Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Vague Spirituality

Greg Smith has another thoughtful post on those who claim to be spiritual but not religious. It seems a bit like those who claim to be algebraic but not mathematical. Most of those who claim this that I have met seem to have vague notions about being good but no concrete ideas about what is good. They genuinely want to be nice people. The term nice, however, comes from Latin nescius meaning ignorant. In Middle English nice meant foolish. The following passage from Chaucer illustrates this usage:
And somme seyen that we loven best
For to be free and do right as us lest,
And that no man repreve us of oure vice,
But seye that we be wise and no thyng nyce.
(Chaucer, Cantebury Tales, "Wife of Bath's Tale," 935-938.)
The Oxford English Dictionary lists the first definition as "foolish, stupid, senseless." The second definition is even worse: "wanton, loose-mannered; lascivious." Third comes "strange, rare, uncommon." The fourth definition is "slothful, laxy, indolent." Only with the fifth definition does the term acquire any positive quality. What does it say about our society that we prize those who are nice?

Spiritual but not religious is slogan thinking. It says that the person wants to be thought of as a good person but does not want to make any commitments, and certainly no covenants. Or, if they have made covenants, does not want to be thought of as actually keeping them. Revelations 3:15-16 comes to mind:
I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
God wants commitment, not some vague, wishy-washy spirituality.