In Christian Century magazine there was a review of Elaine Pagels’ book, “Why Religion?” It is a great book title, but more importantly it is a question each of us in the church, each of us who identify ourselves as Christians, should ask.
Why religion . . . In a time when we hear over and over again the phrase “I am spiritual but not religious,” those of us who ARE religious should ask ourselves what that means.
Pagels is an award winning Ivy League scholar and author who experienced two tragic losses within a year: the deaths of her six-year-old son to heart disease and her husband in a hiking accident. Her journey of grief led her to various faith experiences, yet she has no desire to be in a faith community.
For her, the significance of faith is in its therapeutic utility, how well it meets the human needs of comfort, security, and beauty. Her view of faith lacks any sense of costly discipleship, self-sacrifice, striving for justice or stewardship of creation.
So . . . what would YOUR view of faith include?
For me, I NEED that sense of community, so it is hard for me to separate my faith from my involvement in the church. As I reason and study and reflect on the meaning of life, I need to hear what others are saying; I need to be inspired by their faith journeys as I struggle to move down my own spiritual path. I need others to help me make sense of tragedies, I need others to keep me humble, I need others in the church to hold me accountable, to encourage me, to pray for me, to celebrate the successes in life and to cope with the disappointments.
In short, when I ask “why religion” the answer is because I need PEOPLE. Maybe one can be spiritual by oneself, but to be religious, I believe one has to be in community with others.
I hope you will spend some time this week asking yourself this important question: Why Religion. And if you are willing, please share with me your answers.
Have a blessed week,