Rev. Tom Emmett, Senior Pastor of MCC Omaha
People throw these words (spirituality and religion) around a lot, but do we know—really know—what they mean in our cultural context? Even the dictionary definitions seem vague and incomplete, so here is what these words mean to me…
Spirituality = Our personal inquiry of life’s Great Questions: Why does the world exist? Why am I here? What is the meaning of my life and life itself? What is the nature of God? What happens when I die? You get the idea.
Religion = Individuals coming together to ask Great Questions in the context of community. Within the bounds of safety of a good and healthy religion, like here at MCC, people can consider some of the most important questions they will ever ask in the company of others and benefit from the insight of others. Just as importantly, we can engage in service for the benefit of others, our community, and our planet.
I believe it is very important for people to be both spiritual and religious. History has shown us that it can be dangerous to be just spiritual or just religious. We have all seen how very dangerous religion can be when people don’t ask deep, penetrating spiritual questions and instead blindly follow some priest or pastor. Just the same, if we keep our walk with God only to our self (that is being only spiritual and not religious), we will tend to create our own private God based solely on our personal experience and understanding. This God will be too small and look too much like our own likes and dislikes. A God we made in our own personal image is no God at all.
People need spirituality and religion together as part of a balanced unified whole. The two should complement each other allowing us to be fully integrated human beings. In MCC congregations, we deeply value the individual and the community. We deeply value your natural human expression of both spirituality and religion. Both are beautiful, just like you.