Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Faith Works 4-9

Faith Works 4-9-11

Jeff Gill


Religious, But Not Very Spiritual



Spirituality is a word that won't get you thrown out of too many respectable establishments.


Cultivating a sense of the spiritual is a welcome topic even among the largely secular and unchurched, whether through exercise classes or martial arts or even spending your money to join a "ghost hunt" which is largely sitting around past midnight in a darkened, unfinished room with a digital thermometer and audio recorder.


"I consider myself spiritual, not religious" is a cliché which can be counted on to travel well in many circles, where it won't even be called cliché . . . more like conventional wisdom.


That's how all the cool kids feel, right?


This is the big weekend for the "Church of the Great Outdoors" and the "I Meet God on the Golf Course" denomination thereof, where the High Mass is held at its Vaticanesque enclave of Augusta, Georgia. The Memorial may be a source of civic pride in central Ohio, but ah, The Masters (there should probably be a copyright circle-c there, but the commercialism takes away from the spiritual cachet, don't you think?).


The Masters draws in even agnostics & atheists like me, for the sweet bird song in the background of the broadcast (never mind that CBS piped in augmentation in previous years; they promise they've stopped); the gentle arc of the bridge over some point on the course named for some saint or significant figure in the history of private golf clubs, framed by early spring flowering trees, and the steady, vibrant greens of the stage the drama acts out upon – it's quite a display.


You may not golf, but you get a feeling out of watching it play out; Jan Fink does a marvelous job of giving you a Newark-eye view of being in the middle of the ceremonies and circumstances, and I always eagerly read his tales, having never golfed a round in my life.


Is this an example of "spiritual, not religious"? Likely so, especially when one key imputation of the phrase is "I don't have to go to some gathering of people at set times and days to have a spiritual feeling." That's part of the whole "I can encounter God better at Amen Corner than I do in Sunday services," or "Worship, for me, is being out under the trees…as long as my ball isn't too far under the trees."


To which I always say "don't doubt it for a minute: but do you? Do you pause and thank God for life that day, beauty in that place, a plan for the future beyond the eighteenth hole?"


Some probably do. Most probably mutter curses at heavy dew on their cart seat, let alone louder imprecations when a soaring drive finds a lovely end in that beautiful pond, fringed with picture perfect lily pads. Anyhow.


Speaking purely for myself, I want to admit that, for the most part, I'm someone who is more religious than spiritual. No, that's not a typo. It also feels vaguely like making a public admission of something slightly embarrassing.


I'm religious, not spiritual. The emphasis on spirituality, in my encounters with that priority, ends up placing feeling before thought, and attitudes ahead of action (if action even makes it onto the menu). "Spiritual, not religious" as a stance comes across like a group of people who love to talk about gourmet food, watch programs on how to make it, buy lots of devices and gadgets for cooking at home . . . and who almost exclusively eat meals handed to them through a car window with a handful of change, or in the living room out of tinfoil TV dinner trays.


"Religion" comes from "religare," the Latin for "to bind." Religion is the binding together of community, the drawing together of individuals, the weaving of healing congregations who come together for purposes that cannot be accomplished on one's own. "To bind" not our creativity or to tie down our spirits, but perhaps to stay grounded in what can and must be done, maybe even to "religare" our worst impulses by tying us to models and inspirations which lead us beyond that which would just tie us in knots.


Religion is where we can tie those knots of connection which only really hold well when two (or more) are working together. Many hands, light work, all of that.


There is much about modern life which feels more than a bit unraveled, unraveling ever more, each moment. Some religion, some knotting and tying and re-linking, re-connecting, re-newing, might just be what we need.


I doubt I can get that sitting at home Sunday morning watching The Masters. The Master, though . . .


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; no, he doesn't golf. He has many other flaws, as well. Try to correct them at, or follow Knapsack @Twitter.

Notes From My Knapsack 4-21-11

Twelve Years Old in Granville – Chris, 2011

Granville Sentinel 4-21-11

Jeff Gill


[A note from Jeff: I thought this series was done with twelve tales,
from prehistoric days to the view from 1959. As it turns out, there
is, and should be, one more story to round out this experiment in
history and narrative, and both my son and I thank Bernice for her
suggestion. The following is written by my son, Chris, who is (as
many of you have figured out) twelve years old.]

When my dad told me that I had to get a haircut, I was not thrilled.
There is nothing wrong with getting a haircut, it just interrupts my

Once I got there, it really was not so bad. We went to the Village
Barber Shop like we usually do. My dad got his hair cut by Jim, and I
got my hair cut by Susan.

Then we walked past the Granville Post Office where there is the
mural of the founding of Granville. When I look at this picture, I
think about how it would have been like to be twelve years old back

I bet a twelve year old in 1805 would have had to work much harder
and more often, like chopping wood, carrying hay, or maybe even
killing chickens.

We walked to Readers' Garden on the other side of the street and went
in. I went looking for new books around the bookstore, especially the
newest "Wimpy Kid" book.

My dad started talking to Joanne, the owner of the bookstore.
Suddenly, the two of them were introducing me to a lady named
Bernice. She had been reading my dad's stories on "Twelve Years Old
In Granville." Then she turned to me and said that I should write a
story on what it was like to be twelve in 2011.

I thought about what Bernice said as we walked to Subway next to
Elms' Pizza. I felt excited and nervous at the idea of writing one of
these myself. I look to the right, I see the Old Academy Building. I
look ahead, I see the Old Colony cemetery down the hill. I look to
the left, I see Mt. Parnassus. When I think about a long time ago, I
suspect there was much less history to learn back then. There is a
lot more to learn now. It was probably also less fun since more work
was required.

Although, life may have been a little fun back then. Some interesting
things happened, like things that we look at today and say, wow! That
must have been very cool to do back then, when it first started, like
electricity or telephones. And some of the stuff about having farm
animals in your yard, or making food from every step, had to be fun
in their own ways, along with being hard work. At least your parents
already knew how to do all that, and could show you how.

But today, life is very interesting and fun. I cannot wait to be

[With this tale, our "Twelve Years Old" adventure is ended. In the
next column, I'll share with you where you can read a bit more about
our amazing and engaging history here in Granville, Ohio.]

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around
central Ohio; he didn't write most of this one! Congratulate his son
Chris by way of dad's e-mail,