In the wake of last week’s tragedy in Boston at the finish line of the Marathon, here are a few disjointed ramblings that I made note of and thought someone out there might care to comment on, so have at it.
Do we need a cure for religion? Maybe so. I have been hearing that sentiment expressed quite a bit lately in mainstream American thought. It is still early but the reports of the preliminary interviews taking place with the lone surviving Boston Marathon suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, indicate that the motive for the Tsarnaev brothers’ bombing spree in Boston was simply “religion.” They felt Islam was being attacked and demeaned by America and wanted to make a point. Never mind the absurdity and senselessness of that type of thinking, many will simply go to the default knee jerk response, “religious people acting fanatically again…” which leads to the very rational question, “wouldn’t we all be better off without religion?’ Here is my thoughtful response: YES! We would be much better off without religion, but increased secularism and hedonism is not going to take us where we want to be as a nation either.
Of course that is why I am devoted to Christianity! It is the anti-religion. Christianity is the cure for religion, (when done properly). The problem being that Christianity is so seldom done properly so that many people have no idea what it really is in its true and pure form.
China makes for an interesting case study on this point. Christianity is currently spreading more quickly in China than any other place on the planet. That is ironic because China is tightly controlled by a Marxist regime that appears to only believe in two things, power, and money. Non- authorized Christian gatherings (which includes most all of them) can not have proper church facilities and cannot assemble in groups of more than 25. Yet evangelical Christianity in China is spreading like wildfire. Christians in China are persecuted, they are distrusted by their government. Pastors in the house church movement are routinely hauled off for a few days of “questioning,” just to remind everyone who is in charge. Christians are not as likely to advance in government or to gain influence or progress in business in China. Since Christians in China have no aspirations of political influence, perhaps they do not waste precious energy on peripheral pursuits. Christianity is not about religion in China… it is not allowed to be, as there are no vast structures to maintain or infrastructure to perpetuate… just small clusters of passionate believers focused on being a nurturing community against a steady stream of opposition. This is the essence of Christianity.
This week, Wang Zuoan, head of the State Administration of Religious Affairs in China did something rarely done by the Chinese government. He spoke openly about religion. China has struggled to contain religion in their vast nation, controlled by Marxist doctrine. Wang acknowledged this week in an interview that China must be patient in their efforts to eliminate what he refers to as “superstition.”
According to Wang, “Religion has been around for a very long time, and if we rush to try to push for results and want to immediately ‘liberate’ people from the influence of religion, then it will have the opposite effect and push people in the opposite direction.”
The comments are a bit laughable in the face of reality. The Chinese government will only publicly acknowledge 100 million “religious” adherents in the nation, because that is the number of people in state sanctioned gatherings, but the truth appears to be that the number is probably closer to three times that many thanks to the growth of the house church movement.
Back to religion and the dangers that accompany… Religion’s dangers were on display a week ago in Boston when the Tsarnaev brothers murdered and maimed innocents at the Boston Marathon finish line. Not that these guys were particularly religious in recent years. Girlfriend battery, violence and profanity, drug usage… it doesn’t scream devout Muslim. But then the older brother, Tamerlan, decided the cure for his aimless life was to become more devout in his religion. Big Mistake. Religion is a set of teachings, a core of beliefs. It is cold comfort for a troubled soul. So what happens if someone wanders along who actually decides to take those beliefs seriously, literally, and to their violent extreme? The Koran’s call for holy war against the infidels just might get interpreted as a call to action against a secular place like America by a misguided “religious” soul. I feel badly for the tens of thousands of peaceful Muslims in the US who will once again be the subject of many raised eyebrows and accusations.
Of course, people can do evil things in the name of any set of teachings… but that is just the point, Christianity is not a set of teachings. Christianity is a decision to join your life to Jesus Christ, in relationship. He is Lord, we are servant. If you do something violent against an innocent person, your crime is not primarily that you misinterpreted the words, your primary crime is that you have betrayed your Lord, the Word.
The essence of religion… it is my team versus your team, my truth versus yours. Religion has been used to crush people. A set of teachings does not have a soul or a heart, just a club.
Here is where Christianity distinguishes itself. When Jesus walked the earth he was often accused of being a friend of sinners…but he never was accused of being a friend of religion. In fact, he rarely spoke sharply to anyone, but the exception was always to the religious of his day… those who used their rules and regulations to crush people and wield power.
So you ask, “how can I embrace Christianity if I dislike religion so much?” It really is this simple: Christianity is completely unique, in that it is a relationship with a person, Jesus, not an adherence to a code or a reverence for a martyr, or a performing of a ritual (though many try very hard to turn it into all of the above). Elements of all of those common religious practices exist in Christianity,and in some forms and “denominations” more so than others, but they can never become its essence. Of course, since the moment Jesus left this earth people have tried to turn Christianity into just another religion. Karl Barth famously said, “And the Word became Flesh -and then through theologians it became words again.”
Cure your religious tendencies! Meet the real Jesus! He does not want to blow anything up except the chains of fear and death that lay heavy on you today!
And the truth shall set you free…