The Problem Isn’t ‘Religion’

It’s me.

It’s you.

It’s all of us.

I’ve been trying to come up with a response to the “Why I Hate Religion, but Love Jesus” video that’s been making the rounds on Facebook. (I’ve already linked to one person’s response on my FB page.) Each time, I wasn’t sure what to say that hasn’t been said by more capable writers.

But today, I want to expand on something Joe Heschmeyer wrote, because at Shameless Popery, he diagnoses the problem perfectly:

These critiques always sound a similar chord: the problem in Christianity is always other people.  They’re the ones not living the Faith out right.  They’re the hypocritical sinners.  Of course we’re not to blame.

The rest of his post is worth reading, but these few lines illustrate the problem with the “religion vs. relationship” discussion:

The problems of the church are always due to someone else.

In every conversation in which I’ve heard Christians complain about “religious” people, I’ve never once heard those Christians examine their lives and question whether they might be part of the reason the church isn’t more welcoming to gays or has such a bad reputation among outsiders.

Instead, experience has taught me that the anti-“religionists” are more focused on blaming modern Pharisees for our problems instead of looking at the cracks in their own lives.

“They live by the law. We live by grace.”

“They care about their religion. We have a relationship.”

It’s always “they” who are the problem.

Never “we.”

(Wasn’t that part of Jesus’ problem with the hypocritical spiritual leaders of his day?)

With all the focus on “them,” it’s easy to develop a sense of spiritual superiority. Blaming “them” provides a quick way to wash one’s hands of the crimes of “religion.” It’s also an efficient method for ignoring one’s own depravity.

If you’re a Christian, then you’re part of the church. Unless you’ve attained perfection in this lifetime, then you are a part of the reason why the church doesn’t live up to the law of love established by Christ.

The solution isn’t finger-pointing.

It’s repentance–something for which no amount of “religion” bashing can ever serve as a substitute.


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