What's The Difference Between Being 'Religious' And Being 'Spiritual', Anyway?
Callings in life can be a funny thing. Take mine, for instance. I'm a firm believer that I am here to speak on three biblical covenant principles—sex, marriage and the Sabbath (not necessarily in that order) and yet, January 9 marks 13 years of not having sex (even though I talk and write about it all of the time), I've never been married before (even though I'm a marriage life coach) and the Seventh-Day Sabbath isn't the popular day of spiritual rest; Sunday is. Whenever folks try and interject some level of cynicism into any or all of these things, I typically share what my name means. Shellie is actually Hebrew (an Israeli told me that about eight years ago); it means "Mine; Belonging to Me". I then talk about what Ezekiel 16:8 (NLT) says—"I made a covenant with you, says the Sovereign Lord, and you became mine." After that, I pretty much follow that up with the phrase "watch the fruit". That basically means, things don't always have to look the way you think they should for them to be the way they're supposed to be (Matthew 12:33).
Since I live in the South (Nashville, to be exact), it's common for the follow-up question to then be, "So, what church do you go to?" 9 times out of 10, people are even further thrown off when I say, "I've been out of church as long as I've been abstinent." Then I pause and say, "That's quite the commercial for church, isn't it?" (For the record, I am not anti-church; it just doesn't serve a real purpose for me in this season of my life. I always try and do things that are purposeful. Habit and purpose are not synonyms.) While some go on to tell me how borderline blasphemous I'm being, more times that not, the next question is, "Oh, so you're spiritual instead of being religious?" What I then say might surprise a few of you—"Actually, I try to be more biblical than anything which means I'm a little bit of both."
To me, I think that religious and spiritual are thrown around so much that they could stand to be unpacked more before we casually profess to be either one. If you're curious to know what I mean by that, I've got a few thoughts below.
What It Means to Be “Religious”
Be honest. When you think of the word "religious", what immediately comes to mind? If it's church or even "being churchy", you are certainly not alone.
With studies like "Most Teenagers Drop Out of Church as Young Adults" and "U.S. Church Membership Down Sharply in Past Two Decades" coming out more and more, clearly a lot of people feel the same way. When it comes to what the actual definition of religion is, a pretty basic one would be "a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects". Based on this definition, while there appear to be 12 major religions— Baha'i, Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Shinto, Sikhism, Taoism, and Zoroastrianism—the most practiced one, especially within the United States, continues to be Christianity (with Islam and Atheism placing second and third).
Keeping all of this in mind, I would think that when most people say, "I'm not religious", what they mean is they've applied the Walt Whitman quote that I shared up top; that there is something—or a set of things—within a specific faith that insults their soul to the point where they can't full-on say that they are a Christian, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, etc. That's it's not just about not attending a certain place of worship every week; it's that there are certain principles that they can't honestly say that they agree with either. Hmph. Let me tell it, that's why there are over 200 different denominations within Christianity alone. Although all Christians profess that they believe that Christ is the Son of God, many can't get on the same page beyond that point. And so, there are religions within their own religion. For some, that is not only confusing but draining. So…they bail. Not Christ but the denominations (and yes, there is a difference).
Then there are what my mother refers to as "the walking wounded"; people who don't consider themselves to be religious, not so much because they disagree with a certain a set of principles so much as the people who teach them or sit in the pews and listen to them. Actor Meagan Good (who is married to movie executive and minster DeVon Franklin) comes to mind. Last year, we ran a piece where Meagan said this:
"If I'm being completely honest, my experience with some church folks has not been that positive. It's unfortunate because we're supposed to be the biggest lovers. And it's like even if you disagree with someone or you don't think what they're doing is right, you're supposed to mind your own business and pray for that person. Other times, you're supposed to correct in love if that's what God told you to do. And there was no correction in love. It was like a complete assault."
She's right. While there is a Scripture in the Bible that encourages us to "exhort daily" (Hebrews 3:13), we're also instructed to "speak truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15). Not either or. Both. But that's kind of my point. When I took the time to "Walt Whitman" my own journey, one book that was a game-changer wasPagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices (Frank Viola, George Barna). As I paid closer attention to what I had been taught while growing up vs. what the Bible actually says and what I actually felt at peace within my spirit about, I could no longer say that I was a part of the religion that I was born into. Why? Because I could no longer get down with all of the "beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects".
