What Is Spirituality? A Lenten Reflection for All Spiritual Traditions

Find your spirituality.

What is Spirituality?

“It is,” as Rabbi Kaplan puts it, “the progressive unlearning of the strange ideas about God you’ve been taught…”

Consider the prayer I was taught, for example, when I was but two or three years old. It seems benign enough, but the question is: “Is it?”

I think not.

“Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep; if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take!”

“Lovely prayer,” you say.

“Lousy theology,” I say.

Does God have to be ‘asked’ before he’ll keep your soul? What happens to your soul if you don’t ask? For that matter, what is a soul?


Furthermore, what is meant by, “…if I should die…I pray the Lord my soul to take?” Is it possible God might not take my soul? If so, is there something I might do to better my odds?

I could go on, but perhaps you get my point. Beneath or behind lots of cute and clever cliché’ we were taught hides what is often a venomous theology.

It’s even in hymns we sing.

Consider this beloved hymn from my own tradition. “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.”


“Wretch?” Is that all we are?

“You’re making too much of this?” you say.

Am I? When you think about it – and many religious people do not - it is amazing the bad theology we pick up and must then unlearn, as the rabbi suggests.


Here’s more that needs go, but is heard often in the season of Lent:

“Repent of your sins, trust Jesus, or you’ll die and go to hell! “God helps those who help themselves.”

One of my favorites…

“God will never give you more than you can handle.”

When did God become responsible for all the stuff I deal with in my daily life? Further, what kind of God delights in seeing how much crap I can handle before I crack?

The rabbi is right. Spirituality is the progressive unlearning of nonsense.

How does one progressively unlearn? Or, stated positively, how do I become spiritual? No matter what my tradition may be?

leave comments
Did you like this? Share with your family and friends.
Dr. Steve McSwain
Related Topics: Faiths And Prayer, Spirituality, Lent
comments powered by Disqus