Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Why SBNR? Top 10 Reasons has recently finished a top 10 reasons why they (or I should say we) call themselves (ourselves) Spiritual but not Religious on their Facebook page. Here are the top 10 reasons created by SBNR Facebook members and my response.

# 10. We want compassion not politics to be our spiritual service to the world.
 I've discovered in my interactions with other SBNRs that many call themselves Nones or SBNR as a direct rejection of traditional faith. I mean it's even in their title, Spiritual BUT NOT Religious. Many focus on this distinction because spiritual and religious have been used interchangeably until recently. I believe spirituality (however you may define or practice the term) can and does exist outside of religion and that is exactly what a lot of Americans are seeking out. We feel that traditional faith has strayed away from service to our fellow man (compassion) towards self preservation of the institution (politics). If you get paid to preach a certain message it is in your best interest to toe the line if you want to keep your job. [I remember once when my wife and I went to our Baptist pastor in Smyrna with our marital concerns over my straddling the fence between Islam and Christianity, our pastor gave the best pitch trying to keep me in the faith. At the closing of the meeting he gave a "biased prayer" (his words). I give him mad props for trying though.] Established traditional religion needs to transform itself if it wants to relate to today's society, and what people need now more than ever is compassion not politics.

#9. Because everyone has their OWN path.
This is the very core of my site. Everyone has their own path (even if they claim they are following God's will they still follow what feels right to them) and in understanding that each and every path is unique we recognize our shared humanity. If I hold anything sacred it is in our interconnectedness found through our shared experience as human beings.

#8. Because we share this planet with all living creatures.
 My response to #9 is similar to #8: by understanding our relationship with all living creatures on this planet we may be able to live more harmoniously with nature. I know, I know. That sounds a bit too much lovey dovey tree huggery than I would like but there it is. This one I may not care for as much as the next SBNR but that's the great thing about SBNR it is a term which covers a wide spectrum of people with diverse beliefs.

#7. Because this child deserves a life filled with wonder, not guilt.
 To help clear the confusion each of these reasons were accompanied by a related photo. #7, similar to #10, can come across as arrogant stating that religion is all about guilt and being a None or SBNR is free from guilt. Religions do contain a lot of guilt but that's only because they were created by humans with human emotions. This one could have been worded a bit differently, instead of ignoring guilt (life is peppered with plenty guilt) we should struggle and wrestle with guilt when we come across it. By seeking and giving forgiveness within that empty space where we carved out guilt we can fill it with wonder.

#6. "The moment you think you know God, you have made yourself bigger than God." -Rami Shapiro
 I admit my bias up front for this one since Rabbi Rami was my professor during my years at MTSU. Although few may admit it we all put God in a box. I believe this is a core part of being SBNR, to live and wrestle with uncertainty. God is often used as a source of assurance and certainty in a chaotic universe. But a part of being SBNR is diving head first into the mystery and exploring the infinite in both the inner and outer verse. (On a side note Kerry Miller over at Heady Brew has recently written several intriguing post on the infinite internal worlds found here, here, and here.) We minimize God when we say we think we know the mind of God (This all, of course, depends on your definition of God or even if the term is important at all.) In actuality we use the term God as a bully pulpit to say that the universe is on Our Side. We win every time. But as an SBNR we strive to accept the chaos by admitting we don't have all the answers, we just like to look around.

#5 Our diversity gives us many chances to learn and grow on our own spiritual path.
Our diversity is no different than the diversity found in any other faith, we just choose to acknowledge and share freely in our diversity. But the only thing I worry about in taking on a religious identity/label is being stuck in an echo chamber. The same issue rises in interfaith meetings, people only talk about what they share in common but hardly ever touch the areas of diversity. We should embrace our uniqueness and freely share in our differences, and most importantly take a part of each others diversity with us to help in our own spiritual path.

#4 Because in our spiritual diversity we have found a spiritual community.
 If there's anything I miss about being a Christian it is being part of a community. Websites like helps to fill in the role of the community but still lacks that human interaction. An online community can only go so far. And with the recent rise of Americans claiming no religious identification I believe our community will grow in the coming years and will benefit from the diversity within the group. The hazard once again becomes setting identity boundaries too high which discourages people from SBNR or setting them too low and wrestling with how we identify ourselves. Our sense of identity does play a part in finding a community. If the community is too diverse or too narrow we may feel that we may not belong there.

#3 Because here I am safe to be my unique spiritual "ME".
This reason ties in with #4. People want to feel safe in their new communities with their new spiritual identification. But, I don't want to feel too "safe", yet it wouldn't be a community if I felt threatened (i.e. constantly being bombarded with conversion requests). I want a rest stop not a home while a travel.

#2 Because I am free to have my own relationship to the divine "ultimate" with or without people. I can choose...
See how all of these are beginning to connect? Reason #2 also ties into #3 and #4 so again won't go into long detail. When we come to realize that our spirituality is own and doesn't have to be defined by any man made institution we are completely free to follow our own path. Many people think this means we like to pick and choose, buffet style, from all the different faiths to cover our behinds (i.e. hell insurance). We choose that which speaks to us, that which inspires us to be better more loving people, that which connects us to the All, to each other.

#1 Because I'm empowered to find my "highest" self on my own spiritual journey...
This is what drives my spirituality, to be the best Sam I can be, to seek out my highest self. But in seeking out my highest self I also want to come to terms with my own imperfection/brokenness. The Missing Piece by Shel Silverstein is a perfect example in describing my spirituality.

Anyone one else consider themselves SBNR? If so what do you think about the top 10? Leave your comments or better yet I encourage you to write your own post as to why you consider yourself SBNR.


Don said...

I have looked with the idea of SBNR and certainly I fit most if not all of the top 10 reasons. Like Spong, I long for a total reconstruction of Christianity and Jesus' purpose while here. I fear I wait in vain. That's why I list myself as a "believer in exile", knowing that I'm most probably SBNR.

Eruesso said...

I'm not a huge fan of these top 10 reasons myself (they were all submitted by Facebook users, neat idea to allow the members to choose how to collectively identify themselves) but I love the idea of reflecting on what it means to be SBNR as the group identity grows in the coming years.

Your fellow believer in exile,


Kerry Miller said...

Don and Sam - I can really relate to all of the top 10. And Don, like you - I see the purpose and message of Jesus fitting right in there, too. I like the term "believer in exile" - I think I am one of those, too!

Sam - I really loved how you expressed the difference between compassion and politics - the way our "religion" has shifted from what it ought to be (compassion and love) to defence of an institution or dogma.

& thanks for linking to my little series of posts... I wondered if I'd lost everyone with my quizzical little tangential meanderings!! So glad there's someone out there who "gets" it!

Eruesso said...


No problem (especially for a fellow Whovian), loved the posts but some of the comments were a little over my head at times which is why I didn't join the conversation. I understood the idea but some of the other commenters took it into more complicated tangents.


Kerry Miller said...

Hehe - I was struggling to keep up with them myself!! But hey, if you don't get out of your depth on these things occasionally, you never explore new territory!!

Anonymous said...

Ah, guys. I am (was?) an agnostic, viewing Christianity as worth considering, yet not wanting to be a part of any organized religion (that's why I am never a member of any church/denomination). Regarding politics, I believe in separation of church and state (therefore I think it's unnecessary to force oneself to follow the church's(or whatever organized religion) political ideology). I go to a certain church, yet I am not bound to it (and will never be). Do I count as a 'believer in exile' by your definition?

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