Wow. It has been a while. You think when you start a blog you will write every week or maybe even every day but Life has other ideas. You get busy. An angry woman named Sandy storms through your life. You go on a short vacation. And suddenly you turn around and realize you haven’t written anything in the last three weeks. Then you start to feel a pressure about writing and the Muse takes leave of you (my Muse is named Victoria and she HATES pressure of any sort). So here I am having been internet speechless for nearly a month!
Today’s topic is religion, and I’ll try to keep it short and sweet. My background is church ministry and those who heard my sermons for years know that “short and sweet” can be a challenge for me–at least the short part. But I do hope I can be sweet at least.
A recent conversation with a loved one prompted a comment that I “can’t invent my own religion” (at least that is a close summation). That was a thought that I just haven’t been able to let go. It has fermented and fizzed in my brain for several weeks now and whether the result is fine wine or cheap I will let you be the judge of.
My gut response to such a thought is that EVERYONE invents their own religion. Literally. Unless you accept every single thought of some religious teacher then you DO invent your own religion. It may be tucked safely inside the framework of some established faith or it may be a smorgasbord of several belief systems but if you maintain any independent judgment you will invent your own religion to fit your life. Now you may feel “led” by Something Greater in this invention but make no mistake–there are no “pure” Christians or Muslims or Jews or Buddhists or Hindus–we all pick and choose a bit based on factors too numerous for me to mention here. So on one level it seems to me impossible not to invent one’s own religion to some degree.
Now, I do need to explain that at this point I’m using the word “religion” rather loosely. I’m using it as a virtual synonym for “worldview” or “belief system”. Everybody–including atheists–have one. We all make judgments about what is real and of value and what our lives are about. We all decide if we believe in a god or gods or The God or no god at all. We all make decisions about right and wrong, even if those decisions are largely subconscious. In other words, religion in that sense is unavoidable.
But of course, “religion” has a much more specific meaning in general usage. In that sense it means what “brand” do you accept? Do you follow Moses or Jesus or Mohammed or the Buddha or one of a myriad other systems? What rituals do you follow? What knowledge or action is required to be enlightened or saved? Or do you reject them all and believe that we are basically random accumulations of atoms floating in a meaningless universe?
It is at this point I must make what will be a shocking confession to some–I claim no religion, nor do I want to establish one or invent my own. I have a faith in Jesus, but I am coming to see just how irreligious of a figure he was, and my faith in him is often at odds with the institutional religion of “Christianity”. He doesn’t speak about religion and is frequently at odds with people who are religious. He often uses religious people as bad examples not to be followed. And his disdain of what we call religion made him quite unpopular with the religious–especially those who considered themselves leaders among the religious. In the end it got him killed in the physical sense. People don’t like it when you mess with their religion. They will metaphorically kill you or even actually kill you if social mores allow it.
Before anyone’s feathers get too ruffled let me say that I am going to develop these thought further in future posts and please don’t think I personally am judging anyone or denying that many times people who style themselves “religious” do good things and help others. The last thing I want to do is set myself up as a the judge of anyone. In fact, that is exactly what religions tend to do. They tend to supplant God and take it upon themselves to decide who is in and who is out and who is good and who is bad.
Tonight I just want to plant a seed–the idea that Jesus was not religious nor did he come to establish a religion. In fact, he came to free people from the shackles of what is commonly understood to be religion. He came to help good things grow inside us and wanted his followers to do the same. I think for a while they did. Then unfortunately the simple way of following Jesus became obscured by a new religion established in his name. The Way of the Spirit was supplanted by the way of the letter. The Way of love by the way of ritual. The rest is history, and it is a sad history–persecution, crusade, slavery, genocide–all in the name of God. No wonder the unbelievers often roll their eyes and turn away. We have gotten in the way of Jesus. I have gotten in the way of Jesus. At least my religion has. So I renounce it, and pray and hope that it will be replaced by something far better.