GUEST COMMENTARY: When religion and spirituality collide

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The Anglican fight over gay clergy is usually framed as a left and right conflict, part of the larger saga of political division. But this narrative obscures a more significant tension in Western societies: the increasing gap between spirituality and religion, and the failure of traditional religious institutions to learn from the divide. By Diana Butler Bass.

  • Kirry

    I respectfully disagree w/ Mrs. Bass on the reasoning behind the problem in the Anglican church. Can truth change w/ popular opinion? Not the last time I heard. If 2 + 2 = 4, just because the pop culture says it =6 doesn’t mean it is. This is at the core of the Anglican church problem. You cant change long held beliefs base on cultural opinion and still maintain that you hold or teach Truth. That’s no rock upon which to build your church. Truth is unchanging regardless of the waxing and waning of public opinion. I am in agreement w/ her in respect to the the grass roots problem of everyone becoming their own pope. People today, in the USA and England are more non-committal that ever (just look at divorce rates and co-habitation rates), they are self centered and narcissistic. They think they know better than institutions that have been around for thousands of years and have been scrutinizing the scriptures and traditions of the church for centuries in order to more faithfully follow the teaching of Christ and lead the flocks left in their charge. Its as insane as my 5 year old telling me she knows better than I do. No humility whatsoever. People think they can sit at home and take what they like from some religions, discard what they don’t like and make some sort of mish mash relgiosity that works for them. Its no wonder we live in times of declining belief in God. If everyone can believe what they want, how is anyone to find Truth? People need guidance and rules in order to have faith but they don’t want to develope the self-discipline it takes to follow that. Jesus gave us specific rules and laid out in no uncertain terms things that are right and wrong but those are being challenged by our pop culture. I personally know who I am going to believe and it isn’t the ever changing tide of public opinion. I am proud of my church, flaws and all, for standing firm on the teachings of Christ and not veering form the clear path he set forth. Its what has reinforced my belief that I chose the right church. Even in the face of ridicule it has stood firm but we were told long ago by Christ to expect it.

  • kjunlandr

    St Augustine said it best centuries ago; “If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.” True religion & true spirituality are inseparable. Don’t see how a person can say with certitude you can have one without the other.

  • chris

    The worst part of this sort of fact-free pseudo-philosophical puff-paste is that people will probably quote it in sermons as wisdom. But seriously, “For centuries, faith was top-down: Spiritual power flowed from pope to the faithful, archbishop to Anglicans, priest to the pious, pastor to congregation.” For instance? Did power flow down to Francis of Assisi from whoever was pope at the time? Does anyone remember who was archbishop of Canterbury when George Herbert was vicar of a tiny country parish? Who was Bishop of Norwich when Julian was drawing people from all over England to her cell?
    Does anyone really think that the “Anglican Communion, increasingly fixate(s) on order and control”? So why did the Church of England reject the proposed Covenant? There are those who fixated in control, but they seem not to be winning the day. I wonder whether they ever did?

  • whorley1973

    I believe that the fundamental issue is one of outlook, i.e. the acceptance or rejection of modernity. By this I primarily mean modern biblical scholarship (as exemplified by the Jesus Seminar), involving a historical/text critical approach to scripture.

    The “progressive wing” of Christianity interprets scripture and traditions metaphorically and culturally rather than literally, encouraging more flexibility to change traditional attitudes toward women’s roles and homosexuality. On the other hand, Christians in the Global South tend to be literalistic and traditional. Of course, some Christians in North America and Europe also have a literal, conservative biblical view, resulting in their leaving liberal churches such as the Episcopal Church. Conservatives include many Protestants and the Roman and Orthodox Church hierarchies.

    Related to this difference is one’s conception of God. For example, progressives are more open to reject theism for panentheism and allow incisiveness toward other religious traditions. To conservatives, this is heresy.

    I believe that we are headed for a division in Christianity into three basic orientations: A progressive coalition, a fundamentalist Protestant orientation, and a movement including the Roman and Orthodox communions that hold to traditional views. This will mean a reorientation among Anglicans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, and others toward the first two orientations. For example, as an Episcopalian, I expect that the Anglican Communion will split, probably due to the conservatives withdrawing from affiliation with Canterbury with the rationale that the progressives have abandoned Christianity.

    I would ask: Is this a bad thing in regard to worship? Perhaps people with different needs require different forms of Christianity (or something else). However, it is in the controversies involving traditional restrictions upon women and homosexuals were compromise is allusive. As a progressive Christian, I do not object to other’s literal interpretation of scripture unless it leads to restrictions on women and homosexuals. In those cases, I must say “No,” “Here I stand; I can do no other.”

  • John

    I was amused that you wodeernd what on earth to say to the Pope. I understand that he is unused to discussing anything; it is not the style of a pope. I gather that you just listen to pontifications and dogma, but maybe I am being uncharitable for Benedict came across as a warm and human man, unlike his portrayal by the RC Church and the Vatican. I asked a well-known RC friend why he just accepted all the dogma. He replied that he was a busy man and it suited him to just accept the RC religion as a package, without having to question it or debate it. Other RC friends of mine in Glasgow I find, do want to listen to other viewpoints but are loathe to debate even say the Liturgy.

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