There's been quite a bit of conversation, pro and con, about a recent blog post by a UCC writer here. The writer has an interesting style and made me laugh because she's genuinely funny in her frustration.
But several responses I've read criticize the snarky tone of her post and express some readers' own frustration with the snarky approach, as well as their own take on the S but not R person. There's certainly room for many opinions on this topic. Mine tends to be that she's being snarky about a collective SBNR person she meets, not an identifiable one. Yes, she's lumping them all into one category, when I can think of more than one type of SBNR, and maybe that's overgeneralizing on her part. But she's funny and frustrated and she has a point of view that many of us may share.
She's reacting to the SBNR who would rather avoid entanglement with an actual community of seekers and who lumps all religious people into the category of hypocrites/social climbers/weirdos/gullibles who'll believe anything they're told by a clergyperson. I think that's a legitimate concern, but she doesn't explore the whys.
SBNRs, I notice, have often been turned off by conventional religious paths and have simply decided not to look any longer, finding their community needs met by civic causes or family groups or 12 step programs. I'm not sure there's anything wrong with that. Conventional religious paths do seem to attract their share of hypocrites, social climbers, weirdos and gullibles. But all communities have them----civic groups, families, 12 steppers, you name it.
As I was walking this morning, checking out the sweet pea seed pods on the road to see if they're ready for harvesting, I thought of where I most encounter the SBNR phrase. I've seen a lot of it over the years, particularly every time I check out Match.com to see if anyone remotely interesting has turned up in my neck of the woods.
And the SBNR phrase seems to appear quite frequently in the profiles of those fellows who (if you can tell anything from an online profile) are trying way too hard to be cool. They talk about how they love to ski and boat and take long walks on the beach. I'm guessing they wear one or more gold chains, sport a bit of chest hair under their carefully unbuttoned Hawaiian shirts (it's hard to tell from the photos), and the SBNR phrase is calculated to seem cool.
Unfortunately, it also says "I would prefer not to think too hard or commit to something larger than myself". Sheesh, give me a good die-hard atheist (well, maybe not Dawkins or Harris) or agnostic (are agnostics die-hards?) or even a not-too-conservative Christian. When I talk about the big questions of life, I want someone who can offer a point of view that is meaty, not overly cynical, and who isn't annoyed by an opposing point of view if offered mildly.
So I'm on both sides of this question. We do need to think about why people opt for SBNR instead of aligning with a religious community and we might want to clean up our acts. If an SBNR person starts sniffing around our congregations, let's treat them gently and not reinforce their stereotypes; they take a little TLC and may eventually realize that a congregation can be spiritual AND religious.