Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘It’s Not About ‘Religion’’ Category

Elton John is being too kind here. The reality is, “organized religion” absolutely, overwhelmingly does not work.

In fact, “organized religion” is so wildly unsuccessful that just putting those two words together causes a negative reaction in people like me.

Because I follow Jesus Christ — whom serious Christians believe is the divine Son of God — you might not understand. Aren’t people like me all about “religion”? In a word, NO.

Serious followers of Christ have zero interest in “religion” because it does exactly what Elton John says. Religious people seem addicted to:

  • harshly opposing anyone who doesn’t agree with them
  • judging others based on horribly superficial criteria like clothing, body jewelry, language and political positions
  • ignoring or downplaying their own weaknesses
  • isolating themselves from the world, instead of working to improve it

Where does this all lead? So often, it leads to religious people concluding that because they’re right, everyone else is wrong. It’s a pretty short trip from that conclusion to persecuting those “wrong” people.

Unfortunately, history overflows with horrifying examples of that thinking, from Christians rioting against Jews in the Middle Ages to present-day Islamic terrorists murdering Christians, Jews and anyone else who opposes their radical agenda.

There you have it; the hateful lemmings of “organized religion”.

Now let me advance to you the position of Jesus Christ. In his book The End of Religion, Bruxy Cavey notes that in the Bible, Jesus “is not portrayed as the founder of a world religion, but the challenger of all religions. I am not suggesting that Jesus opposes all forms of organization, but that he opposes dependence on any one organization for our connection with God.”

Bruxy, a Canadian pastor, goes on to make this statement: “the primary mission of Jesus was to tear down religion as the foundation for people’s connection with God and to replace it with himself.”

Exactly. Being a Christian is not about being part of a religion. It’s about establishing a relationship with the Son of God through prayer, reading the Bible and attending church. As that relationship deepens, Christ followers open their heart, minds and souls to being led by Jesus to a place where we:

  1. Come to understand and support God’s position that all people, from terrorists to politicians, from blue-collar workers to billionaires, are worthy of His passionate love.
  2. Humbly agree that no one has the inside track on virtue; everyone has “sinned” — that is, missed the mark of what we can be — and that by following Jesus, God can and does change that through radical forgiveness.
  3. Recognize that we are Christ’s loving ambassadors in a world that most of us will agree is not doing very well. In fact, as Christ’s ambassadors, Christians are really God’s agents of change — allowing Him to work through us to make this planet a better place.

Do you want to be one of God’s agents of change? Yes or no, share your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

Read Full Post »

When I saw this meme, helpfully posted in an atheism community, it instantly grabbed my attention because most of us, me included, don’t really know who believes in Heaven.

So I did some research. According to Wikipedia:

Buddhists seem to believe Heaven is a temporary illusionary reality (though, to be honest, it’s hard to nail down exactly what Buddhism teaches in this respect).

Hindus believe Heaven is a place of eternal, sublime beauty for liberated souls, but it’s not Hinduism’s final pursuit. Like Buddhism (from which it springs), I find it’s difficult to discern an exact Hindu concept of Heaven.

Sikhs believe “Heaven and Hell are not places for living hereafter, they are part of spiritual topography of man and do not exist otherwise.”

Jews — at least the orthodox strain — believe Heaven is part of a three-level universe; it’s above, Earth is in the middle and the underworld is the realm of the dead.

Muslims believe Heaven is an afterlife in Eden for those who do good deeds.

So, in this way, the graphic meme has a good point: others besides Christians believe they could be going to Heaven when this life ends.

So why do most serious Christians (who believe Jesus Christ is the divine Son of God) believe that Heaven — the dwelling place of God, His angels, His Son and all truly committed followers of Jesus — is only open to those who proclaim Christ as Lord and Saviour?

The answer is simple: Serious Christians believe in what the Bible says and in it (a section on Jesus’s life called ‘John’), Jesus tells people “I am the way, the truth, and the life. The only way to the Father is through me”.

Is that exclusionary? In one sense, absolutely. In another sense, absolutely not. Anyone can accept God’s gift of Jesus Christ — His miracles and teaching, His dying on a cross to make up for the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do, and His resurrection from the dead.

