Seeking A Substantive Spirituality

Andrew Byers reviews Lillian Daniel’s When “Spiritual But Not Religious” Is Not Enough, which makes the case that the spiritual life “gets rich and provocative when you dig deeply into a tradition that you did not invent all for yourself”:

Spiritual But Not Religious” is not a promotion of religiosity, legalism, or institutionalism. Nor is Daniel unworried about a meaningless ritualism that contents itself with going through the motions. Her intention, rather, is to present a spirituality thicker than the euphoric sensation brought on by a lovely sunset or by the smile of a giggling infant. Having labored for years amidst the trenches and pews of pastoral ministry, she knows all too well that a spirituality that can accommodate sunset hues but not cancer, grinning babies but not wails in the night, is woefully inadequate for the realities of an ex-Eden world.

The Spiritual/Not Religious category is not only insufficient for our sin-streaked realm; it is also grossly unoriginal. A spirituality divorced from communal life and eviscerated of a deep tradition is a predictable product of secular American consumer culture. It’s custom-made, says Daniel, for a “bland majority of people who find ancient religions dull but find themselves uniquely fascinating.”