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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Challenging religion...


I often get responses from my blog...sometimes private, sometimes public.  Most of the time good, sometimes not so good.  Most of the responses are thoughtful and positive.  A few have been constructive in their criticism.  I appreciate them both.  I feel this to be the most positive thing about thought that makes it out of the brain and onto the page for public scrutiny.  I believe challenging systems of thought that get rusty and crusty for lack of evaluation is valuable and essential to the preservation of truth.

It is when things lay dormant, untouched and unquestioned, that I feel dangerous things start to form.  Especially in the church…the body bearing the responsibility of reflecting the reputation of Jesus to the world. 

One of the reasons I love to share my thoughts is not because I feel like I’ve arrived at the indisputable conclusion to whatever particular subject I’m addressing, it is to continue to journey toward deeper discovery with other people.  I love to engage in fierce conversations with myself and others on topics that either are compelling or repelling as I personally see them.  I have a particular zeal in regard to how the universal church functions or dysfunctions in society.  I am filled with the rawest delight possible when she fleshes out Christ in mediums that make me proud to be called a Christian.  And I am filled with the rawest of anger when I see the church shooting herself in the foot with things that appear to be inconsequential and borderline ridiculous.

I know that my perspective is flawed to be sure, so I don’t lay claim to an infallible philosophy or theology.  I expect people to do much of what I do when I read what an author pens…to graciously eat the meat and generously spit out the bones.  When I write I’m only trying to vent my own personal takes on the life I’ve experienced, am experiencing or dreaming of experiencing.  What is good for the goose isn’t always good for the gander, if you don’t believe that, just get married.

But when I watch and study the life of Christ (an example that I seek to emulate above all others), I see him purposely engaging topics that were controversial in order to keep the religious system honest.  Granted, He’s Jesus and I’m Jason, but I think it’s important to address issues within religion that are killing the Kingdom.   He would sow seeds of discord among the religious establishment purposely to cause them to take a second look at their systems of thought and their misguided methods of ministry.   And make no mistake; a lot of people were furious with him for tampering with what was thought to be air-tight absolutes.   


He didn’t get nailed to a cross for being nice.  He got nailed to a cross because he dared to challenge the religious delusions and “dilutings” going on within the body of people claiming to represent him.   And for the record, I do this more than I know…I look back on my life often and grimace in embarrassment at some of the thoughts, theories and theologies that I put out there.  We all are culprits of dirty religion on some level.  But the only antidote for this tendency is to always be following the truth, “no matter where it leads”. 

I wonder if this was the reason why Jesus wasn’t accepted any more in his “own hometown”, or rejected by his own family, or didn’t have a place to call home.   “He came to his own, and his own received him not.”  It wasn’t because he disagreed with everything he was taught, in fact, he agreed with a lot of it.  It wasn’t because he had a spirit that loved to agitate others and to make shock statements to rile people up.  It wasn’t because he was a “disturber of the peace” or a “troublemaker” by nature…he wanted to spread the refreshing news of Isaiah 61 with others for crying out loud. 

I think he just couldn’t espouse any particular subgroup across the board.  He wanted to live in peace with everyone, but he also couldn’t sit idly by and let things go that he felt were an aberration from the original intent of God’s heart.  He couldn’t just “live and let live”.  He cared too deeply about the gospel message to watch it get blurred or buried under heaps of man-made religious debris. 

When I write about issues or perspectives or perceptions...I'm just putting out my own commentary on reality as I experience it.  My thoughts are merely my thoughts and are meant to inspire, challenge, sometimes asking questions, sometimes questioning answers.  Like the old saying goes, “If the shoe fits, wear it.”…”and if it doesn’t, don’t”.  I’m sure when Jesus was calling Pharisee’s “white-washed tombs” and “broods of vipers” and “sons of Hell”, he wasn’t saying that all Pharisee’s were equally poisonous in their ministries.   

We know this because Gamaliel  in Acts 5 was a man of wisdom and honor offering advice that was brilliant and driven by a spirit of humility and open-mindedness.  So we know that not everything the Pharisees believed was wrong, nor was the bulk of their law-abiding coming from anything less than hearts that wanted to please God completely.  But Jesus continued to be honest and forthright about his areas of disgust with the current movement of religion.  The ones that agreed with him couldn’t get enough of what he was constructing, destructing and deconstructing.   The ones that weren’t in agreement were offended, unnerved and disoriented.   It’s funny, to some people, Jesus was giving an orientation on the Kingdom of God, to others, he was giving a disorientation on the Kingdom of God.  His audience was always left to see where they fit in the conversation.  I think that’s a great form of teaching.

I love the church.  I know the church will never be perfect.  It’s the broken bride of Christ and will be that way to some degree until we see the Kingdom come in its fullness.  I know that I will believe wrong things about God, and I know that I will always be connected to a church that is dysfunctional no matter what denomination I’m a part of.  And make no mistake, everyone is a part of a denomination, even if it’s “non-denominational”…that is now a denomination.  Denominations aren’t just built on doctrinal constitutions; they are built on human personalities.  And until a local body can figure out a way to meet without a leader and a group of followers, there will always be organized religion.  If for no other reason than “disorganized religion” is an even more damaging alternative. 

I hope that my sharing of observations doesn’t in any way come across as arrogant or disrespectful, because that is not my heart.  I hope it does come across zealous and personal, because that is my heart.   What would I be actually be doing as a pastor if I wasn’t taking all this stuff personally?  Like Jesus, there is nothing that disturbs me more than the silly mishaps of the church, but I hope I would love her so much that, like Jesus, I would lay down my life for her.  Unless I love her to death, my criticisms are exercises of childish folly.

Thanks for continuing to be gracious with my musings….

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