Peep how it says that people create religions…people do and people are flawed. For instance, Christ did once tell a group of people that if they are without sin, that they should cast the first stone. In that same story, he also told the woman the folks were ridiculing to go and sin no more. Not either or transpired. Both. (John 8:1-12) Unfortunately, a lot of times religion involves people picking and choosing what to preach, teach and model. That's what happens when flawed folks create principles.
Still, that doesn't mean that I'm personally not religious, though. Why do I say that? Because of what I said at the very beginning of all of this. What I do rock with is the Bible (which is an eastern not western culture book; don't let these Americanized religions fool you); it has a very clear definition of religion—"Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you." (James 1:27—NLT) Caring for those without parents or who have lost their beloved? Trying not to let this crazy world jack me up? If that is being religious, oh, I strive to be very religious.
This view of being religious doesn't only apply to Bible followers (who aren't only Christians, by the way). This applies to people who honor other holy books too. If the faith you are most comfortable with has its own definition of religion, don't allow "people's principles" to keep you from applying it to your life; especially since another definition of religious is "a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs".
If you've got a set of core beliefs that are centered around a Higher Being and it helps you to be a (more) moral individual, by definition, you are religious. You just don't subscribe to man-made religion. See the difference there?
My overall point is this. "Religious" isn't a bad word. Succumbing to the pressure to practice what man expects of you over what your spirit says is best for you is the issue and challenge. Which one are you currently doing?
What It Means to Be “Spiritual”
Spiritual. OK, so whenever someone tells me that they aren't religious but they are spiritual, I tend to ask them to clarify where they are coming from. While I personally do believe that a Satan exists, I know that many don't. At the same time, I think the majority feels that there are forces of light and forces of darkness all around us. Scripture puts it this way—"For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6:12—NKJV) Spiritual hosts of wickedness. Spiritual and wicked. Did you notice that?
Just recently, I listened to a really great podcast featuring Andre 3000 and Rick Rubin. As I was listening to Andre 3000 candidly share his feelings on isolation and loneliness, you can't convince me that he hasn't been battling with some dark spirits. Actor Mack Wilds recently spoke of how grateful he was to have a child on the way after being in "a really dark place"; to me, that's another example of dealing with some "dark spirits". I know a lot of other words and terms were deemed the most popular in 2019, but I personally think that "social anxiety" tops just about all of them. Some "darkness" comes with feeling too paralyzed to create or perform.
So yeah, it should go—and stay—on record that "spiritual" isn't automatically synonymous with good, light or beneficial. Any DC or Marvel comic will show you that.
That's why I encourage folks to break down what they mean when they say, "I'm spiritual". Are you saying that you don't subscribe to a specific religion? Are you saying that you acknowledge that you are a spiritual being? Are you specifying that while you don't go to a place of worship or use a title (like Christian, Muslim, Jewish, etc.) that you're intentional about nurturing your spirit or soul? Just being spiritual isn't good enough. Evil is spiritual.
When I acknowledge that a part of me is spiritual, I think more in line with a quote that is usually attributed to the late author C.S. Lewis—"You don't have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body." The Hebrew word for soul is "nephesh". It's a dope and multi-layered word. It means "a soul, living being, life, self, person, desire, passion, appetite, emotion". Oh, the irony. Peep how when you are nurturing your soul, you are tapping into some of the very things that many religions try and get you to ignore like your desires and your passions. Do these things need a moral compass and some self-control? 100 percent. But, at the same time, if you're not pouring into them as well, you are abandoning the very core of what you are—A SOUL. When John 4:24 tells us that "God is Spirit", and I think of a definition of spiritual being, "of or relating to the spirit or soul, as distinguished from the physical nature", it's a reminder that being spiritual is a good thing—so long as your spirit is ever surrendered to a Higher Being.
So yes, on some levels, I do think there is a difference between being religious and being spiritual. Yet more than that, I wholeheartedly also believe that the two things can co-exist, in harmony. How? It's when man is pulled out and the Source of Love is put in.
