In modern America, it is not uncommon to hear a person describe themselves as “spiritual, but not religious.” According to a 2012 Pew poll, less than a third of Americans would identify as atheist/agnostic. Many people are caught up in a belief in something “else,” but they don’t find the answers in religion as it stands today.
And it’s not hard to see why. If you’ve been out on the plaza recently, surely you’ve seen Brother Matt and his now infamous “You Deserve Hell” sign. He will shout at you as you’re walking by, he will preach fire and brimstone until each and every person on this campus knows that, according to his view of God, they are deserving of eternal damnation.
While Brother Matt may go about spreading the Good News in ways that modern Christians can’t stomach, that is indicative of what the Church teaches; we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and the young people sitting in pews learn this very early on.
Students, understandably, were less than happy about the sign that Brother Matt had, and so they made one of their own which read, “You Deserve Love”.
That is the message that brings me back to church.
Because underneath all of the ideologies and differences in interpretive theologies, love is the message of the Gospel. While we are taught that sinners fall short of the glory of God, that’s where Jesus steps in and gets the job done. The eternal compassion and love is what we are called to share with others; the fire and brimstone comes much, much later.
Unfortunately, preachers with tactics such as Brother Matt’s are missing that point, and this is the view of the Church that people see. No, not everyone that attends services on Sundays wants to tell you that you’re going to Hell, and no, not all church-goers want to ask you a couple questions.
But here’s what a lot of people are missing – you cannot be spiritual but not religious.The two are, in fact, inextricably linked.
For those of you that fall into that camp, I apologize for whatever made you distrustful of organized religion, and I apologize for the Brother Matt’s of the world that leave a bad taste in the mouths of spectators when it comes to the Church.
But religion, at it’s core, is spiritual. It’s all about a relationship with that something “else;” spirituality has deep roots in religion, and you cannot have one without the other.
And it’s true – many churches have gotten lost in the politics and scandals. Many churches have lost their connection in the relationship part and instead choose to spend their time preaching eternal damnation to those that do not think, act or believe what they do. Many churches have a very narrow-minded view of righteousness, and believe that the saved have to conform to that view.
So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that some are trying to separate spirituality from religion – many people that acknowledge a Being of some kind are inherently distrustful of the religion that propagates judgment and narrow-minded conformity.
The church has gotten a lot wrong, but that doesn’t mean God is separate from it. Don’t let Brother Matt, or religion’s trespasses, take away from the spirituality of religion.
Collegian Columnist Brittney Jordan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org