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June 24, 2019

"I am Spiritual But Not Religious"

Facebook can be a great place for controversial conversations . . . said no one ever! This week, I asked a question on my personal page that could have become disputable. I asked my Facebook friends, "I am curious . . . what would you say this means: 'I am spiritual, but not religious?'" I received comments from people I haven't heard from in years and from people who were at my wedding. I really was curious. When I heard this phrase, I thought of a hippie on a yoga mat. More recently, I've heard this phrase being said by friends and acquaintances, and in the media. When I Googled this phrase, the results said it represented an entire movement called, SBNR (Spiritual But Not Religious). The best description of SBNR is that it is a popular phrase used to identify a lifestyle of spirituality that does not want to be affiliated with a religion. Many motivational speakers will subscribe to this mindset. I think this phrase reflects a generation of people who are tired of religion and looking for answers. 


Previously, religion and spirituality were directly affiliated. It wasn't until recently that spirituality and religion started to mean two completely different things. One of my commenters on Facebook said that this movement is for those who do not wish to explore more answers about who they are, where they came from, and whether or not  there a God out there. Another said those who are spiritual are tired of man-made rules and desire something deeper. With these answers to my question, I fully agree. Aren't we tired of trying hard to be good? I know I am. I will always remember my humanities class in public high school. It was in that classroom where I realized that every religion was the same. As I read about ancient mythology, I could see the human fingerprints all over each story. The other issues I have with "religion" are how pastors, religious leaders, ministers, and priests are still human but are put on a pedestal that is almost equal to a god. The third problem with religion is how many wars, arguments, controversy, and violence religion causes. All three problems with religion are why I understand wanting to say, "I am not religious, but spiritual." However, being spiritual may not be the answer to life's questions. 

I had so many questions about what people say the term, "spiritual," means. I found that being spiritual has a different definition depending on who you talk to. "Religion is related to the human side. Religion is what is practised with others or on one's own. Spiritual is internal it's a feeling an expression. That's how I feel about it. In no way am I a religious person but I am full of spirit from many different lights," said one of the commenters on my Facebook page. Someone else commented saying, "While I do believe in a higher power, I don't feel comfortable deciding on a specific name it." From my experience, there are two sides to this movement of spirituality. We want to feel a connection to something bigger than ourselves, however, we do not want to commit to or decide on what "bigger than life" really is. The other side of "spirituality" happens when an individual creates a life based on what he or she thinks is right or wrong. This mindset has snuck into my own life before. It is easy to do, and it feels really good. The problem with being the authority for our own life is that we become the higher power or the god of our own life. The very reason you've decided to self-identify as SBNR— the desire for something bigger than yourself is what is limiting you to you. Taking what you feel is good from different religions, deciding on what is right and wrong, and being ok with not knowing why we are all here, are ways you will limit yourself from the way you were created. You were created for so much more than living for yourself. This desire for spirituality is a sign that we desire something more. 

Instead of being "spiritual," let's take hold of something more. Instead of taking the parts of religion that makes us happy and feel good, let's understand what rules are for. Instead of being religious, let's understand we can never be good enough. This is my story. I started out living a life of trying to be good. I hung onto the list of should's and should-not's. Then I realized that wasn't working. I started taking out what made me feel good and what I didn't like about religion. It is easy to do; however, I landed on the fact that living life for myself is limiting. Living life for something or someone bigger than me is so much better. That's why my authority comes from the Bible. This is what the Apostle Paul says about those who are spiritual and those who are religious in 1 Corinthians chapter 1:20-25. 

"Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength." At the time Paul wrote this verse, there were two types of people: Gentile (non-Jewish) and Jewish. The Jewish people followed laws from the Old Testament— they subscribed to a religion. The Gentiles, however, worshiped many different gods. The goddess Diana or Artemis, for example, was the goddess of domestic animals and the moon. Her temple could be found near Ephesus and is mentioned in Acts 19:23-41. Paul states that the Jew and the Gentile, the religious and the spiritual, were confused by the Good News: that Jesus died on the cross. The religious will not understand that they cannot be good enough and the spiritual will not see that spirituality is not something we can make up or feel. In 1 Corinthians 2, Paul talks about who is spiritual: "The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person's thoughts except for their own spirit within them? In the same way, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for, 'Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?' But we have the mind of Christ." 

Being spiritual doesn't come from a feeling, from within ourselves, or even from nature. It does come from the Holy Spirit— who opens our eyes to the miracle of the Gospel. Only when we have the mind of Christ, can we be truly spiritual. Being religious is the act of following rules. When Jesus came, He changed everything. We do not have to live by a list of rules. James 1:27 says, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…" And Jesus said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these" (Mark 12:30-31). Christ paid the price for not following the rules and now all there is left to do is love God and love His people.

We come from a generation who is tired of religion and wanting answers from sources beyond ourselves. Religion is dead. Spirituality is limited. But having the mind of Christ through the Holy Spirit gives life. I know this because God gave me the mind of Christ and I am forever thankful that I don't make up my own rules or have to live by a list of man-made rules. I am thankful I don't have to search for a feeling or wonder why I am here. In conclusion, religion is a problem; however, so is spirituality without the Holy Spirit. Neither is not the answer; having the mind of Christ is.


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Hannah Lynn

Hannah Lynn hosts Moody Radio’s That’s Real and is an engineer for Karl and Crew mornings. She grew up as a homeschooler on a tree farm, plays the harp (ask her about harp camp), drives a Prius (don’t judge), and started a fashion blog while a student at Moody Bible Institute (yes, that’s possible). Hannah loves to tell people about Jesus—as a seven-year-old she witnessed to her ballet teacher, then she started a Young Life club while in high school. Now she mentors teens with her husband, John, who serves as a youth pastor.

That's Real with Hannah Lynn

That’s Real with Hannah Lynn gives a one-minute dose of encouragement and advice to young adults who want to love and live God’s Word. Her fast-paced mix of storytelling and Bible truth helps create understanding between young believers and anyone who wants to follow Jesus one day at a time.