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.


Categories:Culture Theology

  • John

    The “spiritual but not religions” folks even have their own acronym “SBNR”. I’ve also heard it stands for “spiritual but not really”.

  • wayne

    Great article,and very nicely said,Becky.
    Cardinal George has never been one to mince words and I wish some other American Cardinals had the courage to follow his lead.

  • Kristin

    The Headline is backwards and needs fixing. It should say “I’m Spiritual but not Religious.”

    • Kristin

      Kristin, I think perhaps you didn’t read all the way to the end. The point of the article was to highlight how Cardinal George reverses the original “Spiritual, but not religious” catchphrase to emphasize that the call to be religious, with a well-grounded faith practice, has a higher value than dependent on a vague “spiritual” generality, which can be ephemeral at best and devilishly deceptive at worst.

  • gaya maruyama

    I am thankful the Catholic Church managed to still exist despite the “rise and fall” it has undergone through more than two thousand years and counting!
    I believe with all my faith that God through Jesus, his Apostles with the angels and saints in heaven are around “to light and guard to rule and guide ” the mortals in charge of the church to prevent itfrom perishing!!!

  • Susan

    So is Satan: “Spiritual, not religious.”

    • Robert Sledz

      Well said, Susan !!!

      Diocese of Rockford

  • Becky

    “Religion binds us to God according to his will, not ours, in a community of faith that he has brought into existence.”

    I like how he defines religion as being bound. It helps open the door for interesting comparisons.

    I wish people on the Left could understand that they, too, are bound and seek to bind.

    They have a definition of the common Good, to be achieved by Government, which is their god; they are bound to Government, and they want everyone else to be bound to it in every facet of life. They think it’s the only thing we all belong to. Our only path to collective salvation.

    I wish they could understand that they form a religion with the binding of themselves to government alone. They are religious. Their conceit is that their god is purely a product of scientific reasoning about the world, whereas our God is not. Their god is certain; our God is not.

    Sadly, their god coerces while our God does not. He allows us to choose Him of our own free will. No coercion. Just an invitation to be bound, and so to be set free.

    As it would be said from the Left: Citizenship binds us to the Government according to its laws, not ours, in a state of obedience that the Government has brought into existence by force, and enforces. Other religions can therefore be threatening.

    • Paul

      The difference is that one is bound to God and one is bound to the ego, which is inherently flawed and corruptible by temptation.

      Even Paul described us as slaves to righteousness in his letter to the Romans.

      But that’s the entire point of a covenant. A binding contract. We are bound to Jesus.

    • Kevin

      Your generalization about the Left believing in government is a caricature. Would you describe Oscar Romero this way? Dorothy Day? Thomas Merton?

      And is not restricting gays to no marriage or a fraudulent marriage to a straight person “binding” everyone to the government?

      • Sean

        When it comes to government as a means of charity or morality, I’m reminded that God created us with free will. Certainly God could have created us with out a choice to love him, and perhaps if that was his design, we’d all still be in the garden living eternally in submission to and cooperation with God’s will.

        This is what the government wants. A citizenry that submits and cooperates with the government’s will, as if the citizenry had no choice otherwise. No crime, no poverty, no hate, no failure, no success, no imagination, no creativity, no individuality.

        God created us with free will so that we could choose to love him, simply because with out such a choice it is not love at all. Love can not be coerced. The same is true with government, we do not freely give of our means, talents, gifts and lives to the government. The government takes, period. We give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but we don’t do it willingly. The government does not give us marriage, hope, love, or freedom. The government serves to protect that which God gives, regardless of whether you believe in God or not. Soldiers don’t go into battle to give their lives for the Government, they give their lives for freedom, which our Government serves to protect and promote throughout the world.

      • Hank

        have you actually read dorothy day or merton? they believed in social justice thru the church not the government. infact, when social security and the welfare programs under the new deal were enacted, she railed against them saying they would lead to the worship of “holy mother state”. Leftists tie social justice to the state, Catholics tie it to the church.
        Scripture and the Church define marriage as one man and one woman. you might try reading Jesus and Paul on this. All persons are called to holiness, and outside of marriage, all sexual activity (gay, straight, autonomous) is a sin.



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