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Today’s question: How spiritual are you?

praying-handsI took a PARADE magazine poll this morning to see how my spirituality measured up against the 1,051 persons who answered the 29 questions in the publication’s survey, “How Spiritual Are We?” 

The magazine’s cover caught my attention yesterday as I flipped through sections of the Sunday Washington Post. The bright yellow words framing the classic, white steeled church asked, “Has American Become More Spiritual?” And it promised “surprising results from an exclusive PARADE Poll.”

According to the survey results, faith continues to play a major role in American life.  (You have to wonder sometimes about this, given the crime,  greed, recent resurgence of hated-filled rhetoric and wanton behavior from some adults and youth.)  Americans remain a religious people who believe in God, pray frequently and teach their children they must do the same.  What has changed over the years is that more people are making a clearer distinction between being spiritual and religious. They are rejecting organized religion in the form of church rituals, traditions and services, while practicing private forms of worship.

“PARADE’s survey reveals a nation looking heavenward – but with its feet firmly planted on the ground of modern life,” the story explained. “Spiritually speaking, Americans are very practical people, moderate and tolerant in ways that would have astonished our grandparents.”

I think some of the results may have surprised even my parents, let alone my grandparents. Among them is the ways people practice religion today, particularly the large numbers of those who consider themselves religious but who attend church services sporadically or not at all.

Growing up, we used to go my mother’s church at least three times a week (until I was given a reprieve at age 17). Now I regularly attend Sunday service and Wednesday night Bible study and prayer meeting.  I feel out of sync with myself when I miss too many Sunday services, not because it is a habit but because I gain strength and direction from the sermons and from the collective worship experience. Church attendance also contributes to deepening my relationship with God.

Just last week a friend told me she doesn’t think it’s necessary to go to church as a part of her spiritual practices. I disagreed respectfully and told her that I believed that church is one of the places where we mature spiritually, as individuals and in community with others. As the poll results show, my friend is part of a growing number of people who are eschewing the organized religious practices that I have come to value over the years. While I can understand some of their reasons and I once also chose to do the same, I recognize that I am stronger because I worship and study regularly with a community of believers.

Like 59 percent of the poll respondents, I too believe that faith can help solve the world’s problems and offer hope to the suffering. I’m also in tune with the 51 percent who said they pray every day. Prayer is a such a significant part of my life, and for the last three years I have learned so much more about it through my involvement with the College of Prayer International. ( More about that later.) 

While more Americans are becoming more tolerant of other faiths, so have I. However, I have not evolved to the point where I join with 59 percent of survey-takers who said all religions are valid. I side more with the 12 percent who believe their religions was the only true faith. That’s the foundation on which my Christian faith stands and what the Bible teaches.

“As Americans’ ideas of spirituality have become more expansive, so have their attitudes toward people of different faiths,” the story said. “Even though the notion that one’s own religion is the sole means of salvation’ has launched a million missionaries from this country’s shores, today only a small fraction are so fervent.”

If I had taken the poll when it was conducted in May, I would have been among that fraction. How spiritual are you? Take PARADE’s poll and see how your views match with other poll-takers. Some of your answers may cause you to think a little more about what you really believe. I am still thinking.

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