Musings, Nits, and Praises: Religion as a Hobby

Musings, Nits, and Praises

A farrago of all things deemed blog-worthy by a music-loving, poetry-writing, humor-seeking English teacher

Religion as a Hobby

I read something on Richard Beck's blog today, Experimental Theology, that rings with a lot of truth. In his latest entry, "Hurry," he describes John Darley and Daniel Batson's 1973 study From Jerusalem to Jericho in which they conducted a controlled simulation of the parable of the Good Samaritan with seminary students. To read Richard's full post, including a description of the workings of the study, go here:

In short, the seminarians who were in the least hurry were the ones who most often stopped to help someone in need.

But here's the part of Richard's post I'd like to focus on. In examining the implications of the study, he writes:

We are a different kind of person when we are hurried versus when we are unhurried. There is no "real" you. There is, rather, hurried you and unhurried you. And, as your family, friends, and coworkers can attest, hurried you and unhurried you are really two very different people.

Second, Jerusalem to Jericho makes this acute observation: Most of us pursue spirituality as a hobby. That is, Life with God is pursued as a leisure activity. Why do I say this? Well, hobbies and leisure activities are what we pursue when we have free, expendable time our our hands. But when we have "stuff to do," we tend to place our hobbies to the side. They are not allowed to interfere with our urgent agenda. If so, then the Jerusalem to Jericho study suggests that helping others, for many, is a hobby. It's something to do on weekends, when you have some spare time. This is a penetrating diagnosis. Too many Christians treat altruism as a hobby, rather than as a central and urgent feature of their life. In short, you know Life with God is no longer a hobby when altruism is allowed to interfere with your life.

Third, hurry is a form of everyday evil. Hurry turns us into self-interested, callous jerks. We need to be reminded that love involves slowness. Love has a speed, a pace.

So, how do we make our faith the "central and urgent feature" of our life instead of a hobby? I think the answer may lie in working and pushing each other in our churches as a community of believers. But how can we do that when as the individuals comprising a church most of us are rather complacent?

3 Responses to “Religion as a Hobby”

  1. # Blogger Steve

    I pretty much live every moment in a hurry except when I'm dead tired in the evenings. I wonder if reading yours and Richard's blog and others can count as pursuit of spirituality instead of as a hobby? Well, guess I'll hurry off to work.  

  2. # Blogger Jason

    I don't know how feasible it is to just decide we're going to stop being in a hurry. Part of my hurriedness stems from my job, and I don't think it'd be wise to quit my job. Or maybe it is feasible to slow down, and as a culture we've just convinced ourselves it's not.

    But I think a starting point for change would be a recognition that when we're faced with someone else's tangible need as in the Jeruselum to Jericho study, it should trump our own.  

  3. # Anonymous mona

    Being in a hurry is definitely part of American culture. It's shameful to not have a full plate. James and I are able to get away from some of that here, but we're still not nearly so laid-back as our neighbors. Come to think of it, Jason, you would probably enjoy life here in Indo. We even have a new coffee shop within walking distance from campus that has caramel fraps to die for. . .  

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