Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I'm SBNR....Kind of

SBNR, or Spiritual But Not Religious, is a phrase which I use (at times) to describe my spirituality. Only, it comes across as anti-Religion (read anti-God in the Bible Belt) whereas I surround myself with religion, all sorts of religion. I use SBNR as a short hand to sum my my on-going fluid spiritual journey which is nigh impossible to pin down in a specific set of beliefs. Because, to be honest, sometimes I believe in contradicting beliefs and other times I believe in none of them. It's not about dogma, rituals, or communal identity, it's about discovering oneself.

SBNR's tend to come across as some New Age mystic movement but from what I've seen it is an incredibly diverse group mainly because of its sincere openness to question, seek out, and discover life itself. Some have labeled SBNR as Burger King Spirituality, "having it our way", picking and choosing what one wants from the various world religions.

The reality is that even the most conservative believers of any faith pick and choose elements to follow and embrace. To me the issue isn't how closely one follows their faith, but how does your personal experience with your faith and God lead you to a higher plane of self-cultivation? How are you growing in your faith? I believe that is the disconnect between religious believers and the Nones (which includes the SBNRs) described in the video. Most believers opposed to SBNRs are under the impression that they (SBNRs) have given up all forms of self-cultivation (my new favorite word) and refuse to follow any sort of higher moral authority. Equating lack of belief in a higher power to immorality is a load of baloney! A belief in and allegiance to a supreme being is not a magical cloak of morality. People will choose how moral they want to be regardless of their beliefs. SBNRs embrace life itself for what it is refusing to box it into a single narrative. This doesn't make them amoral, in fact it's quite the opposite. SBNRs embrace and respect the people behind the religion because it's the people not the dogma which is important. I hear so many evangelicals state how it (life) is all about giving glory to God. Yet this intense focus on a theistic Father God sometimes translates into hating what the God of the Bible hates. What do our actions and words really say about the marginalization of the least of these (homosexuals, Muslims, women, the poor, other non-believers, etc)? What do our actions and words say to our neighbors when we say we "love" under certain conditions? There is a disconnect when I read that the Bible has over 2000 verses on the poor and all I hear in church is how we should be giving more to the church.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying SBNRs are better people they just don't get caught up in dogma drama (as much as others). Their focus is on connecting with their fellow man and understanding their role in the universe, in the here and now. I'm careful when I use the term SBNR because although it describes me to a degree it just sounds oppositional. I'm not against anything religious, in fact I LOVE talking about and (at times) experiencing our religiousness. I love the story and symbolism in religion but most of all I go crazy for the wildly creative interpretation of scripture, like this for example. I've considered telling people I'm SBNER, Spiritual but not Exclusively Religious, but even then that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. So now I try to avoid boiling down my spirituality to an acronym and ask my interrogator if they'd like to sit and talk about it over lunch. When you get to know someone on a personal level it's difficult to hate them for their beliefs.


captron52 said...

AMEN brother!

Doug B said...

At times it is really hard to make the distinction between religion and spirituality. I guess most religious people think of themselves as spiritual, and probably visa versa. But however I or others choose to define me, I want to avoid the label of being dogmatic. I'm told I often come across that way because I press my points so hard. However, I believe in the absolute mental freedom of everyone to determine truth to their best understanding. I just like to examine people's ideas. And I don't mind having mine examined. What is truth? I have to content myself with approaches towards truth. I've little patience with dogmatism. So I guess that's where I come across as argumentative sometimes. I wonder by what method one arrives at his conclusions. Some people get angry and defensive when the Socratic method reveals holes in their pet ideas and theories. I think that is the reason I take offense at the Burger King Spirituality accusation. I don't pick and choose. I examine and accept what my reason compels me to accept. And there is the rub: too many people seem to want to take a bow for having faith; for believing despite reasonable objections. These folks are the real Burger King Spiritualists in my opinion. Because that type of faith derails the investigative process. And to my thinking, dogmatic faith is the very opposite of mental freedom. Sorry for the long rant, but you introduce an interesting topic here.

Unknown said...

I believe in the absolute mental freedom of everyone to determine truth to their best understanding.

Rants are always welcomed. I find the Nones segment of the population to be incredibly exciting mainly because it reflects the yearning to seek out truth on an individual level. People ARE seeking truth even after they've left the communities which hold an orthodox view on truth. This is the kind of stuff I go wild over. It's always great to hear from you, Doug.

Don said...

I shall remain SBNR until a better explanation comes along.

Post a Comment