The fruits of Religion for too many years of Church History have been holy wars, butcheries, crusades, inquisitions, the extermination of Native Americans, and the introduction of African slaves in their place.
Christianity was never to be about faith-fighting and ethnic or religious cleansing, exterminating anyone that doesn’t agree with us or live according to our sacred doctrines.
Nor was it every to be about "organized religion”. It has nothing to do with hierarchical structures, ornate buildings, flamboyant preachers, or traditional rules and rituals.
But it isn't about disorganized religion either with unprepared sermons, shooting from the hip, letting it all hang out and just going with the flow. That’s been just as self-destructive to the cause of Christ.
Actually, it’s really not about religion at all…organized or disorganized. Organic, Emergent, Progressive, Traditional, Fundamental, Missional, Primitive, Old-fashioned or Neo-Evangelical. It’s not about associations or affiliations or denominations. It’s not about Modern or Postmodern. It’s not even about Relevant or Reverent…or anything in between.
It’s supposed to be about Jesus…but we’ve lost that somewhere along the way in the church. We’ve made it about all sorts of other sidebar issues majoring on the minors and minoring on the majors.
A couple months ago I learned that the word Religion comes from the Latin word Religio which means “To bind up” interestingly enough.
*Religion, quite literally, is Constipated Christianity, bound up inside a straightjacket of rules leading to rigidity.
And the world watches us frenetically chasing our tails wearing ourselves out trying to appease the controlling Christianity of rules, regulations, restrictions and requirements…all the while missing what it’s really all about…a Relationship…a relaxing and refreshing relationship with Jesus.
Yet often our picture of Jesus isn’t much better than our picture of religion...it’s hard to know the diffence after a while between the baby and the bathwater.
To many people…Jesus is a cop, a parole officer…policing your dangerous heart.
He’s pointing out infractions and violations, establishing his restrictive terms of engagement. Mothering your every move and smothering your heart with unachievable expectations.
But that’s not true at all…
If anything Jesus was singing right along with R.E.M. almost every day of his 33 year life…
“That’s me in the corner…losing my religion.”
Even in the First Century, Religion didn’t like Jesus very much. For three years Jesus rubbed them the wrong way. Like petting a cat backwards, He irritated their belief system that led to the militant life of sin management.
Jesus was, in every sense of the word, a schlockmeister – “A purveyor of cheap, dirty goods.” He constantly purveyed the cheap and dirty goods of religion and it’s leadership, and called them out on their con-artistry.
The Bible catalogs a tenuous and tense relationship between the religious community and Jesus throughout his ministry. Check out this montage of verses from the Gospels that highlight the tension Jesus had with religion from the get-go. Kick back and chillax, ‘cause this is going to take several minutes, the data is extensive… (note the highlighted words--they indicate the most important values of religion to this day…
After taking this little scripture safari...it's not hard to see why he got nailed to a cross.
Someone once said, "Religion is to brain what tapeworm is to intestine."
I ardently concur and submit to you that Religion has done more to damage the cause of Christ than atheism because it initially feigns an alliance of common values only to subtly kill you with what is traditionally known in war as “friendly fire”.
Jesus was constantly under the “unfriendly” fire of religion.
He still is.