How about a spiritual sweet tooth?
If you pay attention to the sidebar on this blog you may have noticed that over the past number of months I've been reading through a bunch of Christian classics. There's a cool little series of books called "Upper Room Spiritual Classics" (see them: here) that takes selected portions of Christian Classics and compiles them into nice little books of about 100 pages. They're cheap, easy to read, and I find them interesting because it's cool to see how people viewed their relationship with God throughout the centuries.
One of the books I finished recently was selected writings of the Spanish Carmelite, John of the Cross. I actually didn't really connect with much of what he had to say (when you're reading stuff written in the 1500s by a Spanish Catholic mystic in the middle of the Spanish Inquisition you want to have your filters up maybe a little more than usual!): I found that some of they ways he used scripture was questionable and that he leaned more toward philosophy than theology than I would like. Nonetheless, I couldn't question his sincerity.
Anyway, one thing that did strike me, particularly because of today's post-modern emphasis on personal experience, was his criticism of what he called a spiritual sweet
The major theme of his writings that I picked up was the need to imitate Christ in self-denial. I think he takes this theme to questionable extremes but was intrigued when he noted that often people convert to Christianity for selfish reasons (again, remember that he was writing during the Spanish Inquisition... people would convert to Christianity [Catholicism] in order to save their hide). Even beyond this, he says that people who are constantly searching (no matter how legitimately) for a fresh experience with God are usually doing so for personal benefit/pleasure rather than out of a desire to imitate Christ... who always practice self-denial rather than self-gratification.
He says of this attitude of self-serving spirituality: "Such an attitude is not the hallmark of self-denial and nakedness of spirit but the indication of a spiritual sweet tooth" (pg 37).
As I said before, I think this connects within our own context of post-modernism. In many ways Church is seen in a consumeristic way: "if I don't experience God in a way that I like I'll move on to the next church... and the next church until I find what I want."
You see people who become worship junkies... even worship connoisseurs moving from one religious experience to the next seeking their next spiritual fix.
"A person makes progress only by imitating Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one goes to the Father but through him, as he states himself in Saint John. Accordingly, I would not consider any spirituality worthwhile that wants to walk in sweetness and ease and run from the imitation of Christ" (pg. 38).
I think this is a much needed challenge for many of us today.