Religion really upsets me…. It’s like offering bread to a thirsty soul, directions for the nearest beach to a prisoner in a cell, or inviting someone fighting for their life in intensive care to play golf. It’s not funny and yet the awkward little secret is that it’s the spirituality of choice to the vast majority of ‘Christians’. Those who profess no faith are very religious as well…. But that’s another topic J
Oh I know that a common retort is to agree that the church is full of hypocrites and has caused us such disillusionment that ‘we don’t go any more’. “I believe in God but I prefer to worship him when I’m fishing, or hiking, or doing whatever it is I like to do.” Another pastime amongst many ‘believers’ is to regard spirituality and even ‘following Jesus’ as some entertainment opportunity or shopping spree. Pop in here and visit there, like this, don’t like them, not my style, oh that was quite moving, irritated by this, can’t stand that… don’t think they should allow that… and so it goes.
Religion is where we get to determine how we relate to God, and perfect the art of believing in him (according to how we determine he is of course) while conducting our lives exactly as we please. We become the hypocrites we despise. As we defend our actions and the revelation of our duplicity we lash out in anger at those who dare challenge us, or even worse expose our naked unbelief and our clinging to power, control, and empty rituals.
We protest almost to the point of violence and reading an article like this makes our blood boil….. Then we do something or splutter obscenities in the heat of the moment – because truth is not a light we’re used to when it shines on us. Absolutely, we demand honesty and integrity from others…. Until in complying with our wishes we come face to face with an honest conversation with ‘them’…. Because integrity demands that they talk with us about our attitude.
What happens when such a conversation occurs? Religion rises up again in anger. Instead of weighing what is exposed it lashes out, furiously denying complicity and accuses the truth-teller with stabbing vitriolic phrases about motives and personality flaws in the one with the courage to speak. Tempers boil, someone lets rip with a right hook and when the turmoil subsides blood flows and the smell of death fills the air.
Facing down religion and truth, anger, denial, blood spilled….. that’s awfully similar to the events of Good Friday.
The weird thing is that religion is so sophisticated and so deeply afflicted that it can even take Easter, the resurrection of Jesus, and the good news of God’s loving delight in us – and emasculate the freedom into another ritual. The bloody event of the crucifixion was intended to open the door to a dynamic relationship with God whom Jesus revealed as an incredibly tender, powerful, and cool Father. Go to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem today and you will discover religion has regained control and composure…. Transforming Golgotha (the place of the crucifixion) and the empty tomb (the site most eloquently celebrating victory over death and religion) into shrines and religious symbols for the great unwashed to visit under the careful scrutiny of men in cassocks.
Relationship with the non-religious God demands living in the light of truth where the first thing I acknowledge is my default love affair with control and religion. After that revelation and change of heart I can also share in the non-religious celebration of Easter… “Father thank you for forgiving me, I had no idea what I was doing….”
Imagine God and Jesus alive today, sitting right beside you now…. his arm is around you and he/they whisper another truth into your heart and spirit. A truth you long to hear but never quite believe is for you… He calls you by name…. “Wanna dance?” You pull back, that’s not how God speaks you protest (religion is deeply embedded)…. but maybe it is….. The revelation changed my life, began healing in my heart, and even tho’ I invariably get the steps wrong and tread on his toes…. the music is great and he doesn’t seem to mind one bit that I’m not perfect. His delight he insists is that we are dancing….. it’s all he ever wanted… I’m not very good but it sure beats religion…. oh dear, the older brothers are protesting outside that the music’s too loud, and the laughter is offensive, and I’m not wearing the right clothes, and for God’s sake follow the book – who do you think you are conversing with God as if he were your ‘buddy’…..
May your Easter be filled with revelation – a real encounter with a wonderfully passionate friend who lights up the room wherever he’s welcome….. and if you’ve been like me, religious and a grumpy older brother, step inside… it’s warmer and much more fulfilling…. worth a little humility and risk-taking….