Is Religion Really the Problem?

14 12 2013

There is a church in the area that advertises on billboards, “Forget Religion, try Jesus”. The idea behind the message is that Christianity is not a religion but a relationship. The slogan is used to attract young people turned off by the ritualism and deadness in a traditional church. The motive is to bring them to Jesus, a very commendable motive. But is such stereotype fair to the thousands who find a relationship with Christ within the structure of a traditional church setting? Are we sending a message of negativism and even giving more ammunition to a culture that already sites infighting among Christians as being the highest form of hypocrisy? This blog from “Hope’s Reason” gives another look at the prejudice involved in the slogan.

Pastor Dave

Hope’s Reason

Jesus, Religion and Fighting Over Words

Is Christianity a religion? I hear a lot of push back on this idea. I hear about the end of religion. I hear that Christianity is a relationship and not a religion. I hear that religion is what happens when you take Jesus out of Christianity. The basic message is that religion is bad and Christianity is good.

I have a problem with this, even though I said similar things in the early days of my faith. The problem is that it does not make sense. What is a religion? Religion is the worship of a deity, using traditions, prayers and sacred texts. Correct me if I am wrong, but doesn’t Christianity have all of these things? If you set Christianity along side all the other world’s religions, there would be much in common in terms of what they do. As the saying goes, if it walks like a duck, if it quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck. What seems to be claimed is that Christianity looks exactly like a religion but for some mysterious reason it is not a religion.

One of the reasons people oppose Christianity as a religion is that it is a relationship with Jesus. That is a fine evangelistic tactic, but have you ever thought deeply about that? What does it mean that you have a personal relationship with Jesus? You don’t have a relationship in the same way that have a relationship with a sibling or a friend. You do not physically spend time with Jesus. The way you relate to Jesus is through religious activities, such as praying and studying Scripture. That is not bad, but it sort of wipes out the distinction between religion and relationship.

But what about the idea that religion is always bad? It is legalistic and oppressive and the cause of all the world’s problems. Really? This is what the Bible says about religion:

“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:26–27 ESV)

If religion is defined as being inherently evil, that means that taking care of the needy is also evil. It is not religion that is evil, it is how it is used. Religion like anything (including family, money, science) can be used for good or evil.

I think it is time for us to get beyond the distinction between Christianity and religion. Whether we like it or not, Christianity is a religion.

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