious diversity:
“"There are many ways to be spiritual," says Megan Wyatt, a blond Ohioan who converted to Islam three years ago. "People find it in yoga. For me, becoming a Muslim gave me the ultimate connection to God."”

Interesting thought here:
“Michael Novak was quoted in Time, saying, "If, occasionally, I raise my heart in prayer, it is to no God I can see, or hear, or feel." To make the point, we gave Novak, who is now 72 and among the most distinguished theologians in America, the chance to correct the record on his youthful despair. And he replied that God is as far away as he's ever been. Religious revivals are always exuberant and filled with spirit, he says, but the true measure of faith is in adversity and despair, when God doesn't show up in every blade of grass or storefront church. "That's when the true nature of belief comes out," he says. "Joy is appropriate to the beginnings of your faith. But sooner or later somebody will get cancer, or your best friends will betray you. That's when you will be tested."”

A brief thought from myself:

Is there a difference between being “religious” and being “spiritual”? Is there a difference between being a spiritual seeker and the person who actually finds God? Is it possible to find a certain level of spiritual satisfaction and still miss the person of God? What does it look like to actually find God?

God’s glory and Divine Power is all around us. And we are spiritual beings. It makes sense that we would be able to make deep and meaningful spiritual connections in this world. But I wonder if it might be that we can have a small taste of God through the creation and even have a deep sense of His presence and yet miss the real heart of God.