Reflections on Sane Spirituality
No one represents the Sanely Spiritual
Charles Blow in the New York Times recently noted that the religious composition of the 112th congress is completely without representation of one of the largest religious groups in America, the unaffiliated. No-one. Nada. Zippo.
Most religions seem reasonably represented or over-represented. While 51% of America is titularly Protestant, nearly 57% of our congress claims to be. Actual Catholics make up about 24% our our country, but have a 29% representation. The Jews do the best: a mere 1.7% boasts some 7.3% representatives, lucky souls.
According to the Pew Research study with Blow quotes, the religiously unaffiliated make up some 16.1% of our country, a number that far exceeds every group but the Catholics and the Baptists. In studies I looked at for my own research into Grassroots Spirituality, now about a decade old, studies i saw came up with a larger number, but that included folks who were spiritual but were either identified with a religion or not. Nonetheless not one single congressman or senator checks the box that says "Unaffiliated." And no one checks the "Spiritual" box. Not one. This is by far the largest unrepresented group in the country.
Well, why? Probably some or even most of our congress men and women don't participate much in religions, and may not even believe, but remain in the closet about it. Why might that be? Because being unaligned is "not only seen as unholy, it is seen as un-American" suggests Blow.
Why? The answer is obvious. Because the unaffiliated just don't have any political clout. There is no-one who can be reliably counted on to put up signs, give money or help with an election. The unaffiliated are simply not organized, not unified. There are few advocacy groups or high profile faces that self identify as unaffiliated. These folks do not congregate, do not organize and petition infrequently. Senators and Representatives don't spend their time courting this group and don't feel the need to do so, let alone identify as one of them.
Sheesh, could he have come much closer to the calling of the Forge? We've been attempting to organize the spiritual types, both affiliated and unaffiliated, for years now, and it's been difficult. While we've been working with only the spiritually open minded, and some of our most thoughtful and energetic members are affiliated with a traditional religion, most of our folks are the spiritually independent. Most of our participants have been dissatisfied with the organizations from which they hailed. And as such, we tend to resist all attempts at being organized. Which is just what Charles Blow suggests as the problem for the unaffiliated in general.
I think there is a challenge to us all in the facts that Blow points to. I hold us, the advocates of the spiritual movement, in part responsible. There has been no public voice for the unaffiliated in part because we have kept our spiritual insights and discoveries too much in the closet. We, the leaders and teachers of the spiritual world, have not given the spiritual but unaffiliated a language or a mechanism to make our presence known. I think it is high time that we began to create a voice in society. For too long our politics have been besaddled with religious overtones that point in a very skewed direction.
It is connection and empathy for our fellow man to which spirituality points, not anti-homosexuality. It is understanding and compassion which my path guides me towards, not the control over some woman's loins. It is love I believe we are about, not control.
There is some other choice here than the either / or choice of religious or not. There is something we stand for--call it human depth or moral growth, call it freedom, call it enlightenment--whose voice should be heard more in the land, and which should be represented in the halls of our government.
I call it "sane spirituality."
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