Dorothy Day famously said, quoting Romano Guardini, that “the Church is the cross on which Christ is crucified.”
As if that’s a bad thing.
Which of course it is, in the sense that the terrible abuse that has gone on in the Church, and the violence done in its name, and the corruption of the Church, all of that is terrible and wrong.
But I think the biggest danger for people who are “spiritual but not religious” is the unspoken assumption that they can somehow be happy all the time, and avoid boredom, and never have to face the darkness inside them, and the emptiness, and the need.
To be spiritual but not religious is to keep everything in our heads where it doesn’t have to be acted out and so compromised.
And in that sense the tackiness of the Church, and the tedium of the Church, and the ordinariness—the threadbare carpets, the bad singing, the bumbling liturgies—all of that is to the good. It humbles us and it crucifies in small and necessary ways, because it’s only in the ordinary and the everyday, only there, in the moment, that Christ appears.
To be spiritual but not religious is to keep everything in our heads where it doesn’t have to be acted out and so compromised. We can avoid making fools out of ourselves and avoid making mistakes because we haven’t tried to do anything in the first place.
It’s like deciding to be a musician and never picking up the guitar.