The 5B Framework of Religion and Spirituality

Picture of Jeremy Fricke

Jeremy Fricke

Tri-Faith Initiative VP of Mission Advancement

In the vast tapestry of human existence, the threads of spirituality and religion have run through cultures, societies, and personal lives since the beginning of time. Yet, understanding the intricate ways individuals engage with these profound concepts can be deeply enigmatic. Enter the 5B Framework—a compass that guides us through the labyrinth of spiritual exploration and interreligious understanding. This framework, encompassing Belief, Behavior, Belonging, Becoming, and Body, offers an illuminating pathway to comprehending the diverse ways in which people connect with the sacred, profane, and everything in between.

Belief, Behavior, and Belonging have been popular concepts to describe the ways in which religion interacts with peoples’ lives for decades, but now is the time to adapt these and add two more that don’t seem to be fully represented: Becoming and Body.

This article begins a process of demonstrating how the 5B Framework may apply to your own personal life, your professional life, or your community at large. The way religion has been expressed for generations is changing, and people are choosing how to connect with religion in ways that are highly individualized. I use terms like religion and spirituality interchangeably myself, although I know that for many they mean different things. I am less interested in defining what these terms mean, but rather, how do the 5Bs manifest in your life or the lives of others?

Religious diversity is complicated and nuanced, but understanding needs to be accessible to all. That’s why we need a framework. Through my work at Tri-Faith Initiative, I have developed this framework to represent religion in an expansive and flexible way so that people can find their story in it. Regardless of observance, confide
nce in belief, or identity, I hope that every person can see themselves in this framework, even those who identify themselves as non-religious. Regardless of how you relate to religion – I am confident that you will find yourself in the 5Bs.

Reflecting on the Journey with the 5B Framework

Imagine peering into the essence of religion and spirituality through five unique prisms. Each of these prisms provide their own hue, and overlapping them provides new colors, new ways to see how we relate to religion. Each facet of the 5B Framework reveals a dimension that shapes our interactions with religious and spiritual ideas.

Belief: Close your eyes and envision the core of your beliefs. In the realm of spirituality, beliefs serve as guiding stars. These convictions, whether rooted in organized religion or personal contemplation, steer our moral compass and lend a unique hue to our worldview. From the myriad tapestries of monotheism to the intricate threads of polytheism, beliefs offer insight into what we hold sacred and how we navigate the world. Maybe what matters most are ethical ideas, like the belief that every life is sacred, or that people deserve to be free to be themselves. These beliefs can be understood as religious or spiritual in their broadest sense. What guides you? What exactly is your view on the world and beyond?

Behavior: Consider the rhythms of your daily life—the actions you undertake, the rituals you perform. Spirituality and religion find expression in these actions. From the prayers whispered before dawn to the acts of compassion extended to others, these behaviors mirror the essence of our spiritual convictions. Behaviors like meditation, fasting, and acts of kindness form a bridge between our beliefs and our tangible reality. What behaviors pattern your life?

Belonging: Picture a community, united by shared values and aspirations. In the spectrum of spirituality, this sense of belonging resonates deeply. Religious institutions, congregations, and gatherings provide a haven where individuals find kindred spirits, mutual support, and a shared space to explore their spiritual paths. Through this unity, our spirituality finds resonance within a larger tapestry of humanity. For some, the very act of not belonging to a community is how they identify their belonging – and to others, there is nothing more important than sharing community identity. I encourage you to ask yourself–where do you “belong”? If you do not have a place of belonging, do you want one? Can you find one or make one?

Becoming: Envision a journey of self-discovery and growth, identity change, questions, and doubt. This dimension of the 5B Framework accentuates the transformation, change, and identity aspects that spirituality and religion offer. In our quests for enlightenment, virtues, and higher meaning, we embark on a voyage of personal evolution. The aspiration to become better versions of ourselves is at the heart of our spiritual endeavors. We switch religions, leave or join religions, and go through phases of doubt or confidence. This B focuses on the ways we identify and the ways we change over time. Something about religion and spirituality lends itself to a never-ending story of a person’s life, a story that is worth sharing. When you reflect on your past and present, how did you get here? What has changed? Who are you in this present moment?

Body: Feel the rhythms of your breath, the sensations of your physical being. The dimension of the body reminds us that spirituality is not just a realm of the mind and heart—it is rooted in the embodied experience. Whether through meditation that calms the mind or fasting that disciplines the body, spirituality is deeply intertwined with our physical existence. We can feel the ways that our body responds to religious or spiritual circumstances – in the feelings of awe, raising hairs on our arms, or breathing differently. Our bodies also affect us from outside ourselves – does your perceived sex, race, body type, or otherwise change how you are perceived by others?

Why the 5B Framework Matters

The 5B Framework holds significance—it unlocks doors to understanding our complex engagement with spirituality on a personal, professional, and collective level.
As we look at the beliefs we hold dear, we glimpse the guiding stars that light our moral pathways. Whether embracing a traditional faith or forging a personal spiritual connection, beliefs shape our identities and guide our decisions.

Our behaviors, the way we act, speak, and interact, are the canvas on which our spirituality is painted. These actions bear testimony to the profundity of our beliefs and reflect the deep-seated principles that we hold close.
Belonging—the sense of community that flourishes in religious gatherings—offers a refuge. In a world that often feels fragmented, the unity found within congregations provides solace, purpose, and shared rituals that connect us to something greater.

As we are always becoming, we embrace each person’s transformative journey. It’s the pursuit of truth and virtue and the exploration of our inner depths, the changes we go through, and the identities we take ownership of.
The body, too, is central to this narrative. In a world that often dichotomizes the spiritual and the physical, this dimension reminds us that our bodies are vessels for religious and spiritual experiences. Whether it’s through the physical interactions we have or the way people perceive us from the outside, the physicality of our existence is a conduit to the sacred.

Beyond Boundaries: Implications Beyond the Self

What happens when we apply this to everyday life? The 5Bs aren’t just about personal contemplation, but being more open-minded about people’s needs and inequities surrounding religious and spiritual differences. What happens when we recognize that different people and communities prioritize and practice different components of the 5Bs? For some, religion is all about beliefs, but for others, it is the least important part. To achieve greater equity for all people in society, at school, workplaces, prisons, and in general society, we need to think bigger, care more, and recognize that different people need different supports to be able to be themselves.

Next Steps

The 5B Framework beckons us to reflect on our own experiences as well as how things may be different for others. Through the lenses of Belief, Behavior, Belonging, Becoming, and Body, we unearth the layers of religious and spiritual engagement. In a world pulsating with diversity, this framework stands as a guide—an ode to the multifaceted ways we connect with the divine and transcend the ordinary. It reminds us that in our journeys of religion and spirituality, we navigate through these dimensions, embracing beliefs, shaping behaviors, seeking belonging, becoming different, and remembering our experiences are always embodied. As we journey through life, the 5B Framework invites us to unravel the religious and spiritual tapestry that envelops us all.

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