This past week almost every Christian Facebook friend of mine posted a link to the ‘Why I hate Religion, but Love Jesus’ video. I’ve been busy enough over the past few days that I haven’t really had time to write down my thoughts, so here I am a few days after the relevancy has probably ended, for this video at least. There have been plenty of great reviews of the video, and point- counter point arguments given. All I have to offer is my experience with Jesus and Religion.
There was a time a few years ago that I would have agreed with every word in that video. Especially with it’s slick production and powerful delivery. Never underestimate the influence that presentation plays in the power of a message. Anyways, I was in a place where I wasn’t happy with my faith, feeling like I should be much closer to God. This frustration with the way things were as opposed to the way I felt they should be caused a lot of tension in my soul. I think we’ve all experienced this on some level, it’s a core part of the human condition. I firmly believe that our natural state is to seek God’s design. Much of the stress in our lives come from living outside of that design. We know we want to be closer to God, but it doesn’t appear to be happening and so we need a scapegoat. In comes religion. In a society that watches large corporations abuse laws for their own benefit, and in a time where trust in government authorities is dwindling ‘religion’ becomes an easy target for our frustrations.
It’s easy to pick on religion, especially as Americans, where we tend to pull for the underdog, associate size with greed, and celebrate the ‘do-it-yourself’ spirit. None of those things are inherently bad in and of themselves, but when we start layering them over religion as a means of justifying our own short comings we show our own immaturity in our faith.
Yes, the people that call themselves ‘religious’ have shortcomings. We do things we want to do and put God’s stamp of approval on it. This has always been a problem with God, enough so that He made up this really great commandment that we’re not supposed to use His name in vain. The problem is, we all do this, religious or not. There are plenty of non-religious folks who (placing themselves in the position of their own God) have created numerous travesties in the name of the religion of ‘me’.
The problem isn’t religion, the problem is the corruption of the soul. That is what Jesus was against, and it’s a human condition, not a religious condition. He spoke very bluntly about the way things are, and the way things are meant to be, and are, in His kingdom. For everyone. Religious, and non-religious alike.
And for those of us who do believe in the Christ, we are religious. We share a mutual belief that shapes our world view. We can not separate being a follower of Christ from religion. Following Christ is our religion.
As for my personal journey, it’s taken a long time to get to this place, and I trust that my understanding of how Jesus and religion are intertwined will continue to evolve and develop over time. This week has been an interesting one for me. I spent a couple of days with groups of ministers which has caused me to reflect on my faith journey over the past few years. There was a time when I blamed the church for my lack of growth. It was easy, there weren’t programs for my specific needs, I saw how energy and effort were wasted, and every time I read a book with some new radical idea I looked at my church and said ‘if only’ we did this my faith would be where it should be.
I was trying to follow God on my own terms.
I was immature in my faith.
And I would imagine in a few years I will look back at today and say the same thing about my current faith. The point being there comes a time when an adolescent faith needs to grow up. As this happens we see that Jesus called us to be in community together so that this growth can happen. Jesus never spoke against religion, He headed it up. He didn’t come to destroy the law, but fulfill it. He has been calling us to be in communion with one another, holding each other accountable, teaching each other, and encouraging each other in the Spirit of His name.
And so I end with this, because I love Jesus I am religious. Because I am religious I participate in a community that constantly leverages our mutual beliefs for the benefit of ourselves and others in an attempt to follow Christ. We don’t always agree, we don’t always get it right, but we do travel together, with Jesus in the lead.
One love, one heart.