In Luke chapter 11 Jesus is railing against the religious leaders for not only refusing to enter into knowledge themselves, but also for refusing to let the people they’re supposed to be leading to enter therein (VS 52). In his letter to the Romans (chapter 2), Paul argues the same point and then concludes, “The name of God is slandered because of you” (VS 24), which is a loose translation of the account where God through Isaiah is making the same argument (Is. 52:5). The first charge against the church that I receive from those who are Un-churched is that of hypocrisy. The second charge, ignorance. And the third, controlling. Whether or not these charges are exaggerated in their explanations the point is valid, as a rule many Christians are not expressing a loving faith of Good News, but a conquering religion of fear.
Though they speak not only against Christianity, and despite the fact that we usually write their kind off as rebellious pagan unbelievers, we can learn a lot (in light of the Scriptures quoted above) from the Un-churched and the “non-believers.” One of my favorite bands has a song that goes like this: “They speak of love and tolerance…but thrive on people’s ignorance…making them all slaves of fear. They feed on your anxiety to build their dead society…They nurture prejudice and hate…in the name of whatever god. Increasing power is their price. They’re feeding you lies with calculating smiles, enslavement of the human mind. As long as you kneel to their authority, religion is what makes you blind. They treat you as spineless fools and use you as obedient tools….it’s time to set your spirits free. Your minds are enslaved…they’ve locked you up and thrown away the key.” ~ Amon Amarth, Slaves of Fear (Surtur Rising ©2011)
Another example from another of my favorites is more subtle: “What pain will it take to satisfy your sick appetite? Go in for the kill. Always in sight. Pray! The time always right. Feast! Feed on the pain. Taste! Sorrow made flesh. Sweet! …Shallow are words from those who starve for a dream not their own to slash and scar. Big words, small mind. Behind the pain you will find a scavenger of human sorrow. Scavenger! Abstract theory, the weapon of choice used by a scavenger of human sorrow. Scavenger! So you have traveled far across the sea to spread your written brand of misery.” ~ Death, Scavenger of Human Sorrow (The Sound of Perseverance ©1999)
In my conversations with folks (like the members of these bands), they associate God with our expression of Him and their reception (rather, the lack thereof) of our expression. They do not understand faith (and cannot without faith), but relate any involvement with any god as “religion.” Thus, relating religion to enslavement of hypocrisy, ignorance, and control. While these descriptors do not paint an accurate picture of faith – the relationship that Christ has instituted – they do bring to bear a valid interpretation of damaging religions that counterfeit such faith. To these folks, Christianity (along with any other religion paying homage to every other god) is simply a man-made institution that seeks to enslave and otherwise capture the helpless and hopeless of society.
As noted above, faith is not understood without faith, but the life we live in faith can be easily understood by believers and unbelievers, alike, if it is what we in fact portray, and not the dreaded religion of our own making. In the Scriptures above the accusation by Paul, Jesus Christ, and God Himself is against religion that counterfeits faith, precisely. No doubt, unbelievers are responsible for the natural revelation of God that they oppose (Rom. 1:18-20), but we are accountable for not giving witness of that revelation to them as well. Making disciples of the church is hereby in question. Making disciples of Jesus Christ is the inarguable purpose of the church. The argument herewith: Religion is what killed Christ (Matt. 27:20); Faith is for what He died (Rom. 3:25).