Spiritual. That is what I often hear from couples who are about to be married, when I ask about their beliefs. But what exactly does this mean? Literally, spiritual means ‘relating to things of the human spirit rather than material or physical things.’ But in a more religious context it can mean a wide range of ideas.
For some it means they embrace the idea that there is more to life than what we see, while rejecting the dogma of organized religion. They feel a connection to something beyond themselves they may call the Divine, the universe, the sacred, God, or even remains nameless.
Spirituality can be a very open-ended concept, and is not incompatible with religion or belief in God.
In a recent Gallup poll (www.gallup.com/poll/159548/identify-christian.aspx) Americans are still predominately Christian. 51.9% of us are Protestant or other Christian denomination, 23.3% are Catholic, Mormons are 2.1% and Jews are 1.7%, other non-Christians are 2.6%, and 15.6% have no religious identity (2.2% did not respond).
However Gallup did not offer the category ‘spiritual’ as an option. If they had, my guess is the numbers would have looked very different.
I have met with many couples who want to connect to their faith traditions, but in ways that are more compatible with science and the modern world. Think about Galileo and the Church in 1600 for a great example of what happens when dogma trumps progress.
So how does one honor spiritual ideas and values in a wedding ceremony? There are probably as many ways to express it, as there are different paths of spirituality itself.
Sometimes I simply make a statement of fact, saying that the couple share a sense of spirituality, and perhaps try to describe it, if possible. For example, ‘they find peace and meaning in nature.’
Other times I read specific poems, quotes from various sources, explaining how it reflects their worldview. There is wisdom everywhere – it doesn’t take long to find it.
Some of my favorites sources are Rumi, Kahlil Gibran, Celtic writings, Lau Tzu, and Buddha, but it is the couple themselves who will direct me to the right inspiration. The texts of Hinduism (the Vedas), Buddhist scripture, Judaism’s Torah and other writings, and of course the Christian Bible all contain beautiful and meaningful words. There are ancient poets and modern poets. There are rituals that connect us to earth, air, water, fire, nature, culture, ethnicity, history, art and family. The possibilities are endless, and it’s always challenging and exciting to explore how we humans view our place in the world.
To me, being spiritual means putting great value on love and goodness in the world. What could be more beautiful than that?
Thank you Lisa Rhinehart for the wonderful photo!