American Spirituality – What Does it Exactly Mean?

While the rest of the world is watching 24 (my partner Dave entertains himself by emailing me updates like Bauer just saved my beloved Ontario International Airport), I can’t afford to be emotionally brought to my knees this spring so instead I chowed down this lovely essay on spirituality in America over at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

If I had to check a box next to Religion, I would search for "Spiritual, not religious." This may seem like an odd designation – after all, I don’t believe in God nor do I believe in dualism (a soul independent of the body). But, I do consider myself spiritual in the New Agey kind of sense. I like buddhism, I like meditation, I like introspection, I’m starting yoga in March, I like the sound of waves crashing against the rocks as the sun sets. Most important, I am on an endless quest for truth, for meaning, for understanding. This attitude is all fuel for David Brooks’ fire who says “soft-core spirituality,” with its attendant “psychobabble” and “easygoing narcissism,” is epidemic.

In this essay Professor Schmidt outlines six characteristics of American spirituality:

• a yearning for mystical experience  or epiphanic awareness                  

• a valuing of silence, solitude, and sustained meditation                  

• a belief in the immanence of the divine in nature and attunement to that presence                   

• a cosmopolitan appreciation of religious variety, along with a search for unity in diversity

• an ethical earnestness in pursuit of justice-producing, progressive reforms                   

• an emphasis on self-cultivation, artistic creativity, and adventuresome seeking                   

Now, if only a church existed to cultivate such an outlook! (More on that idea in our next exciting mission.)

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