"Spirituality” versus “religion” has become a defining conflict of our time. Former colleague Winnifred Sullivan taught me that some people take all of the things they don’t like out of religion and call what’s left “spirituality.” Spiritualities modified by adjectives are not a problem: Jesuit, Jewish, African-American, feminist, medieval and other such spiritualities are rich; unmodified spirituality is banal.
For a recent case study let’s examine the witness of singer Melissa Etheridge, who was recently interviewed by religion writer Cathleen Falsani in the Chicago Sun-Times. Etheridge begins by taking apart “religion.” She disses her father, the church and the church’s God. She characterizes the denomination in which she was raised, United Methodism, as purveying “white bread . . . religion-lite,” and she dismisses dogma, creed, hell, the “Jesus Christ myth” and Baptists. This polemic clears space for her to declare her own spirituality.