All these things are taught in the Bible and there’s plenty of evidence to back up the key elements of Christ’s life. (Visit http://www.carm.org or http://www.ReasonableFaith.org and read the evidence for yourself.)

The key thing is — and this is the best news you’re ever going to read — it doesn’t matter if you’ve ignored God and His Son up ’til now. It doesn’t matter if you’ve followed another faith or guru. It doesn’t matter if you’ve committed evil for which you can’t forgive yourself. All of it becomes secondary when you believe in Christ and dedicate your life to following Him.

If you’ve done that, then all of Heaven is yours. And that Heaven, which includes an intimate relationship with God through His Son, starts right now, in THIS life.

Interested? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

Read Full Post »

Religion badWhy did I save this graphic after first seeing it in an atheist community? Because I can do better.

Yes, “religion” offers false hope for the poor. Yes, “religion” offers pretend wisdom for the stupid.

But it also offers opportunities to be judgemental. Hard-hearted. Unforgiving. Obsessed with keeping irrelevant rules. Unloving of anyone outside the “religious” group.

Had enough? I certainly have. That’s why I’ll always stand up, with any member of the atheist world, and declare that “religion” is downright horrible.

Before I go any further, let me clarify: the “religion” I’m referring to is what most of our culture generally thinks of when they hear the word. NOT the dictionary definition.

Let me move you on to something far more life-affirming, soul-enhancing and character-building: faith. In this case, faith in Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians believe is the divine Son of God.

Jesus had as much interest in “religion” as you, me and the creator of the meme that inspired this blog. In other words, ZERO.

During His physical time on earth, Jesus spent much of his time opposing the dominant religious authorities in ancient Israel. In ‘Matthew’, one of the four Bible accounts of Jesus’ physical life, he notes “They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden”.

Yep. Nailed it.

So what about faith – in this case, faith in Jesus? Now we’re talking about something entirely different. We’re talking about:

  • Understanding who God is – the perfect and mysterious creator of time, space and the universe.
  • Understanding who we are – horribly imperfect people who can never live up to God’s standard of perfection.
  • Understanding who Jesus is – God’s absolutely perfect love GIFT to everyone who is willing to believe in Him and follow Him above everyone and everything else.

When you understand this and accept the gift of Jesus, you also understand that you no longer have to live up to God’s standard of perfection because Jesus paid the penalty for everything wrong you’ve ever done and everything right you’ve ever failed to do.

Finally, when you understand all this, you’ll want to become more like Jesus. You’ll want to be more generous and less selfish, more compassionate and less judgemental, more concerned about others and less preoccupied with yourself.

This is all part of the miracle that happens when you cast aside the priorities of our culture and make Jesus your priority. It’s a life-long process of change and growth that doesn’t end until you’re finished with this life and start your next life – eternity in the transforming, glorious presence of your Creator.

Interested? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

Read Full Post »

divisionI do love all those times — and you’d be surprised how many there are — when I, a man of faith, want to high-five atheists.

When I discovered this atheist graphic (please, people, PROOFREAD the memes you generate before posting them), I certainly wanted to find the creator and tell him or her how much I appreciate this quote.

“Religion” divides people by ranking them, declaring some are better than others based on behaviour and adherence to group-think.

“Religion” controls people by declaring they must follow a long list of rules, most of which are gloriously petty and irrelevant to the big questions of life, death and eternity.

“Religion” deludes people by insisting they can earn their way into some sort of eternity with a creator if they only do enough good stuff, think enough ‘right’ thoughts and be enough of the kind of person that will win others’ approval.

I want nothing to do with “religion” because it has almost nothing to do with God.

“There is a difference, an important difference, between relating to God through doctrines, codes of conduct, inherited traditions, and relating to God directly, soul-to-soul, mind-to-mind, heart-to-heart,” writes pastor Bruxy Cavey in The End of Religion.

“Jesus [Christ, whom serious Christians believe is God’s Divine Son] taught this distinction, lived this message and was killed because of its implications.”

Does Jesus divide people? Absolutely. His message of love, acceptance and being a necessary intermediary between imperfect people and a perfect God split families and couples 2,000 years ago and it continues to do so today.

