Pure Religion

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”.

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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!

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5 comments

  1. T. F. Thompson · January 7

    No, Jesus didn’t speak of legalism as such, but did emphasize the act or ritual over the authenticity of intent: we see this with the public prayer to be seen as righteous and those also who loved him with their lips and not their hearts.
    There is nothing genuine in a ritual, unless the person is genuine in what they do: this of course, involves motives.
    Our First Baptist Church here in downtown Jacksonville made a name for themselves way back in the 60s. Their doors were open for all even late at night. This was the only church to do so and that’s how they got so big.
    However, now that they are established and ‘big’, so big they even own 10 full blocks of prime real estate in downtown Jacksonville, have a congregation of thousands, yet now the buildings are locked solid.
    They do not want that same group in now that they are established.
    The building sports a large ‘Lighthouse’ houses an active ATM in the narthex and naturally has the tithe sheet right there in the pews. This is pushed on those first comers.
    Consequently, this is so much as other churches. Once they are established, they are more concerned with keeping themselves established and lose the very reason why they started to begin with. Any institution is as such.
    Next thing you know: with a small ‘love offering’ over about $39.00 they have a dvd or cd or tape or book or any other corporate marketing gimmick to get your money. This all sucks and the secular world knows it.
    Yes, Jesus didn’t tell anyone to drop their religion, but he didn’t have anything good to say about the religious leaders either: Mostly he called them snakes and vipers or children of the devil. Otherwise, I guess he was okay with them.
    Remember now, the common ordinary people weren’t even allowed to touch the priest: most poor people were prevented entry into the temple at all.
    So then, probably the heart doesn’t have ‘religion’. I say this because religion is doctrine. Naturally, the heart can respond and react to doctrine, but mostly we do so because of our own desires. At times, our desires may be good, but other times, no. If we coordinate our lust with the world, then we are only lip servants to the Lord. If we pattern ourselves after Jesus, I believe we are led by the spirit and thus, our hearts are made right and that also is followed by Godly action. This is only some of my thoughts on this, but I guess it more or less provides the outline. “You possess the keys to the kingdom of heaven and neither will you go in or permit others…” I hope this is not us.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Debi · January 10

    Religion, as it exists today, is a tough thing to swallow for me. When I came back to God, I didn’t even want to call myself a Christian, for fear of being guilty by association. I’m talking about the religion and “Christianity” that has been highjacked by politics and those who love only the power they can gather while claiming to be Christian. I still prefer to call myself a follower of Jesus.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agent X · January 10

      I am so embarrassed by my brothers and sisters in the faith, EVERY DAY. and my favorite bumper sticker is that one that says, “Dear God, Save me from your followers!” Wish I had it on my car!!!

      But you know what? I am stuck with them. And Jesus died for them … “Forgive them, Father, they know not what they do…” That is the ugly side of love – loving the unlovable (and to me, that looks like Republican voting jerks who strap on guns to go shopping for a loaf of bread and who sit next to me in the communion service, but for some of them that looks like the homeless bum on the corner struggling with addiction and arthritis and the memories of an abusive father). There really is no doubt in my mind which one is the better, but I am not the judge and I don’t get to wiggle out of bearing my shame of them right along with that bums. – the ugly side of love, alright.

      Somehow they give “religion” a bad name, but you know what? I was listening to my old CD collection the other day and put in a handful of old U2 CD’s. One of them does a cover of the Beatles’ Helter Skelter in a live recording. The song opens with Bono saying, “Charles Manson stole this song from the Beatles; we are stealing it back!” Does that statement make sense to you? Not sure I can explain it to my 9 year old, but it makes sense to me. And “Religion” – the term and the concept – is kinda like that… in a similar category. There is nothing wrong with RELIGION, nothing at all. Certainly not Pure Religion that James 1:27 speaks of. In fact it comes VERY NEAR to being a sense of taking care of the homeless!!!

      Either something else has been posing as religion, and you are free to go after that, or we need to reclaim the word and deed(s) that have wrongly been hijacked.

      Hope that makes sense.

      Thanx so much for your response and your care.

      X

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Debi · January 11

    I must agree with you. That’s why I am once again embracing the “label” of Christian for myself. It’s also why I started the facebook page I’ve mentioned before (Jesus House Western Maryland), why I read your blog (and others), and why I seek others who are followers of Jesus while loving and praying for the ones whom I blamed for sending me packing from God to begin with. ♥

    Like

  4. akirahs · March 10

    I think its not what was written that went wrong…but what was read .
    Jesus was never born a Christian…Christians are his followers…and Christianity as we see now was build by “great” efforts of Paul, Constantine and Church.. Just like every other religions,what started as an obligation turned mandatory and forced….thats where “lambs lost their way”…
    A great literary work like Holy Bible was read,re read,re interpreted,twisted and exploited…A true christian shouldnt listen to words but should read them…I think people in past had taken a great toil to translate the text from latin or herbrew..
    Whether the ever forgiving ‘father’ exhiled His children from paradise or not…whether the almighty asked an angel to bow infront of human(man i mean) or not.. Holy verses have their own power in a believer’s life…it could be used as a soothing balm and a dangerous weapon.its what they chose n read that mattered…once the mirror is plagued…reflection will be corrupted

    Like

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