Cardinal George: “I’m religious but not spiritual”



HAMSA YOGA SANGH YOGIRAJ GURUNATH SIDDHANATHBeing religious is not cool.  In fact, it’s downright uncool.

We learned that from a really profound (but really not) video that went viral a year or so ago, right around the same time some other things became really uncool – like asking people to pay for their own birth control, or thinking men should marry women.

“I’m spiritual, but not religious.”

That was the mantra.  If I recall correctly, it had something to do with the really deep observation that if Jesus was around he wouldn’t like organized religion.

Which is why Jesus said, “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build…nothing, because once I’m gone I don’t want my views imposed on anyone else unfairly.  I just want people to use me as a virtual puppet with a nice beard to be the imaginary but authoritative proponent of whatever personal impulses or ideas they have.  Oh, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail or even exist because that’s mean and rigid.”  Matthew, chapter Let’s See, verse No.

So fast-forward about 2,000 years to March 13, 2013 and we have Pope Francis – Successor of Peter and Vicar of Christ.  Turns out Jesus is still around, and the religion he organized on that rock is still (let me check…yup) the oldest institution on the planet and not showing any signs of going away.  On top of that, it’s even managed to stay pretty organized – no small feat for an institution made up of incompetent sinners.  Impossible, really, unless a certain Someone wanted it that way.

So maybe Jesus likes his religion organized after all.  In fact, I bet the other religions sometimes look at Catholicism and say, “Gosh Catholicism, how do you do it?  How do you maintain that hierarchy?  And that code of canon law?  And the Sacraments, always in the right order?  And you still find time for liturgical rubrics?  You’re just so…organized!”

Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, in his weekly column, takes the notion of “spiritual, not religious” and gently turns it just like it should be turned – upside down.

Cardinal George CancerPeople can always make claims to any kind of experience. The question is always: Who cares? Why should anyone care where someone else gets a spiritual high? Because no one really cares, the claim to be spiritual but not religious is always safe. It’s never a threat and can be dismissed quite easily. The claim to be religious is different. It is a claim that God himself has taken the initiative to reveal himself to us and tell us who he is and who we are. Religion binds us to God according to his will, not ours, in a community of faith that he has brought into existence. Being religious can therefore be threatening.

Read the rest of Cardinal George’s column here.

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John White lives in the Chicago area with his wife and seven children.

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