Rants and Musings

Lillian Daniel​

When Spiritual But Not Religious Is Not Enough: Seeing God In Surprising Places, Even the Church is a provocative case for why religious community matters.

The book was featured in the
New York Times article
"Examining the Growth of the 'Spiritual but Not Religious'"

Photo Credit From left, Susan Edwards; 
Brooke LaValley/The Columbus Dispatch and Solomon Dworkin
"Intelligent, inviting and nurturing, these essays...offer a rich banquet for pastors, lifelong congregants, disaffected Christians, and confused seekers alike." 
    Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

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(615) 300-9699

Order When "Spiritual But Not Religious" Is Not Enough

Rants and Musings

Spiritual But Not Religious? Please Stop Boring Me.

by Lillian Daniel on 07/31/15

On airplanes, I dread the conversation with the person who finds out I am a minister and wants to use the flight time to explain to me that he is "spiritual but not religious." Such a person will always share this as if it is some kind of daring insight, unique to him, bold in its rebellion against the religious status quo.

Next thing you know, he's telling me that he finds God in the sunsets. These people always find God in the sunsets. And in walks on the beach. Sometimes I think these people never leave the beach or the mountains, what with all the communing with God they do on hilltops, hiking trails and ... did I mention the beach at sunset yet?

Like people who go to church don't see God in the sunset! Like we are these monastic little hermits who never leave the church building. How lucky we are to have these geniuses inform us that God is in nature. As if we don't hear that in the psalms, the creation stories and throughout our deep tradition.

Being privately spiritual but not religious just doesn't interest me. There is nothing challenging about having deep thoughts all by oneself. What is interesting is doing this work in community, where other people might call you on stuff, or heaven forbid, disagree with you. Where life with God gets rich and provocative is when you dig deeply into a tradition that you did not invent all for yourself.

Thank you for sharing, spiritual-but-not-religious sunset person. You are now comfortably in the norm for self-centered American culture, right smack in the bland majority of people who find ancient religions dull but find themselves uniquely fascinating. Can I switch seats now and sit next to someone who has been shaped by a mighty cloud of witnesses instead? Can I spend my time talking to someone brave enough to encounter God in a real human community? Because when this flight gets choppy, that's who I want by my side, holding my hand, saying a prayer and simply putting up with me, just like we try to do in church.

You can't make this stuff up. There are limits to self-made religion.

The Huffington Post

by Lillian Daniel on 07/31/15

A haiku is a Japanese three-line poem, 17 syllables, written in 5/7/5 syllable count. After three hours on the runway, then a cancelled flight, followed by six more hours at the airport, it was time to devote myself to this ancient literary form.

They promised us free 
Drinks after take off. I thirst
Because we did not.

Long since adopted by cultures outside Japan, the haiku can reflect the poet's own literature, culture and spirituality.

O'Hare my hell in 
Ages past. My hell in years 
To come. Time flies not.

Still, most people expect a haiku to succinctly capture and distill a common image from nature.

My date awaits me
In Minneapolis. Will 
He sell flowers soon?

Japanese poets take "ginkgo walks" to find poetic inspiration in their environment.

Three hours on tarmac
Then six more at O'Hare. 
Cinnabon mocks me.

But a true literary haiku includes a kigo, a two-part juxtapositional structure, and a shift in mood.

Re-boarding the plane 
Nine hours late, I despair at my 
First world problems

On the airplane, I felt that my time had been well-spent. I had mastered the haiku. It was time to turn my attention to an entirely different poetic form, but just when I was getting started, my plane took off.

My only regret is that I did not have time to finish this limerick: "There once was a plane like a bucket..."

Follow Lillian on the Huffington Post 

10 Signs You Should Not be Getting Married in a Church

by Lillian Daniel on 07/31/15


10 Signs You Should Not be Getting Married in a Church

  1. You find yourself asking the clergy to take all the references to Jesus out of the service.

  3. You find yourself dreading your next meeting with the minister.


  5. You find yourself dreading the service, worried that the minister will say something too religious.


  7. You disagree with the core values of the church.


  9. You find the core values of the church so uninteresting that you can just tune them out, no problem.


  11. You are not a member of any faith community and neither one of you intends to be.


  13. This location feels like a choice you both are making for somebody else, rather than for yourselves.


  15. You and your partner have never talked about religion, and you have serious doubts that you will ever be able to.


  17. This experience feels like just another wedding transaction, one more service provider to check off the list.

  19. You can't wait for the reception.

10 Signs You Might be in the Right Place After All

  1. You have drifted from the church, but as you prepare for your wedding you find yourself seeking a community of faith.

  3. You enjoy meeting the minister and appreciate the chance to focus on matters of the spirit in the midst of wedding planning stress.


  5. You have worshipped here and found yourself moved.


  7. You want your marriage to be associated with this place and its core values.


  9. You can imagine the members of this church holding you in prayer.


  11. You sense that your marriage is about more than the two of you.


  13. You find yourself praying.


  15. This experience is causing you and your partner to talk about your faith and your aspirations for a faith community as a couple.


  17. You don't have it all figured out yet, but this church feels like a blessing to start you on your way.

  19. You can't wait for the wedding.