“I’m spiritual (and moral), I’m just not religious.”
This category of spirituality is the fastest growing group in America. It’s like your playlist on your smartphone. You curate your favorite songs into an a la carte playlist. You don’t buy an entire album. That’s a metaphor for how people view their spirituality today: don’t buy the prepackaged dogma of an ancient set of beliefs. Instead, why not pick and choose and then remix your own beliefs and practices according to your own liking? A little Christian morality here, a little Buddhist meditation there, some eastern philosophy self-mastery added in with some human potential awakening and round it off with a healthy commitment to non-religious social justice activity and…there you have it! A smorgasbord of the new and arising spirituality of the 21st century. This is the shape of the conversation on beliefs and practices in America today.
A famous musician recently declared that she’s pansexual. You can’t define her. She is everything and all things to encounter. People are increasingly viewing their spirituality as “pan-spiritual”. Everyone has their own definition of God: “I experience God in a sunset.” “I find God in music/poetry/movies.” “I find God within myself when I am quiet.” “I find God in other people.” “I find God in all religions.” “I don’t believe in God, but I’m spiritual in other ways.”
The Christian church has spent decades preparing to answer people’s questions on whether God existed or not. We have arguments and evidences that demand a verdict for the Christian faith on the existence of the Christian God. This has value. But what if people today and in the future will not so much be asking the main question of “Does God exist?”, but rather asking: “Am I a god already?” “Do I have the power of a god?” “Why limit my pluralistic god to one religious archetype?” “Can I do good works w/o God that’s better than what God’s people (the church) are actually doing?”
How will the church respond? There’s a verse in the Old Testament book of Judges that describes ancient wayward Israel, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” [Jud. 21:25]. This is perhaps the most accurate of all bible verses at interpreting our American spirituality at the dawn of the 21st century. Everyone did as they wanted because they had no king and had essentially abandoned God. So they became their own gods. We, as a culture, have redefined God and created a counterfeit “god culture” spirituality where we are free to imagine, create, mix, sample and experiment with our own ideas of “god” (or lack thereof) because there are virtually no rules for spirituality for a growing number of people in our culture.
For followers of Jesus Christ, the future conversation will largely center on how we define “God” in our own minds and for those in an undefined spiritual blender of beliefs. The Apostle Paul, writing to the Colossian church, spoke into the chaos of a culture that was in danger of losing their sense of spiritual definition:
“(Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of the cross.” [Col. 1:15-20]