The New Holy Hip

The Rev. James Martin, S.J., is a Jesuit priest, and is the culture editor of America, the national Catholic magazine. Father Martin graduated from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business in 1982, where he received a bachelor's degree in finance. After working for six years in corporate finance and human resources with General Electric Co., he entered the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) in 1988. On Nov. 1, 2009, he pronounced his final vows as a Jesuit.

Father Martin is the author of several books, the latest of which is called "The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything." His bestselling memoir "My Life with the Saints" was named one of the "Best Books of 2006" by Publishers Weekly. He also wrote "A Jesuit Off-Broadway: Center Stage with Jesus, Judas and Life's Big Questions," which was named one of Publishers Weekly's "Best Books of 2007."
  • Transcript

TRANSCRIPT

Question: Why is it hip to be spiritual these days without being religious?

James Martin:  It’s very hip to be spiritual, but not religious.  Almost everybody I know says they’re spiritual.  Now that is good.  I mean spiritual is good.  Spiritual means that you have a relationship with God.  Spiritual means that you connect with God, that spirituality is an important part of your life.  You try to lead a good life.  You try to be in concert with what your relationship with God tells you, which is terrific.  You have to have that.  Religious on the other hand in current parlance is bad because that seems to say that oh, I believe in this organization that has all these hidebound dogmas and beliefs and I would never be able to belong to an organization that tells me what to think.  The problem with being spiritual, but not religious is that you’re not part of a community in a sense and so there is no one to bump up against to tell you when you might be a little off track.  As well, you’re not really able to connect in your spiritual life with other people.  There is a great saying from Isaac Hecker who is a nineteenth century American priest and he said, “Religion enables us to connect and correct.”  So we connect with other people.  We’re naturally social animals and we like to worship in common.  That makes sense.  We connect with one another and we’re corrected.  If I have a direct line to God that means that by definition anything I think or say is from God, right?  And that’s as we know a problem, so being spiritual without being religious means that you’re lacking the wisdom of the community as well as the support of the community when you’re struggling.  Being religious without being spiritual is just as bad.  Being religious without being spiritual just means all you’re doing is following rules.  You’re just following rules.  You’re just listening to the community and you’re not reflecting on things yourself.  So the one thing is what Jesus was warning against, being religious without being spiritual you know to some of the religious authorities of his day.  What I’m warning against is being spiritual without being religious, which is much more common today, so I think it’s not an either or. 

Recorded on March 26, 2010


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