In other words, if being religious is about applying a moral code based on a supernatural source of Light and being spiritual is about tapping into that same source in order to fulfill one's desires and passions—it shouldn't be assumed that just because you don't conform to a certain set of practices that you're not religious or that being spiritual means that you're not disciplined or even that you don't apply a holy book to your life. It simply means that you've moved man out of the way so that you can learn more about the Spirit.
And that? That is something to be really at peace, confident and happy about. So, if that's where you are, sis, be that. It's a good and purposeful thing. The truly religious and spiritual individuals will totally agree.
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Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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If you haven’t scrolled upon Olivia McDowell's TikTok famous dinner parties, you may need to reconfigure your "For You Page."
What began as a passion for hosting aesthetically themed meals for her closest friends has quickly become a viral sensation. With an astonishing 12 million viewers, women describe Olivia’s picturesque dinner parties as the “dream girls' night,” complete with classy cocktails, beautiful table settings, elegant outfits, and, most importantly, food plated to perfection.
Seemingly reigniting the feminine urge to host fancy dinner parties, Olivia has perfected the finer details. Overlooking the skyline in her beautiful NYC apartment, she never fails to make her signature handmade pasta dishes while simultaneously looking effortlessly chic in the wardrobe of dreams while doing so.
Replying to @nara0630 what should the theme of my next dinner party be? #minivlog #nycliving #dinnerpartyideas #caviarinnewyork
What I love most about hosting intimate dinners for close friends are the connections and relationships that form over food. They don't require a caviar budget with a high-rise apartment, it just takes determination and a little creativity. Watching Olivia’s journey inspires viewers to be a part of a community of positive and uplifting women who share common interests and tastes in food, fashion, and decor. Simply stated, she’s raising the bar of friendship goals.
If you’re aspiring to host a holiday-themed dinner party this season, check out the four tips that will guide you along the way.
Choose Your Theme
Replying to @emz.life.tsv what was your fav part? 🤍 hope this gives you some inspiration to host a fancy friendsgiving too! #hostingtip #dinnerparty #pastamaking
Set the ambiance with a thoughtful theme, which will indeed be your guiding light for less stress during the planning process. Establishing a theme sets the tone for everything else to fall in place, such as menus, table design, and presentation. For example, a holiday-inspired dinner party is a perfect occasion for elegant all-white decor paired with draped table cloths, pillar candles lit atop luxe holders, floating floral arrangements, and, for a personal touch, handwritten place settings.
Utilizing free resources such as Canva for menu templates and creating a “Dinner Party” moodboard via Pinterest is perfect for gathering dinner inspiration for themes, decor, and recipes for the special occasion.
Simplify the Menu
How to host your own pasta making dinner party — part 1: pasta making from scratch 🤍 Hosting dinner parties has become my favorite thing to do this year. More goes into it than you expect, the prep, planning, guestlist, tablescape, etc. but it’s always worth it in the end. What do you guys want to see next? #hostingtips #dinnerparty #pastamaking
Don’t overcomplicate the menu. A simple dinner party formula to use as your guide to making sure your guests leave full of food and joy is appetizers, salads, entrees, sides, desserts, and beverages. As a starter, assemble an aesthetic spread that your guest can nibble on while awaiting the main course with starters such as bread, cheese, jam, nuts, and fruit. A simple salad will do, complete with a light dressing right before your entree. For a main dish, pasta recipes always go a long way and also allows your guests to interact with one another, which leads to McDowell's third dinner party hosting tip.
Include an Interactive Element
Replying to @itstai.tv 🖤 #girlhood
To break the ice and encourage guests to get to know one another, introduce interactive elements to the evening. Moments of interaction allow everyone to connect, like capturing content for social media or memorializing the essence of the night through fun Polaroids. Olivia also encourages her guests to participate in the pasta-making dinner process as a group, or if hosting a brunch, her friends indulge in building their own coffee bar as an opportunity for forming connections and conversation starters. Group board or card games are also great for laughs and healthy competition to help get the vibes flowing.
Don’t Forget the Dress code
Replying to @samantha_mendiz when all of your friends are the main character 🖤🥂 #dinnerparty #nycfashion
Tis’ the season for glamour and sparkles, so why not go all out with a super chic dress code? You can’t have a picture-perfect holiday dinner party without the coordinating attire to match. When planning, make sure to make the required attire specific yet broad enough for a range of personalities and preferences to comfortably partake while looking stunning doing so.
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