Simple Spirituality and NASCAR Racing

The more I dig into this concept of the spiritual person, the more I realize how uncomplicated it really is.

Because of my religious upbringing, and my dedication to church work, I have kept spirituality within a religious context.

One of the favorite thoughts of the past 10 years has been the contrast of spirituality with religiosity. People say things like, “What is the difference between being religious and being spiritual?” Or, “I’m spiritual but not religious.” There has been a strong move to separate the two in our thinking and practice. This is good.

Can religion be separated from spirituality?

The answer should be an obvious, “Yes,” since we all know many religious people who haven’t an ounce of spirituality in their life.

However, the flip side is much more open to debate, because it is harder to define–“Does spirituality hinge on religion? Must one be religious in order to be spiritual?” A definition of terms is required for a meaningful discussion of these questions.

“Spiritual” is the term I am seeking to define with this series of articles. For the moment, I will leave it as “a person who manifests the positive qualities of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (We have not yet determined if ALL of these must be present in order to be considered spiritual.)

“Religion,” however, is a bit more difficult to limit, because we use the word and its cognates in a broad range of concepts. For instance, “He is religious with his workouts at the gym.” “She is religious with her diet.” “NASCAR racing is his religion.”

The underlying/overriding idea is that of ‘regularity’ or ‘discipline.’ Due to the original meaning of the word “religion,” we can also see the idea of ‘worship’ in these various uses.

Therefore, I return to, “Must one be religious in order to be spiritual?”

If spirituality is defined as and by the characteristics listed, and religious is defined by regularity and discipline, then the answer should also be an obvious “Yes.”

Why?

Look at the list of positive qualities and point out which one comes naturally to a human. Not one. Each one of those are qualities that must be cultivated, developed over time–ie, disciplined.

Therefore, if one is to become a spiritual person, one must possess the discipline of practice in order to develop each particular quality. It is the “discipline of practice” that makes one ‘religious.’ However, it is the realm of that which we practice that makes all the difference. This is what sets most of the Judeo-Christian people apart from most other religious practitioners.

For most Christians, their practice consists of going to church, Bible study, prayer, and fellowship–commonly referred to as religious activities. For many other religions outside the three Judeo-Christian ones, their practice is focused on developing the qualities of love, joy, peace, patience, etc.

This ought not to be. It should be the same for all who are seeking spirituality or godliness.

 

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Self-Control: Fruit of a Spiritual Life

The question posed from previous posts is: what does a spiritual person look like?

Within the context of our passage–Gal. 5:16-6:1–we find that a spiritual person is marked by the evidence of “fruit” in his/her life. This is taken from vss. 22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…”

Now the question naturally arises, “What does this fruit look like?”

There is much discussion in today’s society about love, and what that means. Some folks actually get upset and forget to love when their particular view of love is not accepted by others. (Oh well. We’ll get it someday, I’m sure.) 🙂 For the time being, I will leave that discussion until a future post. Consequently, I will begin with the last–Self-Control.

What does self-control look like?

The word so translated, was rendered “temperance” by the King Jimmy translators; but “temperance has come to denote only one form of self-control. Therefore, it is no longer a viable rendition for the word.

However, we will begin with the idea of “temperance.” Originally, it meant “moderation.” Because of the “temperance movement,” it came to mean abstinence.

Temperance (Sophrosyne in Greek is defined as “moderation in action, thought, or feeling; restraint.”) has been studied by religious thinkers, philosophers, and more recently, psychologists, particularly in the positive psychology movement. It is considered a virtue, a core value that can be seen consistently across time and cultures (see Historical and Religious Perspectives). It is considered one of the four cardinal virtues, for it is believed that no virtue could be sustained in the face of inability to control oneself, if the virtue was opposed to some desire. It is also one of the six main categories of the VIA Character Strengths (see Major Theoretical Approaches). Temperance is generally defined by control over excess, so that it has many such classes, such as abstinence, chastity, modesty, humility, prudence, self-regulation, forgiveness and mercy; each of these involves restraining some impulse, such as sexual desire, vanity, or anger. (Wikipedia)

I hope you read that paragraph above with a conscious awareness. Did you get that? Self-control should be considered as the priority virtue, because no other virtue will stand if there is an inability to control oneself.

Wow! What a concept.

Of course, this thought is reinforced in Ecclesiastes 10:1 where we are told that a momentary act of stupidity can ruin a lifetime of achievement. We see this almost everyday, especially during an election campaign.

However, down here at street-level, we need to know how this works.

We all know people who seem to be quite loving in their nature. However, when they are pressed by certain circumstances, that love is nowhere to be seen.

Take a look at the list of the fruit of the spirit once again: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

Do you know someone who seems to be patient–until patience is called for?

Do you know someone who seems to be kind, but gets upset when their kindness is not recognized?

Do you know someone who is gentle until they get out on the highway?

Are you beginning to get a picture of what self-control might look like?

Self-control is a young person’s discipline. It becomes more difficult as one gets older, having established patterns for the way they handle things. (I’m not saying it is impossible for an older person.) If you have not exercised the discipline of self-control in your younger years, it becomes extremely challenging to find it in your later years.

What area of your life do you need to exercise self-control?

What can you do to begin strengthening temperance in that area?

What one thing will you do today to move yourself in that direction?

Leave your comments below and help us all to better understand this most challenging fruit of a spiritual life.

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