It has become fashionable these days to bad mouth “religion”. In fact it is common. And it seems that everywhere I turn I find brothers and sisters in the faith advising one another not to be religious. They tell me: “Religion is the problem”, “Give me Jesus; keep your religion”, “Don’t let religion destroy your faith in Jesus”.
How did religion get such a bad name?
I don’t really know. I am quite certain Jesus did not preach a sermon instructing his disciples to ditch their religion. (I am picturing Jesus at the door of the church dressed like an old-west sheriff stripping gunslingers of their guns and pointing to the sign on the door that says: No Religion Allowed – City Ordinance”!) But of course there is not one single instance, paragraph, or verse in the Bible where St. Paul, Jesus, or Almighty God – The Father – ever instructs us that “religion is the problem”. So, really I am not sure where this notion comes from.
I sense that my brothers and sisters in the faith create such a picture in their minds when they consider various conflicts Jesus and his disciples have with Pharisees, and then they view the Pharisees as “legalists” (a term the Bible does not use or recognize) because they hold so strongly to God’s God-given Law and expect would-be messiahs to measure up to it, and then the brothers and sisters in the faith somehow lump this broken notion of “legalism” together with the term “religion” in a deeply uncritical way, while forcing it to dance in the conflicts Jesus has with those gun-slinging Pharisees. Then when you listen to good pop songs such as “Losing My Religion” or rock bands called “Bad Religion”, and you make statements like “religion is the problem”, it just SEEMS like everyone knows what you are talking about.
And then you seem cool in front of your friends too.
Perhaps I am wrong about that. But I suspect religion gets such a bad name in just about that way. And then bad mouthing religion becomes trendy as a Jesus-Fish bumper sticker. Or maybe as trendy, even unbiblical actually, as the ridiculously Proud Jesus-Fish/American-Flag I posted on a few months ago! (Yeah… How’s that for irony?)
Let’s get back to Pure Religion
I would like to start a campaign to reclaim religion for Jesus… thoughtful, careful, biblical – PURE RELIGION. St. James actually defines it for us:
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
James 1:27 ESV
Not only will we tidy up a lot of sloppy thinking we inherit from pop Christian culture, but we will then get back to the business of caring for orphans and widows (and sojourners while we are at it), a ministry near and dear to the heart of Jesus and Fat Beggars School of Prophets, and while we are at it let us keep ourselves unstained from the world too! At least let us strive for it. And let it be the religion God wants!