Lillian Daniel nails the “spiritual but not religious” crowd
United Church of Christ* pastor Lillian Daniel, author of a new book, “When ‘Spiritual But Not Religious’ Is Not Enough,” is profiled by Bob Abernethy of Religion & Ethics Newsweekly. She rocks the house:
ABERNETHY: At Howard University in Washington, DC recently, Daniel railed at writers and others who, she says, have blamed the church for many of the world’s biggest problems.
REV LILLIAN DANIEL: What church community are you describing? Because it is not mine. And how dare you presume to paint me with that broad and offensive brush? So why is it that when the ’spiritual but not religious’ complain about Christianity, why don’t we get mad? Why don’t we tell them a different story, of a progressive church where your questions are welcomed, where we worship a God who invented us and not the other way around.
ABERNETHY: Daniel’s audience included the dean of the Howard chapel and Howard’s president and his wife. She referred to them when she acknowledged her own part in what she calls America’s culture of narcissism.
DANIEL: …in which it is so easy to think, “It’s all about me.” So much so that when the dean told me quietly that the president and first lady were here today you know where my mind went. I’m from Chicago. I said, “Barack and Michelle? Here?”
ABERNETHY: But Daniel’s humor is not always so gentle. She ridicules people she says try to make up their own God and their own forms of worship.
DANIEL: Often some shallow combination of exercise and caffeine, coffee shops as spiritual community, hikes as pilgrimages, The New York Times as sacred text, and sunsets—don’t ever forget the sunsets. These people are always informing you that they find God in the sunsets. Well, excuse me, as if people who go to church didn’t see God in a sunset. You know, my take is that any idiot can find God in the sunset. What is remarkable is finding God in the context of flawed human community, and a tradition bigger than you are with people who may not reflect God back to you in your own image.
Part of the nature of religion, so much beat up on in our society, part of the nature of religion is that it delivers a message that is like sandpaper against the culture of narcissism. It is not all about you and, no, you cannot make it up. The beauty of a long tradition is that it is bigger than anything we can do by ourselves.
Amen. And there’s more. Read it all here…
* The original version of this post erroneously referred to Daniel as a Methodist pastor.