Thursday, September 01, 2011

Spiritual but not Religious?

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 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.


Jacqueline said...

I have to admit the Spiritual but not Religious person seems flaky to me. It is my particular bias, but I actually prefer people who can say I believe X... instead of hemming and hawing about spirituality... it is hard to take them seriously.

Robin Edgar said...

You have an HTML error Rev. Ketchum. You did not properly close the link from the word "here", all the rest of your post is one big link.

ms. kitty said...

I know, Robin, I tried to fix it and didn't succeed.

Robin Edgar said...

Well this page explains how to create a link -

So you should be able to correct the situation with that information. You probably just need to add the < / a > after here.

ms. kitty said...

Usually blogspot refuses to publish the post if there's a mistake in the link, but this went through. I did have it correct, as far as I could tell. But I'll check out the link you offered. Thanks.

Paul Oakley said...

People who worry about or publicly disapprove of how others characterize their religious or spiritual identity/ practice/ association very likely have issues that THEY should tend to. Period. A healthy person really doesn't worry what label another chooses for him- or herself or which "club" s/he belongs to. To the extent the healthy person is concerned with another it is not with their chosen or assigned labels but with their actions. That is, how they relate with others and the world.

Paul Oakley said...

And people who say "Please Stop Boring Me" are indicating only their own dysfunctions not those of those they are complaining about.

Robin Edgar said...

:But several responses I've read criticize the snarky tone of her post and express some readers' own frustration with the snarky approach,

And where might these responses be found and read Ms. Kitty?

ms. kitty said...

They've all been on Facebook, Robin.

Robin Edgar said...

OK Thanks Ms. Kitty.

I have since found a few UU clergy blog posts about this.

Mile High Pixie said...

OMG! I actually started laughing out loud when I read this...which is hard to make me do. I think SBNRs (like myself, even!) probably avoid the entanglement because they've yet to see anyone have a religious/spiritual discussion in a way that was either educational or productive without eventually becoming a screaming match at worst and a tense stalemate at best. I once heard someone say that someone who wants to tell you about their religion rarely wants to hear anything about yours.

And perhaps they've yet to see a good discussion because they themselves don't know how to have one. Above all, sharing spirituality, religion, and even thoughts and opinions often suffer from an inability to communicate clearly and yet civilly, to listen as well as speak, and to speak and listen without prejudging or waiting for our turn to speak. I think this is a problem that plagues many of our conversations, not just the ones about religion. I try to let this problem end with me, but it's hard sometimes to be patient with others in discourse.

Robin Edgar said...

Now there's an idea!

Max The Polyamorous ;-)

This *could* work but it is probably better for Max's overall well-being and Ms. Kitty's peace of mind that one neighbor agrees take to take full responsibility for Max's food and lodging and health care etc.

ms. kitty said...

Gee, it's fun to be writing the blog again! You folks are very creative!

Robin Edgar said...


Somehow posted the Max The Polyamorous comment to the wrong blog post.

Yes how unfortunate for *certain* people that The Emerson Avenger is such a creative fellow. :-)