Last week I wrote a post about the wonderful responses I got to my recently published Beliefnet article —

Well, it’s only fair that I give equal time to the not-so-wonderful responses because boy are they doozies! It seems in addition to the posts on the article itself, I’ve been discussed on some personal blogs out there in cyberspace. I absolutely love it, and in some cases I laughed out loud at the absurdity and intolerance. See for yourself.

No. 1 comes courtesy of the St. Ignatius of Loyola website:
“I’m into spirituality, not religion!”
I wish I had $5.00 and an aspirin everytime I hear something along those lines — which is fairly common in Eugene, Oregon. As I point out when I give talks about The Coded Craziness, this is the line of “thinking” that an enormous amount of people are spouting. A perfect example can be found in this article,
“I Shopped for a Church…and Found Spirituality Instead.” The author, Nancy Colasurdo (“a life coach and a facilitator of goal-setting and creativity workshops…”), unleashes nearly every known clíche in the “I’m spiritual, not religious” handbook, following a familiar pattern:

• Discontentment: “I decided three years ago it was time to divorce Catholicism.”
• Desire for effortless answers: “I vowed to do some church ‘shopping.’ I concentrated on visiting churches, rather than get bogged down reading mind-numbing comparisons and explanations of religions.”
• Desire to be affirmed: ” I wanted a faith that is culturally diverse, guilt-free and non-judgmental.”
• Dipping into Eastern (usually Buddhism) thought/practice: “… I read the book Buddhism Plain & Simple by Steve Hagen. As I read it, I suddenly found the Eastern approach illuminating…”
• Discarding structure for “spirituality”: ” Somewhere in this swirl, the journey had shifted from shopping for a church to shopping for spirituality.”
• Discovering pantheistic divinity!: “We are all divine.”
• Develop customized, subjective beliefs: “New Thought doesn’t ask me to discriminate, feel guilty, dwell on suffering, judge, worship a punishing God or be anyone I’m not.”

She concludes: “I guess you could say that I set out merely window-shopping for a church and have emerged instead carrying a shopping bag filled with deeper spirituality. Assuredly, shopping for cashmere never felt this good.” And there, I think, is the sad crux of the matter for folks such as Colasurdo: how does it make me feel? Some may call it “spirituality,” but I call it spiritual hedonism.

No. 1A is a response to the previous post on his blog:

Let’s face it, this is just the intellectual laziness of someone who believes in God but doesn’t want to do more than that, however that person is social and likes to join stuff. Without being charged or frisked before admission.

No. 1B is another response to his blog:

I think it’s b/c it’s easier to live life these days, less demand on the person to deal w/ suffering and death, and using yourself as the final arbiter of what is true and ethical, and changing it whenever desired. Question: How do people utilize these ‘spiritual’ belief(s) when they have to deal with substantial suffering or death of close loved ones? How does ‘being spiritual’ get them through seriously tough times?

No. 1C, yet another response to first:

I believe this line of thinking started with the incredible influx of people entering 12th Step programs in the 1980’s. The term “Higher Power” is utilized rather than God. I have the highest respect and admiration for that program. As with all egotistical individuals, they find something that “works” and feel compelled to put their spin on an accomplished feat and claim it to be their own. Those people usually wound up back behind the eight ball in short order.

No. 2 is from Bereans Blog:

… [W]hile I sympathize with the desire to worship with like-minded people, there comes a time when we start looking for a religion that we feel completely comfortable in. It is the great trap for church shoppers: How do we find a community that we like while still preserving the integrity of our faith?

The woman in Olson’s post seems to have traded away much of Christianity for an amalgamation of (as Rush Limbaugh likes to say) phoney-baloney plastic-banana good-time rock and roll. A “punishing” God is too unpalatable for her. She desires to be “divine”. She wants to be “guilt-free”.

Christianity is many things, but among them, it is humbling and harshly bright. It reminds us that we are weak, that we do what we hate and neglect what we love. It shows us our impurities and it demands that we respond. When we pray in those dark wee hours of the morning, we are naked before our God and we can feel the tragic love he has for us, imploring us not to continue to reject him. By replacing that with a church that claims we are guilt-free gods, one loses the bulk of what makes Christianity worthwhile.

And really, if we are gods, why even go to church? Is not your home your own House of God? Why not worship yourself over doughnuts and TiVo and not bother wasting the gas? I believe it is because deep down, Colasurdo knows she is chasing a mirage. We all know we aren’t gods, we all know we have sinned against the real God. I sincerely doubt that Colasurdo ever truly and completely forgets that she is flawed and needing forgiveness. I think she has merely found a place to go that tells her she’s okay, tells her she’s divine, and let’s her believe, if only for a moment, that she has it all squared away. The same way a few shots of whiskey can help us forget our troubles, a self-centered church of self can help us forget that we have glaring flaws that require the mercy of an all-powerful God.

Stay tuned. More for another day …