Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Religion vs Following Jesus

Some useful conversation emerged from yesterday's post about rampant public stupidity! Pretty much all of the exchanges came via facebook, where my blog automatically posts a little later in the day. So, if you're reading "A Life Examined" directly, rather than via your status as a facebook friend, then you've been missing some excellent comments (as well as the occasional "What were they thinking?" post).

So today I'm picking up from yesterday's comments. Here's the relevant part of the thread:
  • M.L. - "...Well, that does say something about religion if religion is supposedly necessary to be moral and good."
  • E.P. - "Ah wait; necessary ... probably, but sufficient? Certainly not."
We've talked about this topic before, but it simply won't go away. Just because I'm connecting with a deeper truth doesn't mean everyone else is going to climb on board (or anyone at all) - especially if they don't want to. For many people, holding on to incorrect information about faith is too important to walk away from simply because they are exposed to a new way of thinking. In fact, elective ignorance is one of our more serious national maladies.

"Religion" is simply a system created by people in order to - among many other things - understand, channel, contain, facilitate, utilize, communicate, harness, grasp, or codify the particular journey they are on.

Religion is also used - too often - to control other people, abuse power, advance personal desire, manipulate emotion, amass wealth, strong-arm governments, deceive... etc. etc.

Some of what's involved in religion is in all likelihood "necessary" in terms of the process, the "getting some kind of a handle on faith" part of the seeking-God equation. But religion itself is not faith. Religion, as E.P. points out above, is nowhere near "sufficient".

This computer, by way of illustration, is necessary in order for me to engage in my daily interaction with a wide range of people via email, my webpage, facebook, this blog... and a host of other media. But the computer is by no means sufficient. I understood that clearly the other week, when an eager gardener cut the fiber-optic cable outside my study window! I could type and click and program to my hearts content - but be no closer to reaching any of you than before.

The computer is simply a tool, employed in service of a less easy to define reality - the the real connection between me and you, and the possibility of meaningful communication.

By faith I am a Jesus-follower. I am a disciple of Christ. My experience of Christianity as a religion has provided a framework that supports that relationship - for the most part - beautifully.

The Christian Religion has many and various incarnations - some more helpful than others. "Christianity" has been presented to the world in many guises, many of which have contributed heavily to the misunderstandings and the hostility that is rampant today.

But Jesus did not come to this earth to start a religion. Jesus put it this way in Luke 19:10 - "The Son of Man came to look for and to save people who are lost."

When I follow Jesus, he shows me the way; I'm not lost any more. Jesus-followers in New Testament times were also called "Followers of The Way."

So let's get off this "Religion is supposedly necessary to be moral and good" nonsense. Jesus didn't say that; I'm not saying it; it's not true.

I'm saying religion is not sufficient.

I'm saying this: "Follow Jesus and become people of The Way".

I'm saying it's not about religion, it's about Jesus.

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