Steadfast on Campus — The Spirituality of the Dross

temptation-in-the-desertIf you’re looking for the opposite of what Gene Veith describes as The Spirituality of the Cross, here it is!  Since dross rhymes with cross and, in as much as dross is waste matter, I think “The Spirituality of the Dross” is a fitting title for what our students are being taught.

One of our students thought he would attend the spiritual wellness seminar offered on campus.  He returned to my study with high delight and placed into my hands a worksheet for “Developing Spiritual Wellness”1 (You may find a pdf copy here).  I read it.  I laughed.  He knew I would.  He’s a well-catechized Lutheran.  What’s not so funny is that this is what is seriously being taught and believed on the secular campus.

According to the worksheet, here’s how you “develop spiritual wellness”:

 “To develop spiritual wellness, it is important to take time out to think about what gives meaning and purpose to your life and what actions you can take to support the spiritual dimension of your life.”   

What might the first action be you ask?  The worksheet provides the answer with the bold heading:

“Look Inward”

Look inward?  Oh, you mean to do a candid self-examination using the 10 Commandments as a mirror?

No. The worksheet suggests the following:

 “This week, spend some quiet time alone with your thoughts and feelings.”

Did that just say, “alone with your thoughts and feelings”?

Yes, I dare say, it did!

 “Slow the pace of your day, remove your watch, turn your phone or pager off, and focus on your immediate experience.”

Umm.  Okay.  I feel really warm.  I hear birds chirping.  The cloud in the sky reminds me of a heart.  Now I have tingles…

The following activities are suggested:

“Spend time in nature.  Experience continuity with the natural world by spending solitary time in a natural setting…Experience art, architecture, or music…Express your creativity: Set aside time for a favorite activity… Strive for feelings of joy and exhilaration. Engage in a personal spiritual practice: Pray, meditate, do yoga, chant… Tune out the outside world and turn your attention inward, focusing on the experience.”

“Experience…. Experience… experience.”  Yes, we get the point!  We see where the focus is!

 “In the space below, describe the personal spiritual activity you tried and how it made you feel – both during the activity and after.”

Because, according to postmodern orthodoxy, how you feel determines what is true for you… and your truth is true and my truth is true, but just don’t tell me that there is only One Truth because that just can’t be true!

The second major heading is “Reach Out” and prescribes the following “spiritual activities”:

  • Share writings that inspire you
  • Practice kindness
  • Perform community service

Funny.  Sounds like the secular version of Witness, Mercy, and Life Together!  Of course, the Witness, Mercy, and Life Together is all about Jesus and His work, whereas the three bullet points above are intended to be entirely about you apart from Jesus.

Upon doing one of the above “spiritual activities,” the worksheet again asks you to describe the activity and how it made you feel.

Get the idea?  Spiritual wellness, according the wisdom on campus, comes from within you and is all about your feelings and experience (The Spirituality of the Dross).

Contrast this with The Spirituality of the Cross, as Gene Veith aptly calls it, where the life of a Christian is one of receiving all spiritual (and temporal) good from outside of himself—namely from the Crucified-Christ in preaching, baptism, absolution and the Supper.

John Kleinig sums it up well, “If we have problems in living the life of faith, if we have challenges in the practice of prayer, the solution is not to be found in what we do, our self-appraisal, or our performance.  The solution to our problems is found in what we receive from God Himself, in His appraisal of us, and in His gifts to us… Our piety is all a matter of receiving grace upon grace from the fullness of God the Father” (Kleinig, Grace Upon Grace: Spirituality for Today)


[1] Insel/Roth, Core Concepts in Health, Tenth Edition © 2006 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. Chapter 3.








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