I wish Peter Faulk were still living and wearing his crumbled Colombo trench coat. I would love to hear him approach a church leader at a convention and say, “Excuse me, sir. Just one more question. Did Jesus come to start a religion?”
Good question, detective.
Religions have their sets of beliefs to cling to and that is their condensed version of truth. It’s how they make sense of things. If you believe them, you’re in and if you don’t, you’re out. The religious disparage those who don’t hold their beliefs. Historically, and even currently, some religions ostracize, persecute, torture, or kill those who differ.
Religions have their buildings as a place for the faithful to gather. They are led by their ordained and trained leaders. They have their rituals they perform that generally only have meaning to the initiated. Religions have all of these things and more which they regard as sanctified, separate from the rest of the world and sacrosanct, above criticism.
I just don’t see Jesus in this. These are things all religions have in common, including Christianity.
My problem with the religion of Christianity is that it is set apart from the rest of life. When I say the word Christianity, you immediately think of church buildings, pastors, offerings, sermons, and worship services, all of which are detached from regular life. Did Jesus die for that?
Jesus was a rebel. The church is producing mild-mannered clones.
Jesus went after the religious big shots with guns a blazing because they took advantage of people in the name of religion and they heaped guilt and expectations upon them, while continuing their own piteous act.
He didn’t complain about the government, which was horribly cruel and corrupt. He focused his scathing comments on his own (religious) house.
He went everywhere he wasn’t supposed to go and hung out with everyone he wasn’t supposed to associate with. He had compassion upon those who were pushed to the fringes of society and focused on those who others ignored. He broke barriers.
He never preached an expository sermon in his life. He told stories. People learned the ways of Jesus by traveling with him.
He loved children. He went to parties. I think he probably told jokes, danced, and drank wine.
He spoke of freedom and practiced forgiveness. He set people free. That’s what I want. Sheesh! What a contrast between Jesus and the religion of Christianity. Here is what drives me nuts about our understanding of Christianity. It is separate from life.
Jesus didn’t come to begin another religion. He came to restore our relationship with God and show us how to live. The way of Jesus is something woven and integrated into the very fabric of life. It is not a Sunday thing. It is a 24-7 thing. It is not high and mighty, sanctified and sacrosanct. It is down and dirty
Somehow, I don’t think our magnificent church structures, auditoriums, state of the art sound and projection systems, slick, packaged programs, impressive speakers and musicians are what Jesus had in mind for his followers. I look at all of that stuff and ask myself, is that what he died for? I believe he has something far more personal and transformational in mind.
He is with me when I am loving writing this book, and when I wonder why I am spending all of these lonely hours on such an iffy project. He is with me when my wife and I realize we are deeply in love after 38 years of marriage, and when we are ticked off with each other. He is with me when I talk with my Calvinist, but wonderfully congenial neighbor or my other neighbor who has a terminal lung disease. He is the reason I care, because I tend to be too selfish and focused on my personal to-do-list to care much about others. He is with me when I sat in a funeral crying with my wife when each of her parents died. He is the reason I want to get it right as my parents are in their later years and have lots of needs and issues.
My whole journey has been to find something real, something that works.
It is something that has led me down a rabbit hole that I didn’t want to look in. It caused me to question almost every spiritual thought and belief I have ever had. It caused me to turn away from anything I thought was less than authentic and find out that God was right there in the midst of this crazy search because he was everywhere.
How does the church shift toward a faith that is stripped down, integrated into all of life, down and dirty, rebellious and real? Well, there is a lot of work to be done.
I believe that honesty and the Holy Spirit are traveling companions. So, honesty is an excellent place to begin. Someone needs to stand up and say, we don’t have it all figured out. We value you and living in the way of Jesus more than trying to build an organization. If you don’t believe like the rest of us and have a lot of questions, that’s okay. You’re safe here. Fire away with your questions. We are going to simplify our schedule so you have time to live out the Gospel with the people in your own world. Let’s learn how to live and love in the way of Jesus. We are going to starve religion and feed life.
– An excerpt from my book, An Irreligion Faith