Saturday, July 19, 2014


SBNR--”Spiritual but not religious”--is a new category being used by pollsters as they survey religious attitudes and commitment. An article in the New York Times this week describing some of the attention this group is getting, caught my eye.

While many of us see that Jesus was opposed to much religion and we find ourselves turned off by it, the SBNRs usually have something else in mind. They often like the idea of Jesus being one of their gurus, without any commitment to his Lordship.

Their rejection of religion usually means a rejection of any authority outside one’s self. It is wanting some connection with the divine and the spiritual life while shaping that understanding entirely by their view of what is acceptable to them. It seems the Starbucks' generation wants to order their relationship with the divine like they order a latte.

The Times article describes the message of one of popularizers of this new trend this way: “In his guide to developing a custom spirituality, he encourages people to draw on religion, antireligion — whatever works for them.” The key phrase is “custom spirituality.” And while S.B.N.R. may a new buzz term, the idea of designing our own idea of God and shaping him to meet our desires and fit our lives is a very old one. 

People have long done this while still being involved with a church.  Whole churches have been the result of custom spirituality. Now people are increasingly doing it without the church connection and involvement in “organized religion.” 

In many ways, we need to be spiritual but not religious. But, we must not be misled. We cannot have true spirituality without humility before God and without letting God be God. We cannot be truly spiritual without being eager to worship the One who is greater than we. We cannot be spiritual without a spirit of obedience. Jesus is not our teacher or “guru” unless we see him as the one who calls us to deny ourselves and come to the cross. Most everyone can think about God in nature, but we are not truly spiritual unless we get involved in the sometimes wonderful, but sometimes messy, business of loving one another. 

The truth is what sets us free, not our custom design.
Extra: Click here to read my review of one of the newer books that fits with this trend.

1 comment:

  1. Amen Tom. Thank you for your truth. Satan wants to always water down what God is saying. I pray for all of us to truly search the Bible to see what it is to be SBNR. If we do, we will see the perfect example to follow, Jesus, who was selfless,served others and did it because he loved his Father. Thanks again.