“When someone talks about spirituality or being spiritual, what do you think of? What do you think the other person is thinking of?”
In my January post, “Deeper and Deeper,” I began with these two questions but then did not directly address them.
So, I want to return to those questions as springboards to initiate JNC’s new series on Spirituality. I’m sure you’ve noticed that in the last several decades there has been a surge of interest in “spirituality” of all sorts. How do you respond?
I grew up in a spiritual home. My dad would have called himself a “devout Christian” or a “devout believer”. His entire person was oriented toward God, the Bible, and loving and serving others through “gospel ministry”. Our home exuded a spiritual orientation: prayer, Bible stories and obeying biblical directives, belonging to a fellowship of believers (church planting), treating neighbors with warmth and generosity, home hospitality shown to all sorts of people, and taking good care of God’s provisions for this life while planning for eternity. Eternity raised the bar for the meaning of this current and passing life. A spiritual mentality steered our home.
At school (public school) I noted a non-spiritual orientation, for the most part. A secular perspective on reality steered the curriculum and conversation. There, everyone acted as if all of reality was energized by naturalism — the forces of nature; a materialistic reality — no outside forces existed, or if they did, they were irrelevant to us. And the brevity of life was ignored, except when a student or parent unexpectedly died. Then we all were shocked, but soon returned to our “this world” busyness. This naturalistic mentality was purely pragmatic. What works (what we can control) is what is right.
In college (Grace College, a Christian college in Indiana), I studied to be a high school English teacher for either Christian schools or public schools. I student- taught in a public school. What is most interesting is that the dean of the education department at Grace, Dr. William Male, taught us to view all of life and education from a spiritual point of view, to reject a sacred-secular dichotomy. Most of my teaching experience was at Christian schools, where I honed this perspective. When I became a Christian school curriculum director, I encouraged teachers to view the academic content through the lens of Scripture, as the interpretive tool and base of authority.
The material world is the glove of the spiritual world. I’m not suggesting something superstitious. Animate life is energized by something, and the something is invisible. We may reference the laws of nature. What is the intelligence behind them? What is the energizing source? Hmm. Mystery. The spiritual behind the physical. (At some point, we’ll need to define these words, spiritual and physical.)
The secular approach to education has left a void, which I may write about. (I already did and deleted it from this post. This is just the introduction.) Human beings are designed to be spiritual beings, and a mere materialistic, evolutionary, psychological, sociological explanation leaves an intolerable, aching hole in the soul.
Since my high school years, various spiritualities have filled many voids in our culture to the point now that spirituality is back in the school system, back in our medical practices (especially alternative medicine), and back in the market place. Spirituality is needed for sanity, and even secularists recognize this.
I have really observed this in the field of medicine as I have sought answers to my chronic health issues. I’ve done a good amount of reading in alternative health approaches which are called by such terms as functional, homeopathic, holistic, alternative, or naturopathic medicine, therapies, or practices. I use conventional approaches at times, but conventional medicine has not offered me any serious help for chronic issues, and even harmed my health in many ways. So, for most of my health issues, I do not turn to the conventional, healthcare world.
As I explored the functional approach to health, I had to concur that an approach that is holistic (addressing all areas of who I am: body, mind, soul, and spirit) and sought to promote health, rather than treat symptoms, is not only reasonable and wise; it is what I desire. It appears to align with my mindset that finds no dichotomy between the sacred and secular or physical and spiritual realms. But what do these practitioners mean by spiritual health?
Health care is not the only field bridging the manmade divide between the sacred and secular or material and spiritual. We see it in politics, in education, in business, and I suppose you can tell me more.
In my last post, I wrote about “moral outrage”. Issues of morality brought into open conversation now spin my brain. After living through the 60’s and 70’s with the rejection of traditional morality, authorities, and human meaning and the embrace of “free love”, I wonder why “secularists” are upset by the results. The “me too” movement, sexism, racism, LGBTQism, radicalism, mental illness, corruption, cheating (in business, education, and marriage)…. Marriage? Why do we even have it?
I understand why religious people are upset, but not why non-religious people are upset. I think that the uproar and outrage uncover the truth that all people, even secularists, are religious. Their religion is different than mine, but they are religious, and all religion involves spirituality. Once you talk of a moral issue, you are into the realm of the spiritual.
Think about examples. Think about meaning. Think about how we use words. Think about mindsets, that is, worldviews, perspectives, paradigms. Think about how you use the words, spiritual and spirituality, and next time we’ll pick up from here.
What are your observations?
Looking forward to more chapters defining the spiritual and secular bridge…..I, too, long ago realized the connection…..Then I saw that connection diminished in the 60s and 70s and largely ignored in ensuing years until about the last ten….However, I think it is still a weak connection hampered by millennial self indulgence…..It is going to be an interesting study.