This puzzling "devotion" was shared with me on Facebook. This UCC minister must have jet lag from the trip she describes, because UCC folks are not normally that crabby.
She writes that she dreads people who tell her they are spiritual but not religious; "Such a person will always share this as if it is some kind of daring insight, unique to him, bold in its rebellion."
She complains they talk too much about sunsets, snarking, "Like people who go to church don't see God in the sunset! How lucky we are to have these geniuses inform us that God is in nature."
"What is interesting." she says, "is doing this work in community, where other people might call you on stuff, or heaven forbid, disagree with you. Where life with God gets rich and provocative is when you dig deeply into a tradition that you did not invent all for yourself."
She'd rather sit next to someone whose beliefs have been shaped by "a mighty cloud of witnesses," "because when this flight gets choppy, that's who I want by my side, holding my hand, saying a prayer and simply putting up with me, just like we try to do in church."
I found her Facebook page and replied.
You're right that things are more interesting "in community, where other people might call you on stuff, or heaven forbid, disagree with you." I'll bet you will dread your flights less if you accept the other passengers, for an hour or two, as your community.
Gently ask your seatmate why he told you, a minister, that he is not religious. Cosmeticians probably rarely hear "I like attractiveness, but people look just fine without makeup and styled hair." Soldiers aren't often told "I like peace, but diplomacy alone can keep our nation safe; we do not need military force."
Ask what religion means to your seatmate. After listening, share what it means to you. A genuine, respectful conversation could be rewarding for you both.
Are you sure he believes his is a "daring insight, unique to him, bold in its rebellion against the religious status quo?" If so, you could help him understand how many others share his views and help him realize that he could access a long spiritual-but-not-religious tradition if he wishes. If it turns out your assumptions about his attitude were wrong, a loving conversation could help you better understand at least one other fellow human.
Find out how his thrill at a sunset is the same or different than yours. Ask. Listen. Share. Life with fellow humans gets rich and provocative when you dig deeply into ideas that you do not yourself share.
Even on a plane, we are continuously surrounded by a mighty cloud of witnesses, each with his or her own gift for us if we listen well. And please, when the flight gets choppy, simply put up with the person next to you, as you hope he will do for you, and share what Spirit you can.