Who are the Religiously Disillusioned [or Spiritually Tired]?
I’ve been using this language lately, the religiously disillusioned [or spiritually tired]. I thought it would be a helpful way forward for us if I defined my terms. So in 800 [ish] words, this is the individual I’m describing when I say the religiously disillusioned and this is a way forward for them [us ;)]
Being disillusioned by religion, in my working definition and for our purposes, simply means that we [in our moment of religious disillusionment] wake up one day, we look within ourselves, and we see… a scaffolding. This scaffolding, which was once created as a tool for support and protection to foster and develop the beautiful inner life of knowing and relating to God, is no longer the means to another end. Now… we look with utter contempt as we realize that maintaining the scaffolding has become our end purpose. Our end goal.
Is our focus on the scaffolding or the life within it?
With the departing of vibrant life, our inner being is left only with the system we created to support it [whoops]. In the places we are now void of this life, we notice that our hearts have grown cold, no longer beating in responsiveness to the nuanced movement of the Holy Spirit.
And we are surprised by this! Because from the outside, it seemed that all was on course, with all synapses firing correctly and on time! But upon closer inspection, we realize that it was simply the scaffolding, the system, holding it all together.
“When we [the church] focus on the life [growth] within a given scaffolding, then it always makes sense to change the scaffolding based on the need of the life within — it only gets tricky when we focus more on maintaining the scaffolding” [tweet: @philip_rice]
Perhaps you can relate to this description of the religiously disillusioned? Or perhaps you’re not quite there, but you’re tired — tired of engaging the motions and rhythms previously established, needing new perspective. Both are okay! It’s real, it’s raw, and it’s necessary to know where you are in the process.
Not really a matter of structure or organization
So what now? Where do we go from here? Well, just a word of clarity. Being religiously disillusioned does not mean that we are now free to leave behind all spiritual commitments and family. Nor is it a pass to leave institutional organization. It actually has little to do with the style of spiritual organization in which we find ourselves [house church, mega church, traditional church, no church]. It has everything to do with the authenticity and intentionality in which we pursue God.
“You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” — Jesus of Nazareth
During his time on earth, Jesus said to the religious, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” And again, quoting the prophet Isaiah, he said, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” Jesus’ issue with the religious was not in what they did, it was in the posture of their hearts toward him.
I agree. So what’s the problem and how do I fix it?
Often, we believe that if we simply change the structure of a thing, we will solve for our lack of authentic spiritual vibrancy and connection to God. This is a mistake and it solves for the wrong problem. What does need to change is our own heart posture toward Jesus himself. Yes, this will probably mean exchanging certain life rhythms for others as we go, but the work begins within — God, come breathe your life into the hard places of my heart until I respond to the nuanced movement of your presence. This is my aim — continual connection with his presence, no matter the circumstance. This is the way forward for the religiously disillusioned and spiritually tired.
Some good first steps [if they would be helpful for you]…
Well, I don’t have all the answers and but I love the journey. And the path of the religiously disillusioned [or spiritually tired] begins with the understanding of our religious state, but it doesn’t end there. The journey beyond this moment is life long.
As I said, I’m not an expert, but I will say that I’m committed to the process. And if you would like to stick around, I would love to continue the dialogue and conversation around the authentic life of the Jesus follower, focusing on our heart posture toward him, while tinkering with the scaffolding along the way.
What do you think? A great next step and a consistent way we can interact more regularly, [if you’d like] is jumping into my monthly 5-things email. This is the place where I share my best meditative content and conversation — articles, podcasts, meditative worship music and videos — around what it looks like to authentically relate to and commune with God [personally and with other humans]. Always feel free to respond to any of the content I send. I’m a click away. If you’re not quite there yet, but still have questions or thoughts? Totally great too. Feel free to reach out.
Jump into my 5-things email here…
“Phil writes like he speaks – with a God-centered, challenging, winsome humility. He gives permission to reflect on the edge about what it means to be the Church.” — Lance H.