mad in pursuit journal


Retort of a Rutabaga Lover

I'm picking on Father Joe again today because his book is so articulate and so passionate about Catholic beliefs (and it's the only one of its kind I own). In Chapter 10, Father Joe takes a poke at people who say, "I'm not a religious person, but I am a very spiritual person."

In our modern day, the word "spirituality" has in many cases become a term for anything that is even vaguely related to a religious expression, but without the religious belief or disciplined practice... Spiritual things appeal to people very much, yet the true meaning and purpose of those things is often not even recognized. Many people really like the idea of meditating in candle light with incense burning and listening to relaxing music, all the while gazing into a crystal or whatever else, basically because it makes them feel good. ... Cooking up these theological and spiritual stews is unfortunately not all that uncommon... This is not what true spirituality is about. Making up our own little religions based on what we like and don't like does not make us spiritual; it makes us terribly confused and severely misguided. [Rev Joseph F Classen]

He's right. Spiritual dilettantes deserve a poke.

On the other hand, so do religious dogmatists and unthinking believers.

We humans love the idea of choice but organized religion wouldn't be so popular if most people didn't simply opt for the package. Priests tell you what to do. Even religions that prize direct communication with God (or the Life Force) seem to develop ayatollahs and gurus. "Give me the short-cut, boss! Hand me those 10 Bullet Points!"

The world is less endangered by cafeteria-plan crystal-gazers than it is by people whose unthinking dogmatism turns them into mean-spirited, intolerant crusaders. (Now even the atheists are getting a little surly.)

But still, commitment and self-discipline are, to me, essential building blocks in a good life. Am I a secular humanist who practices (for the moment) Zen meditation while listening to Tibetan chants? You betcha!

But am I shallow? "Terribly confused and severly misguided"? Nah. I just like feeding my soul from the a la carte menu. The belly can get just as full by substituting broccoli for the crappy wilted salad and skipping the dried out cake. Fr. Joe thinks that spiritual do-it-yourselfers will only eat from the wine list and the dessert tray. But for me, the challenge and the beauty of life is coming to my own deep understanding about the sweetness of rutabaga and the consequences of junk food.


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