Religious Religion

I have been taking a bit of flack for my negative use of the terms “religion” and “religious” in my various writings – calling it a counterfeit to faith and/or a man-made version of the faith of Christ. Of course, every bit of flack (without exception) has come from “churched” folks, while “un-churched” folks simply affirm the sentiment of the negativity of being “religious” and especially of “religion.” Nevertheless, I will, here, explain my negative use of the terms, which, by-the-way, is derived from the Scriptures and the history of the church (which history, ironically, is the main flack supporting “religion” and being “religious”).

Unlike many who speak negatively of religion I am not an anti-traditionalist. I believe firmly in the traditions of the faith – particularly the orthodoxy of the first three centuries which, by the way, also rejected any form of religion that sets itself over against pure faith. The Middle Ages brought more religion than faith (though, it can be argued that it was out of necessity; which necessity is no longer relevant, today), and the Reformers of the 16th century reinstituted faith as the norm, but with “Christianity” still in power it proved much too difficult to shake the bonds of “religiosity.” Not until the present age, where Christianity is no longer the superpower, is the ground fertile once again for the sowing of a religion-less faith; that faith that is without a set culture, an accepted norm, a perverted “sameness” called oneness.

In the Scriptures the word “religious” is scarcely used (Acts 17:22 and James 1:26). In both accounts the word is used in a negative context. The word “religion” is used a few more times (Acts 25:19; 26:5; Col. 2:23; James 1:26-27). At best the term is used neutrally, and in Paul’s use it is exclusively used as a counterfeit to the established form of worship by God. There are many allusions to this “religious religion” in Paul’s letters. Nearly all of Paul’s adversaries were adherents to a religion that was but a ghostly form of true faith (2Tim. 3:5). This is the so-called “gospel” of “another” Christ (Gal. 1:6-9) and the “Jesus” of “another gospel” (2Cor. 11:4). Paul clearly explains that this counterfeit is not really another gospel, but a perversion of the true Good News. At its root, the Greek word for both “religion” and “religious” speaks of superstitions; not in the sense of black cats and walking under ladders, but in a ceremonial, sacramental, ritualistic sense that replaces (rather than enhances) the unadulterated faith.

Could the issue (on behalf of the churched folks) with my negative use of “religion” be because the faith of which I speak (that is over against religion) is that of the un-churched? Paul plainly states that “his gospel” was the Good News that did not come from the religious norm of the times (Gal. 1:11). His Good News was for “the Gentiles” – the un-churched, today (Gal. 2:2, 7). I, personally, in the strictest sense, am not religious. I claim not the “superstitions” of the Church as my own. The rituals of religion are not mine. The sacraments are but temporal signs to me. I care nothing for the ceremonialism of pomp and pleasantry. What I do claim is the faith of Christ in Christ. I call my own the sheer logic of the Resurrection life of Christ, and it alone. To me concrete reality trumps sacramental shadows. It is the total and complete lack of hypocrisy to which I subscribe.

Do with that what you have to…

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