Carl Jung wrote “Religions are systems of healing for psychic illness. That is why patients force the psychotherapist into the role of a priest and expect and demand from him that he shall free them from their distress. That is why we psychotherapists must occupy ourselves with problems which strictly speaking, belong to the theologian”. Even though Jung talks about religion he does not mean Christianity. He had repudiated Christianity and was involved with more Eastern religions including the occult. Jung viewed all religions, including Christianity as collective mythologies. Sigmund Freud on the other hand reduced all religious beliefs to the status of illusion and called Religion “the obsessional neurosis of humanity”. He saw religion as delusional and by implication evil and the source of mental problems. By repudiating the God of the Bible, “both Freud and Jung led their followers in the quest for alternative understanding of mankind and alternative solutions to problems of living”.
Recent trend in psychology is to introduce the value of spirituality. Spirituality is viewed as a resource for the clinician. One must however evaluate the difference between secular spirituality and Christian spirituality. Secular spirituality is an indication how an individual lives and practices transcendent beliefs at its most basic and generic form. It may be connected to a particular religious faith, but it need not be. According to Walsh (1999), spirituality can be used to aid in treatment, in assessment, improving relationships, and investigating the ultimate meaning a person gives to pain and suffering. Added to this is the aspect of how spirituality relates to people from diverse cultures. Pargament (1996) sees spirituality as serving conservation concerns and transformation coping mechanism. Barrett (1999) on the other hand sees spirituality as universal helping us to be aware of our unity.
Psychological spirituality encompasses one’s individual experience in transcendence. It is the aspect of personhood that contains one’s emotional, physical, moral and cognitive experiences of the divine. Thus there is no content and process of spirituality in the lives of the individuals. Spirituality from the secular point of view is based on individual values and preferences and:
1) Is low on commitment to relationship groups and high commitment to self fulfillment
2 Valuation of diverse spiritual practice and traditions
3) Maintains the division between individual spirituality on the one hand and a religious tradition on the other hand. (Richards and Bergin, 2000, Wulff 1996)
4) For the most part seen as encompassing one’s individual religious preference and practices
5) By valuing personal preferences it transforms spirituality into a psychological experience (Downey 1997). The sacred and challenging aspect of more traditional spiritual disciplines becomes tamed or domesticated – when a particular spiritual life becomes challenging one is free to choose a path that is less difficult (Wuthnow, 1994/1996).
6) Secular spirituality values religious diversity (Wuthnow, 1994/1996). It requires more sensitivity to gendered forms of spirituality (Downey, 1997).
Traditionally, the common elements of Christian spirituality include being action oriented, calling to discipleship, and experiencing of life together or Christian community. The emphasis on secular spirituality is on the self or self fulfillment while the gospel teaches that everything starts with God and flows outward to others for one to find peace with self. When asked what was the greatest commandment Christ answered, “Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind— And the second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself” Mathew 22:37. In other words Christian spirituality is based on love of God, self and others. Apostle John in his epistle defines this relationship as based on the axis of love, “– let us love one another, for loves comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God. —God is Love” 1 John4:7, 16 and the writer of the book of Proverbs avers “what a man desires is unfailing Love” Proverbs 19:22.
In an article dubbed “political Spirituality” the author argues that spirituality is something universal to all human and all people are spiritual. He further states that spirituality and religion are practically synonyms. He suggests that spirituality is universal among humans and not optional. According to him, “All people are spiritual—- can be good or bad, life enhancing or destructive”. It is obvious that the author is using the secular definition of spiritualism. This contradicts the Bible which suggests that there is a difference between the carnal man and the spiritual man. The carnal man is led by the desires of the flesh while the spiritual man is led by the Spirit. In fact Paul adds “if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness” Galatians 5:16-6:1. It is thus submitted that we all have the potential to be spiritual but not all of us are, hence the need to be born again of the spirit as stated by Jesus in John 3:5.
On the issue of religion, the author adopts Tullich definition of religion as meaning “the ultimate concern”. By this definition all people have a religion which functions in their lives because the “ultimate concern is that which determines our being or not-being”. I tend to agree with this definition because religion in my view is people’s way of filling the void created by the separation in the Garden of Eden. Scripture teaches that God has put eternity in the hearts of men (Ecclesiastes 3:11) hence the restlessness in the search for meaning and spirituality. Religion thus establishes one’s belief and ultimate concern as expressed through religion. The author opines that the emphasis on the inner life in contemporary spirituality is fundamentally mistaken and needs to be reviewed based on the awareness that the outer life is the major source of the inner.
I have a problem with this view since scripture teaches that the outer is really a reflection of the inner and not vice versa. On this subject Christ said “—out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man” Mathew 15:19-20. It is submitted that both the inner and the outer are important because the temptation from the outside if allowed in will defile the whole person. Jesus taught that “your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are good, your whole body is full of light. But when they are bad, your whole body is full of darkness” Luke 11:34. Whatever the outside is exposed to can determine the outcome of what is in the inside.
Spirituality from a Christian perspective is both a private affair and communal. Although we are not of the world we are in the world to fulfill a mission, just like Christ was not of the world but He descended to the world to fulfill His mission, (John 17: 14-19). Our faith or spirituality, for that matter, must reflect our beliefs. This starts with love which is the sum total of the theology of salvation and continues with service to mankind. James writes “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble and to keep oneself unspotted from the world”, James 1:27. James further shows how words of faith without corresponding action to affirm one’s faith are basically a contradiction. He says “What does it profit, my brethren if someone says he has faith but does not have works? —if a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them things which are needed for the body , what doe it profit” Thus also faith by itself, if does not have works is dead” James 2:14-17.
On spirituality and Public life, the author argues that the phenomenon of separating Christianity into a private life issue offends the Christian church mission to reconcile the world to God. I am in agreement with this view because it sure does feel like the church has forgotten its mission in this world and has bought into the lie of faith being a private matter. It seems this idea of separation of state and church has been defined to mean also separation of an individual from what is spiritual and what is not spiritual. Thus a doctor, teacher, therapist or whatever vocation one has been entrusted with, will say that I separate my spiritual life from my work as a therapist or Doctor. This to me does not make sense since one’s spirituality encompasses ones vocation or calling. Christian spirituality entails one’s relationship with God through Christ, one’s relationship with others in the body of Christ and one’s service to God through our various gifts and calling in the kingdom of God. We are after all Christ’s ambassadors with the ministry of reconciliation “as though God were pleading through us” to other humans, 2 Corinthians 5:20. We serve the kingdom of God on earth, which is the reign of God, hence the prayer, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it in heaven” Mathew 6:10.
The writer suggests a new formulation in how Christianity is conducted to cater for the errors that are experienced in the meaning of spirituality. It seems to me that there is a lot of emphasis on rules and regulations on what is required for effective Christian spirituality but there is little knowledge on the word of God which surmises the truth. This to me is just more religion as opposed to promoting the kingdom of God and its reign on earth. What needs to be done is to go back to the Bible for the word of God is everlasting. After all Christ stated “If you abide in My word you are my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” John 8:31. Our faith is founded on the Word of God for “in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God” John 1:1.
Just like God told Joshua to meditate on the word day and night for success, we should also do the same in order to grow spiritually in the knowledge and understanding of the nature and reign of God and to be successful in our mission in the world. We must also recognize that we are on a mission and wherever the Lord sends us that is our mission field. The church is the body of Christ not a building or denomination. Our loyalty should thus be first and foremost to Christ, the head and founder of the church and to the kingdom of God.