Sex, Spirituality and Religion

by Mitakuye Oyasin

In a news item from USA Today this past week, a high school valedictorian in Vermont disrobed in the middle of her speech. Her rationale was that she wanted to give graduation a spiritual overtone. How she got to be the valedictorian of her class without knowing how to use a dictionary was never explained but I have never seen a definition of spirituality which included the indecent exposure of mammary glands and pubic hair.

Nor have I ever understood how some female church members can mistake intercourse with a minister, rabbi or priest as a spiritual experience although this has gone on since the beginning of time. As graduate students in seminary, we were warned about some women we would encounter who would be dangerous seeking what the professor referred to as "spiritual orgasms." His warning proved to be well-founded.

If you will agree with me that spirituality has nothing to do with nudity and sex, per se, then the question is-what is spirituality and is it a synonym for religion?

County zoning commission, Bob Masterson, was recently quoted in the June 18th Register Mail as saying, "I think religious and spiritual needs are almost interchangeable." This came about because of a proposed county mission statement which now includes religion among the laundry list of things to be encouraged by the county and its future development.

Chris Winick, according to the report, asked why the term "religion" had been chosen instead of "spiritual needs." Apparently she sees the difference between the two words. So do I.

Spirituality is an inside job. It is personal. The practice of a religion is external. In a perfect world, religious practice would be the outward practice of an inward spirituality.

Unfortunately, this is not a perfect world and many people are judicious in their practice of a religion but have no idea what spirituality is about. Just look at the history of America. Slavery was justified by the religious practices of the white, rich Christians quoting from the Bible. It was with religious vigor that my ancestors were murdered, lied to, stolen from and treated with disdain. These people may have been very religious but in no way could they be described as spiritual.

Religion may be ritual: stand up, sit down, chant, light candles, kiss statues and pray with beads. It may be rules: don't smoke, dance, drink or chew, and don't go around with those who do. But while the practice of ritual and rules may enhance one's spirituality, it does not create it. Sitting in a garage every day will not make you a car.

What is spirituality then? Let me give you a word. Spirituality is at-one-ment. It is being at one with the Great Spirit, the God you worship, the higher power of your own understanding. It is being at-one with others, not just with people but with all living things. And it is being at-one with yourself.

Frankly, the mission statement of the County would better serve the people by encouraging the spiritual needs of all its citizens. Computers have not stopped kids from killing kids. Technology has not helped to abate the growing violence of our society. Neither has a thriving economy.

It is not religion that is missing from the American public. There are more than enough religious institutions around. What is missing is spirituality.

Posted to Zephyr Online June 25, 1998
Return to the Zephyr home page: <>