In fact, following Jesus and trusting that His sacrificial death makes up for all the wrong things I’ve done and all the right things I’ve failed to do has divided me from the rest of my biological family.

I’m not happy about this divide, but I’ve come to know that following Jesus is the most important thing I can do in this life and in the life to come.

Does Jesus control people? In a way, yes. When you trust in Him and commit yourself to seriously following Him, then he enters into your life and begins to change you. He’s working on me as you read this, making me more generous & less petty, more loving & less resentful, more charitable & less self-centred, more forgiving & less judgemental.

It’s a challenging, life-time project but I’m eternally grateful for what He’s doing because I’ve come to realize I can’t make me a better person on my own.

Does Jesus delude people? Just the opposite.

  • He reminds us of our complete and breathtakingly imperfect humanity.
  • He reminds us that God is perfect and that’s God’s standard for humanity.
  • He reminds us that even though we can never be perfect, we don’t have to be when we believe in Him and what’s He’s done for us through His life, death and resurrection.

In other words, when we accept the life-changing GIFT of Jesus Christ, we can be better people now and, when this life is finished, we can spend eternity with Him.

Sound interesting? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

Read Full Post »

Judgement:anger 1.16So, are there “religious” people out there who cast their anger and judgement on those who don’t believe in their “religion”? Absolutely.

The easiest example I can think of are radical Islamic terrorists. These religious people appear to be overflowing with judgement and anger.

But what about people of faith, like me, who deeply dislike “religion” (read here to find out why: http://wp.me/p2wzRb-i9), but want you to fully understand what we believe in and why?

I’m a Christian, which means I follow Jesus Christ. Serious Christians believe Jesus is God’s divine and perfect Son, and an extraordinary gift to every human being. The only thing needed is to accept that gift.

In examining myself, I can’t find any judgement or anger at people who reject that gift. And that includes every member of my biological family.

Instead, what I experience is immense sadness. Why? Because basic Christianity says every person who ever was, is and will be is hugely imperfect. We’ve missed the mark on being the kind of people God designed us to be. Indeed, we miss that mark daily and  in ways we can’t even see.

God doesn’t miss the mark. Never has, never will. And that’s the standard He sets for us. And before you angrily declare that’s an impossible standard to meet, let me wholeheartedly agree with you. Absolutely impossible.

Still, when this life is over, we’ll be called to stand before our maker and try to explain away all the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do. And we will fail. Spectacularly.

That’s where Jesus comes in. The most important part of the Christian faith is a belief that Jesus took on all the sins of those who believe in him and paid the price for those sins by dying on a Roman cross.

Jesus, who never did a single wrong thing, accepted the judgement and the penalty that every person who believes in Him (like me) deserved. In doing so, those of us who follow Jesus have nothing to account for. In God’s eyes we’re snow-white perfect.

See? The judgment doesn’t come from me or any other Christian. It comes from the God of the universe.

So why do I experience immense sadness? Because most people (including my brothers and their families, plus our parents) walk away from that gift. They’ve swallowed our culture’s propaganda, that we’re all pretty much OK and if there’s a God, He’ll let us into Heaven just ‘cause, you know, we’re all pretty much OK.

Everyone who believes what our culture says WON’T be snow-white perfect when they stand before their maker. And instead of spending eternity in Heaven, they will be judged as not worthy. And they’ll spend forever separated from God. And sadly, that includes my biological family.

There’s nothing oppressive in this. Our creator is a just God, not an inflatable Homer Simpson lawn decoration. And yet a section of the Bible called ‘2 Peter’ notes “God is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End [of the world] because he doesn’t want anyone lost. He’s giving everyone space and time to change.”

The best way to change is to follow Jesus and the best time is NOW. Interested? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

Read Full Post »

thinking, religionWhen this graphic (posted on an Internet atheism community) caught my attention, the first thing I thought was: Religion? Yech.

