Last week author Don Miller, whose work I happen to really enjoy, came out. That's right. The guy who wrote Blue Like Jazz and several other popular Christian books, books written well enough to actually convince millenials first that reading something longer than a "tweet" might be worth their time, and second that Jesus just might be worth their time as well, put all his cards on the table. Without apology he came out and told the whole world he doesn't go to church very often. What...you thought this was about something else? Well, given the reaction Miller's confession received it might as well have been about something else. But it was about going to church. More specifically it was about not going to church. To go or not to go to church has been an issue for a long time. Church is sort of my job, so I suppose it's obvious which side of the argument I come down on. No matter how airtight a case I might make for faithful church attendance it's likely to be met with a roll of the eyes and, "Of course he would say that." Thus, in the spirit of Valentine's Day, I'll stick to simply trying to explain the perspective of the person I love most: me.
As I see it the issue at hand is really part of a larger discussion regarding the nature of human spirituality, and whether or not it should be or is capable of being tamed by religion. It seems many people find it in vogue to conclude they are "spiritual, but not religious" (which is not, in the interest of full disclosure, how Don Miller describes himself). But when I think about lil ol' me I suppose I would have to declare that I am the opposite; religious but not very spiritual.
If I were a more spiritual person I think that I would be more apt to sing with my eyes closed and my hands thrown into the air at church. But I am almost always in the front row and I'm actually a big dude, about 6'5" in dress shoes and 8'6" with my arms extended to the heavens. Two things happen if my hands go up. One, no behind me has any hope of being able see anything else. Two, given that clothing is not designed for my Ichabod Crane-like physique, my dress shirt would immediately untuck from my pants, revealing that my belt isn't really sitting on, but rather a good two inches below, the waistband of my fishy "Nice Bass" boxer shorts given to me last Valentine's Day by my wife. That could be embarrassing for all parties involved.
If I were more spiritual I wouldn't be so self-conscious. If I were more spiritual I would be able to summon the energy to pray after 9 p.m. and before 6:30 a.m. without falling asleep. I'd be less fearful, able to hike alone and see God in the forest instead of an angry bear behind every tree. Spiritual guys I imagine don't get distracted by sports yet are able to make sense of the Olympics' opening ceremonies. I wouldn't need to proofread or apologize so much because spiritual people make few if any mistakes. I probably need to write more reverently to be really spiritual. If I were more spiritual I would love others a little more and myself a lot less.
And if I, by myself, were a really, truly spiritual person then I would have no need of the Holy Spirit. But I'm not. So I do. Therefore I think it's a good thing that I am provided rituals, habits, prayers, even written prayers and creeds, and other people to remind me, not of how spiritual I can be, but of how gracious God is to have given Jesus and the accompanying promises that are able to restore my spirit in spite of the fact that I am so routinely not spiritual.
To be clear, this is not to say that I really love every worship song I've ever sung in church. I think some are really stupid. Others I just can't sing. I've heard some helpful sermons and some not so helpful. Others I haven't heard at all because my mind wandered onto something else entirely. It happens. And I understand that different types of things work or don't work for different types of people. Thus while it's important to have some principles to stick to, churches by and large probably need to be open to trying new things depending upon their clientele, rather than just doing things "because we've always done it this way." But people have not liked, connected with, or gotten church for a long time now. Imagine all the Puritan men in New England who, subjected to yet another of Jonathan Edwards' sermons thought, "Gosh, I'd so much rather be hunting right now." But church serves, or at least should aspire to serve the purpose of regularly reorienting the focus of our minds from our favorite subject, that is to say ourselves, to God. Thus I am committed to it...religiously...in spite of my enduring lack of spirituality.