When our Spirituality is too "Spiritual"
"There is no good trying to be more spiritual than God. God never meant for man (i.e. Humans, B.V.) to be a purely spiritual creature. That is why He uses material things like bread and wine to put new life into us. We may think this rather crude and unspiritual. God does not: He invented eating. He likes matter. He invented it." (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p. 65)
C. S. Lewis points to a biblical truth embraced by historic Christianity and yet one that is often misunderstood by many Western Christians today. Spirituality is a something we all desperately desire and yet often fundamentally misunderstand. The great American author, Emily Dickinson, captures what many imagine spirituality to be. Dickinson lived across the street from her "church" but refused to attend. She would lower cookies from her window to the children on the street below to show her kindness towards them. She gave gifts but only from a distance yet the fellowship across the street was meaningless to her. She considered herself very spiritual however. She testifies "I do not care for the body. I love the timid soul, the blushing, shrinking soul." She goes on to say "the mind alone without corporeal form" was what was really important. Her's is a classic interior and disembodied spirituality. Spirituality is seen to be an inner journey cut off from community and from the world. She typifies the understanding of so many as she thinks "spirituality" is simply flight from the contamination of creation ... from matter ... from the flesh. But Lewis says such a view is not what Christians believe ... or at least should not believe.
C. S. Lewis is correct! When we embrace a world denying "spirituality" we have, ironically, become too spiritual. Lewis's views reflect the worldview of biblical and historic Christianity while Dickinson's comes dangerously close to gnosticism. But the physical and material body is important to God. He made it, as Lewis says. Paul says we eagerly await the "redemption of our bodies" (Rom 8.23). It is in the body that we worship and serve God (Rom 12.1-2).
One of the consequences of embracing a biblical worldview is that spirituality is taken out of the extraordinary and placed back into the realm of ordinary. Sitting in silence for days is not necessarily spirituality. It can, however, be a spiritual discipline. Rather biblical spirituality is embodied just as much in serving the poor as in cloister. Paul prays that true spirituality will manifest itself through the recognition of genuine community within an ethnically polarized "church" (Eph 1.18). Spirituality is communal not individualistic. Spirituality, in its biblical expression, is "earthy" in nature. However, we often understand that word (due to our history) with post-Enlightenment eyes and it is redefined as immaterial, interior and private. We must be on guard against this distortion of our faith.