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When 'Spiritual But Not Religious' Is Not Enough

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She chuckles at tendencies, including her own, to get competitive in church life, only to be providentially humbled by the tradition’s emphasis on higher pursuits. She imagines what Jesus would say when it comes out that her successor has replaced her lovingly restored chapel pews – intended to be Daniel’s legacy – with blue vinyl chairs. One day in eternity, she writes, Jesus surely “will tell us which one of us was right about the chapel.” But no such luck.

“Pews, vinyl chairs, get over yourselves,” Jesus says from his throne. “You are here for eternity, people. So here are the keys to your eternal homes all next door to one another on clergy row, behind the next cloud.”

After a bold start that confronts dilettante spirituality head-on, "When 'Spiritual But Not Religious' Is Not Enough" loses some of its steam as Daniel examines her own personality and religious style. She struggles to sit still, for instance, and isn’t the meditative type. Reading this chapter, I found myself saying, “That’s nice, but where is all this going? What happened to the case for church-based spirituality?”

Laid out over 215 pages, the case turns out to be more implicit than explicit, more grounded in a diverse assemblage of anecdotes and sermonic lessons than expository arguments. Readers follow along like tourists whose guide keeps them smiling and thinking but never furnishes the map they wish they had.

At times, Daniel appears prone to the same individualism that, in her view, interferes with spiritual growth. She amusingly chides her neighbors for their myriad yard signs and warns that “people who worship their own opinions will at some point have to come face-to-face with an idol that like all idols will disappoint.” But sometimes her opinions, too, seem quite enshrined.

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