"Religion" has become a dirty word in today's society. "Institution" is another verbal no-no, and we all know that the word "preachy" is entirely absent of positive connotation. Don't let the monosyllabic simplicity of "pew" fool you, either. It may seem like an innocent enough word for some. But many of those unmoored from the ecclesial harbors of their childhood will stiffen at its mention, instantly tormented by memories of sitting up straight on hard varnished planks while some preachy, institutionally-vetted clergyman pushed his religion on them.
And it is not just the secularists who dislike "religion." Anti-religious sentiment is so pervasive in our culture that even among Christians, criticizing the church and its varied institutional trappings is in vogue.
"Spirituality," however, is quite reputable—even popular. The preferred public profession of faith for a massive swath of our society—"I'm spiritual, but not religious."—is so common that it would not be surprising if it became a category on religious affiliation surveys. Participants could check Catholicism, Evangelical Christianity, Mainline Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Atheism, Agnosticism, or Spiritual/Not Religious. Spiritually inclined yet religiously jaded, many of us seem to want a spirituality liberated from the shackles of organized religion and its uncomfortable pews.
Okay, enough, rings a voice of frustration. Please stop, because you spiritual-but-not-religious people are boring me. But that voice does not belong to a hidebound archconservative eager to defend the traditional church against the onslaughts of a hostile culture. The ...