New research is shedding light on a term — and a group of Americans — known as “spiritual but not religious.”
They prefer yoga and meditation to scripture and worship. They define God in individualistic ways and they almost always have negative views of organized religion — especially of Christianity.
And that’s the part that bugs Christians who have discovered, within their own tradition, contemplative practices that would appeal to the spiritual but not religious, if only churches would discover and promote their practice.
“A lot of people aren’t aware that this is part of Christian tradition and that’s because the Western church … just really forgot about a lot of that,” says Michael Sciretti Jr., a teacher with the Epiphany Institute of Spirituality, which works to connect Baptists with contemplative forms of Christianity.
New research by the Barna Group has uncovered just how far some of those seekers are from traditional faith, and yet how open many of them may be to conversations about Christian mystical practices.
Barna reported earlier this month that there are two distinct groups among those who identify themselves as spiritual without being religious.
One of the groups self-identifies as spiritual but with a religious faith that is no longer important to them. Among them, 37 percent are Christians, including 15 percent Catholic, 2 percent are Jewish and 2 percent are Buddhists. Another 1 percent are listed as “other.”
Barna said this group can be described as irreligious — meaning they define themselves as spiritual and do not consider their religious faith is unimportant to them.
“For instance, 93 percent haven’t been to a religious service in the past six months,” according to the April 6 report “Meet the ‘Spiritual but Not Religious.’”
A second group identified by Barna describes…