Tuesday, July 26, 2011

No Religion, just Jesus

That was the line under "Religious Views" on a friend's (well, friend of a friend) profile page on Facebook the other day. I see this a lot, where Christians try to divorce their faith from the word religion. It is really just semantics.

I encountered this was a few years ago when a friend, a committed christian, was telling me about Mark Driscoll, the popular pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. "He really hates religion" he said. I was instantly wary. Somehow I didn't think this guy held the disgust for religion in the same way, oh, Hitchens or Maher does.

Later on in the blogosphere I came across a guy claiming that Christianity is not a religion (although, curiously, atheism is). His claim was that it's not a religion, it's a relationship with Christ.

This is not something terribly new. I think I first read this line of reasoning in Ron Carlson's book Fast Facts on False Teachings where he more or less explicitly states that christianity is not a religion - taking care to set it apart from 'man's' religions (if for some reason you wind up reading it, its in chapter 4, Buddhism)

What to make of this? It is not too difficult to see through the word games these people are playing. The idea is to separate Christianity from the word religion which comes with all kinds of baggage and whatnot that presumably is just fluff and impedes ones true christian faith. What they mean by religion is all the ritual and 'churchy' fluff that many associate with modern christianity now - none of that has any business of getting down to getting right with Christ. It's kind of a PR thing that says 'hey this isn't religion, it's Christianity' as if that is something totally different. I have to wonder if any adherents of other religions do this. "It's not a religion, it's a relationship with Allah"...

I dislike it because it's subtly (well, not that subtle) deceptive and also plain wrong. I have no tolerance for the misuse of wording or introducing verbal ambiguity to make one's point. They are basically using the word religion to mean all the other religions and worldviews besides their own, as well as the excess ritual and baggage christianity has accumulated over the years. But no, what they practice is not religion, but a relationship with Christ - all the while consciously ignoring that the commonly agreed-upon definition of the word includes this too. The ironic thing is that if only they were more articulate they could make the point honestly instead.

Sorry Jesus, looks like any relationship I might have with you is still a religion...

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