Being spiritual does not require being religious, and many religious people are often not spiritually inclined. According to Pew Research findings, 27% of U.S. adults said they were spiritual but not religious, up 8 percentage points in five years.(18)
Religion and spirituality have different natures. Looked at metaphorically, religion paints the strawberry whereas spirituality tastes it. Where spirituality is like the sun (the source of light), religion is like the moon (which reflects the very same light). The natural tension is worth examining because spirituality can help keep religion from calcifying while religion can help increase spirituality’s potential.
As religious organizations helped Christianity grow, they replaced the difficult-to-define nature of spirituality with the standardized routines of dogma. As a result, Christianity became less spiritual. But spirituality needs religion to be able to help large numbers of people to grow spiritually in a systematic way.
Christianity is at its best when Christians can combine the light of spirituality with the heat of religious practice. But this requires spirituality to lead the dance in the present moment from the inside out. With greater spirituality, Christians can experience the peace of God that is beyond understanding.(19)
By being spiritual and religious Christians can improve the quality of their lives and the lives of others. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”(20)
Christian spirituality is the source of the light that can help to make churches lighthouses in their communities and around the world. As we cultivate spirituality in our own lives and churches, Christians and Christianity can help a lot more people through greater love, connection, and service.
Like a dance, the point of spirituality is not to get somewhere but to become at one with the music, at one with the light. As Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”(21) The healthy integration of religion and spirituality can greatly benefit Christians and Christianity. As Paul writes: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. […] In Christ, we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”(22)
18. Michael Lipka and Claire Gecewicz, “More Americans Now Say They’re Spiritual but Not Religious,” (Pew Research Center, May 30, 2020), https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/09/06/more-americans-now-say-theyre-spiritual-but-not-religious/
19. Phil. 4:7
20. Matt. 5:14–16, NIV
21. John 8:12, NIV
22. Rom. 12:2,5, NIV