I don’t know Jennifer Banks, but I agree with her:
You know “spiritual but not religious”? Well, I often wonder about that other, less discussed category “religious but not spiritual.”
We in the Church have taught people who wanted to know Jesus the importance of serving on committees (especially the dreaded Property Committee.) We have taught them that church attendance is more important that daily discipleship. We have taught them that acting like we have it all together is the way to present ourselves instead of acknowledging that we are hot messes in need of a Savior.
See what I mean. It reminds me of the apostle Paul’s sermon at the Areopagus:
“Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way.” Acts 17:22
But God was unknown to them.
I hate to admit this, but I’ve seen this in our congregations. Elders can tell you how much a new boiler costs, but they don’t know how to pray with church members. Deacons know where to find the tableclothes but they have never been taught how to pray by someone’s bedside. Youth leaders know fun things to do with shaving cream and plungers and plastic flamingos but they are lost when kids ask about Jesus.
Again – we have created this issue. We who have been more concerned about bolstering an institution (and therefore our careers and power) more than expanding God’s reign have allowed this to happen.
But this is what resurrection is all about. To paraphrase Jesus:
The blind stop focusing on the building and start seeing the people, and the lame walk out of the building into the neighborhood to serve. The lepers are cleansed and welcomed and they go out healing and welcoming others. And the deaf hear the voice of God and not the voices of gossipers, and the lifeless congregations are resurrected. Oh, and the poor have good tidings preached to them.
Lent is a great time to ponder whether we are more religious about institutional church things or more religious about our devotion to God. One of these is more spiritual.
The quote at the top is from a tweet yesterday by Jennifer Banks who is Senior Executive Editor of Yale Press.