Christian but Not Religious

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First Things - Web Exclusives

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Recently, a pastor at an Evangelical church in New York City (we have them) told me about a young man in his congregation who had joined an online dating site. The young man was a Christian believer who wanted to find a woman with the same values. Yet when it came to telling prospective mates about his religion, the young man described himself as “Spiritual but Not Religious.” Wasn’t this misleading, I asked, and bad strategy, besides? If the young man wanted to find a Christian woman, this didn’t seem the way to do it.

My pastor friend told me I was mistaken about what the phrase “Spiritual but Not Religious” means to many young Evangelical Christians. What he said makes me wonder about conventional wisdom on religious identity in America today. And it makes me reflect again on the paradoxes of tradition in American life.