Monday, October 8, 2007


"I'm spiritual, not religious" is a common refrain in today's world where people often view organized religion as a negative thing. While organized religion does have some problems, it's also more necessary and beneficial than some would have us believe.

Lutheran theologian Martin Marty offers his thoughts on this topic in the book "The Life of Meaning," a series of interviews compiled and edited by Bob Abernethy and William Bole of the PBS series "Religion and Ethics Newsweekly." Here is an excerpt:

I appreciate the spiritual search of the nonchurched, nonsynagogued people as being full of imagination, discovery and satisfaction for the individual. But I once saw a bumper sticker that said, 'Spirituality doesn't make hospice calls.' Spirituality remains, normally, individualistic. You may gather for a retreat, and then you disperse...The people who are handling the homeless and dealing with addiction and trying to improve senior care and who care about the training of the young - they have to bond together. If they don't do it in old-fashioned churches, they'll do it new-fashioned churches. But I don't think it adds up to much unless there is some development of community, some bonding...

...I'm interested in public religion. And if somebody tells me, 'I'm on a spiritual search,' and they describe what they're on and it has no consequence, I think, 'Hmm, that's interesting.'...I love that they're doing it. I think it's a wonderful thing for the soul. But does it help the nation go deeper in its search for a way of addressing the profound issues of the day? I think it's bound to be superficial unless you have a community, the weight of a tradition, and the negative weight as well, and the grace that's mixed with it

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