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April 06, 2017


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Brad Jersak

Thanks Ron,

I think that distinguishing between 'religion' as faith practice and 'religiosity' as toxic is very helpful. Well, at least to me. Some are so wounded by their experiences of what they call 'organized religion' that they are closed off to re-entry. Of course, as you've noted, this has its own perils. When has anarchy been safer than hierarchy? And if their new gurus are untied to any accountability, has leaving the 'institutional church' made them any less vulnerable to spiritual abuse? Hopefully, we will maintain a level of trust with the nones and dones so that they see us as a lifeline when the waves get high.

Along the same lines of distinguishing healthy religion from toxic religiosity, I might also direct readers to your fine article here, contrasting the spirituality of Bunyan and Chaucer in like manner. I refer to it often.: http://www.clarion-journal.com/clarion_journal_of_spirit/2016/05/two-types-of-spirituality-chaucer-or-bunyan-ron-dart.html

Ron Dart


I agree with your telling points. Perhaps, we need to distinguish between religion and
religiosity, the former layered, historic, wisdom thick and internally dialogical, the latter
the perversion, distortion and narrowing of the former. The same sort of distinction can
be made between Tradition, traditions and traditionalism---traditionalism, like religiosity,
is a counterfeit of the pure gold. Hesse, like Erasmus, Barth, Bonhoeffer and most prophetic
reformers, rightly so, solidly critique religiosity and traditionalism by recalling the dynamic
vision of religion and Tradition as an antidote to the toxins of traditionalism and religiosity.
I hope this clarifies things somewhat.

Ron Dart

Brad Jersak

Good article Ron. The 'spirituality without religion' clan feels very gnostic to me, rejecting any received faith practice in favor of something more vague and ethereal. So too, there are those who espouse a 'Christianity without religion' who've been uprooted from the soil of the tradition that stewarded 'the faith once delivered.' On these fronts, the 'nones and dones' in exodus need to ask themselves where the kite will crash once the string is cut.

Yet what this article overlooks is the need to acknowledge that words bear multiple senses. On the one hand, I am "religious" in the sense that I hold to the ancient dogmas of the faith, participate in the Great Tradition with its smells, bells, and liturgies. Religion in this sense is an embodied faith, intentionally incarnational and deliberately tied to the visible church. Or speaking biblically, we have St James' 'pure and undefiled religion' that takes care of widows and orphans. This then suggests the opposite: an impure and defiled religion, which leads to a second and pejorative sense.

At CWR magazine, where I work, we are careful to designate 'Christ-less religion' when using the pejorative sense. This was introduced through Kierkegaard, Bonhoeffer and Barth. They used the term in contrast to 'revelation' or 'relationship.' The Orthodox, such as Fr. Romanides, also use 'religion' in this negative sense as over against 'living faith.' Indeed, Alexandr Schmeman famously said, "Christianity is the end of religion." The religion they rail against is the self-righteousness and hypocrisy that may be seen in any form (or formless!) spirituality, Christian or otherwise.

So I think it's important to honor which sense people intend when they are speaking ... and with that, level our critiques but also here the horror stories that gave rise to their reactions. For more on this: http://www.clarion-journal.com/clarion_journal_of_spirit/2016/02/religion-in-two-senses-brad-jersak.html

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