I’ve written often about the poison of “religion”. Not the dictionary version, which few people in our culture understand or care about. No, I’m writing about the version that most people think of as soon as the word is mentioned:

  • People who are smug and judgmental.
  • People who don’t really care what happens to others who aren’t in their religious group.
  • People who are happy to welcome others into their group/church, as long as THOSE people change themselves to fit in.
  • People who spend their time being angry, paranoid and opposing things, rather than supporting anything.
  • People on TV who promise wealth and a good life as long as you send them money.

I follow Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians believe is the Son of God), so I want nothing to do with this “religion”. Indeed, He doesn’t either. In the Bible, some of Jesus’s most passionate words are against smug, arrogant, rule-obsessed “religious” leaders.

So what about the “thinking” part of this graphic? It’s easy to assume it’s true because in our culture, thinking people of faith are generally ignored by the media. Indeed, some of them may face such opposition to their faith in Jesus that they keep it hidden.

But they are out there. Here are just a few examples of these faith-filled thinkers, listed on Wikipedia:

Rosalind Picard (born 1962) is a Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the U.S. She’s also founder and director of the Affective Computing Research Group and co-director of the Things That Think Consortium. Picard says she was raised an atheist, but converted to Christianity as a young adult.

John Lennox (born 1945) is a mathematician, philosopher of science and pastoral adviser. His books include the mathematical The Theory of Infinite Soluble Groups and the faith-oriented God’s Undertaker – Has Science buried God?

Father Andrew Pinsent (born 1966), a Catholic priest, is the Research Director of the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion at Oxford University in England. He is also a particle physicist.

They think, therefore they are people of faith. This suggests the graphic that inspired this essay has little to do with reality. In the end, your level of intelligence has nothing to do with whether you believe in God and His Son.

Whether you believe in God and His Son has EVERYTHING to do with humility. A willingness to admit you don’t have all the answers (and never will, in this life); you don’t understand everything (and never will, in this life); and a realization that your life can be better, right now, because you believe in a loving God who offers this broken world the gift of His Son.

What do you think? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

Read Full Post »

CureForReligion 10.15When I first saw this graphic, generously shared on an atheist Internet community, my first reaction was “Hmm…wonder where I could buy a great shirt like this?”

I’m a Christian who knows the world needs a cure for “religion”. You know, all that stuff that says you can torture, rape and kill ‘unbelievers’. (Or worse still, people who leave my “religion” for another “religion”.)

Am I overstating it? Then let’s examine the “religious” part of Christianity. You may have experienced it:

  • People who appear to have it all together sitting in cold-hearted judgement of others.
  • People who sniff their disapproval of those with tattoos or nose rings.
  • People who claim they welcome others to their churches — as long as those people fit in, ’cause hey, we’re certainly NOT going to change for YOU.
  • People who seem to spend more time angrily opposing things than lovingly offering an alternative.

All this is how I see “religion”.

Is there a cure? Absolutely, but it’s controversial. It’s Jesus Christ, whom serious Christian believe is God’s divine Son.

Still with me, but wondering what the heck I’m writing about? Good.

During His physical time on earth, Jesus had little use for the rituals of “religion” and the self-righteous, soulless lives it so often produces.

In ‘Matthew’, one of the four Bible accounts of Jesus’ life, He says this to people like you and me: “Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it.”

In his book The End of Religion, Canadian pastor Bruxy Cavey writes “Notice how Jesus is not pointing toward a different and better religion, but instead He invites us to Himself as an alternative to the weary way of religion.”

Exactly. That’s the thing you might not know: Christianity isn’t about a religion. It’s about a person and how you and I can have a relationship with Him that starts in this life and stretches into eternity.

That means no guilt-induced rituals that create nothing but spiritual fatigue. It also means thoughtfully, consciously turning away from the elitism of “us versus them” and the smugness of judgmentalism.

When people honestly, humbly come to Jesus, they come knowing they are very bit as imperfect as the people they are tempted to judge. They come with the realization that it’s them who must change.

That was the case for me when I decided to believe in and follow Jesus at age 42. And it’s made me a better person.

Do you want to be a better person without the shackles of religion? Then check out Jesus, because in a section of the Bible simply called ‘John’, He tells everyone who will listen that “anyone who drinks the water I give will never be thirsty again. The water I give people will be like a spring flowing inside them. It will bring them eternal life.”

Sound interesting? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »